From a ‘Dickensian Christmas’ style described in ‘A Christmas Carol’, to later Hollywood movie treatment, a typical image of Christmas tradition has been firmly fixed in many of our minds including snow-topped roofs, mistletoe, and terrible Christmas cracker jokes.
However, this image of long-held, Western Christmas traditions is not one that would be recognised all around the globe. From historic superstition, to more contemporary customs, many countries have their own unique ways of marking this festive period.
1. Kentucky Fried Christmas, Japan
Despite Christmas being more of a novelty in Japan, Christmas promotions gave rise to the more recent tradition of Kentucky-style chicken to mark the day.
2. Caterpillar feast, South Africa
Though seemingly odd to some of us, Pine Tree Emperor Moth caterpillars have festive associations in South Africa, and give all those who eat them a bit of extra luck in the year ahead.
3. Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
Giant lanterns were originally made from Japanese origami paper, however today, more elaborate designs illuminate the country in kaleidoscopic patterns as competitors aim for the best lantern in San Fernando.
4. Gävle Goat, Sweden
This tradition is not so much about the giant goat sculptures which have graced Castle Square each advent, but a sort of side-tradition - burning it down! Since 1966, 29 giant goats have been successfully torched!
5. Yuletide trolls, Iceland
‘Sheep-cote Clod’, ‘Gully Gawk’, ‘Stubby’, ‘Spoon-licker’, ‘Pot-scraper’, ‘Bowl-licker’, ‘Door-slammer’, ‘Skyr-gobbler’, ‘Sausage-swiper’, ‘Window-peeper’, ‘Doorway-sniffer’, ‘Meat-hook’, and ‘Candle-stealer’ are the thirteen mischievous Yule trolls who leave gifts and cause mayhem in the days leading up to Christmas.
6. St. Nicholas’ Day, Germany/Czech republic
On December 6, donkey-travelling Nikolaus leaves small gifts and coins in the shoes of well-behaved children. Meanwhile, his Czech counterpart Mikuláš roams the streets accompanied by an angel and devil.
7. Broom-gloom, Norway
Norwegian families hide their brooms to prevent them being stolen by witches and evil spirits which venture out on Christmas Eve!
8. Skate date, Venezuela
Every Christmas Eve, residents of Caracas venture to their local church by means of roller-skates, and finish off the celebration with tamales - steamed cornmeal wraps stuffed with meat.
9. World-wide-web, Ukraine
Legend has it, a poor widow could not afford to decorate her tree, so the house spiders took pity and spun beautiful webs which were discovered the next morning. Today, Ukrainian families adorn their trees with web-like decorations.
10. Santa’s postcode, Canada
Deliver a letter to the postcode HOH OHO, and your letters will not only be read, but replied to! Why not leave us your own wishes for the year ahead?