With only a handful of days to go until December 25th, it’s time to really get yourself in the festive spirit by reading up on these strange Christmas traditions from around the world. From and icy cold swims to uncommon tree decorations and terrifying anti-Santas, these unusual customs are sure to open your eyes and make you realise that your traditional family Christmas lunch isn’t actually as bad as you thought.
Weird Christmas Traditions from around the World
Instead of enjoying a plump turkey, juicy goose or delicious loin of roast beef on Christmas Day, locals in South Africa dig into plates full of deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth.
Germans decorate their Christmas trees a bit differently to you and me. Whilst we’re likely to cover ours in sparkling tinsel, twinkling lights and brightly-coloured baubles, locals in Germany, traditionally decorate their tree with artificial spider webs and even fake silver spider ornaments – but that’s not the weirdest part. It’s also traditional in Germany to hide a real pickle somewhere in the tree on Christmas Eve and to reward the child who finds it on Christmas morning with an extra present.
If there’s anywhere in the world you wouldn’t want to go swimming during winter, it’s probably somewhere in Europe, but try telling that to the numerous swimming clubs who rush into the icy Atlantic waters around the UK every year on December 25th. For decades now, swimming clubs and enthusiastic onlookers have been known to run along the freezing-cold sands of beaches up and down the UK wearing nothing but their swimming gear and a Santa hat and go for a swim in the waters which can be as cold as 10°C/50°F.
Whereas most children are bribed with the offer of presents from Santa Claus into behaving well in December, children in Austria are scared into not behaving badly with threats of visits from Krampus. This made-up character is a beast-like creature who is basically the anti-Santa Claus. Not happy with solely scaring children with a story, some adults go one step further and dress up as the beast for an organised run throughout the streets of Austria which takes place each year at the beginning of December.
Spain is proudly home to what is quite possibly one of the most weird Christmas traditions from around the world. Every year from December 8th, families in Catalonia (that’s the area around Barcelona) bring out the “Caga Tio” – a small log with a smiley face painted or glued onto the front of it. The children are in charge or taking care of the log by keeping him warm under a blanket and feeding him sweets every day to ensure he is big and fat by December 24th. On Christmas Eve after a large family feast, the children beat the “Caga Tio” with sticks and sing a song which translates into:
“Caga Tio hazelnuts and turrón,
If you don’t want to poo,
We will hit you with a stick.”
The children then reach under the blanket which covers Caga Tio and discover a treasure trove of small toys and sweets which are the results of the stick beating.
If you want to experience some of these first hand, you’ve still got just enough time to get your flights and accommodation sorted in time for a Christmas getaway. We all know how unpredictable public transport can be at this time of year, whichever country you’re in, so save yourself time, money and hassle by renting a car, too.