Wacky Christmas customs

There are some Christmas traditions weirder than kissing under mistletoe. Photo / Thinkstock
There are some Christmas traditions weirder than kissing under mistletoe. Photo / Thinkstock

Turkey and pudding may be the norm where you live, but other parts of the world have their own traditions - some more amusing than others. Here's a round-up of some of the slightly more out-there Christmas customs.

KRAMPUS IS COMING...

According to legend, Krampus is Santa's evil accomplice, punishing all the naughty children while Santa plays the nice guy, so you'd better hope you've been a good boy or girl this year. When Krampus finds a really badly-behaved kid, he'll throw them in his sack and carry them off to his lair - which, it's safe to say, isn't decorated with much tinsel. Creepy Krampus is a popular myth in Europe's Alpine regions, especially Austria. Every December 6, men dress up in the scariest demon costume they can find and set about frightening local children.

Santa's creepy accomplice, Krampus. Photo / Creative Commons
Santa's creepy accomplice, Krampus. Photo / Creative Commons

FILTHY FIGURINES

In parts of Portugal and Spain, there's one nativity scene sure to turn heads - and stomachs. The caganer is a figurine (often of celebrities or politicians), in the squat position with its trousers round its ankles, doing a number two. It's usually placed in the corner of the model Bethlehem village. The popular tradition started back in the late 17th century, with some saying it was simply a bit of fun, and others arguing it represented the equality of all people.

SOLO SOLE

If you find yourself lurking alone under the mistletoe, it might be worth following a certain Czech tradition to see if things will pick up in the New Year. On Christmas Eve, single women stand opposite a door with their back to it, then hurl their footwear over their shoulder. If it lands facing the door, wedding bells can be expected within the year. If it lands facing away, the single status looks set to continue. Shoe-d be fun!

Could a shoe-toss tell you if you'll find love this Christmas? Photo / Thinkstock
Could a shoe-toss tell you if you'll find love this Christmas? Photo / Thinkstock

I FEEL LIKE CHICKEN TONIGHT...

There's nothing like settling down to a turkey with all the trimmings, is there? But in Japan, they have their own take on how to polish of poultry. Instead of a home-cooked feast, families like to head out to their local KFC. It's such a popular custom that reservations for the fast food joint usually have to be made way in advance. Barbecue sauce, anyone?

WEB WONDER

If you want to spread good cheer this Christmas, take inspiration from this heart-warming Ukrainian tale. It's based on a fairytale where a widowed mother was so poor she couldn't afford to decorate the Christmas tree. But when she woke on Christmas morning, she found a spider had done the job for her, by spinning a beautiful web all around the needles. The custom is now to hide a fake web among the usual baubles, with lots of good luck heading to the person who spi-ders it.

SEE YOU SKATER!

In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, it's tradition for churchgoers to attend morning mass in the week leading up to Christmas. So far, so normal, you may think. But they travel to the church on roller-skates! What's more, children tie a piece of string to their big toe before they go to sleep, with the end hanging out of the window. So when the skaters pass by, they tug the string and let the kids know it's time to wake up. Beats an alarm clock!

Saving a space for lost loved ones during Christmas dinner is a Portuguese tradition. Photo / Thinkstock
Saving a space for lost loved ones during Christmas dinner is a Portuguese tradition. Photo / Thinkstock

A SERVING OF SPOOKY

Christmas is always a time to remember loved ones, but on Christmas morning the Portuguese go a step further and actually set a place for relatives who have recently died. They even leave a small portion of food for visiting souls, as it's believed the kind gesture will bring luck in the New Year.

- PAA

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