Christmas is celebrated in different ways in various parts of the world, and while most traditional forms of celebration involve some type of Santa and gift giving, there are some traditions out there that are way outside of the norm. From dead birds to poop logs, have a look – you will be surprised.
10. Kiviak – Dig Up the Dead Bird: Greenland
Many homes have a traditional dinner of ham or turkey, AKA the Christmas bird. From Greenland comes another holiday bird altogether – the Christmas Kiviak.
Kiviak is a whole auk (a type of bird) that is wrapped in seal skin and buried under a rock in the frost several months before Christmas. The Christmas tradition is to dig up the kiviak, squeeze out the rotted guts, and then eat the auk. Yummy.
According to reports, it smells a lot like Stilton cheese and tastes really tangy.
9. Hiding Your Brooms: Norway
No evil spirits are allowed anywhere near this holiday time in Norway. The tradition – hide the brooms! Norway takes preventative measures on Christmas Eve, when the spirits and other assorted witches might try to make off with your brooms. The solution – just hide them. Because, apparently, Christmas Eve is a prime time for broom-joyriding in Norway.
8. Kallikantzaroi and Pig Jaw Protection: Greece
In Greece, as in Norway, there is a need to ward off bad spirits as a Christmas tradition. Kallikantzaroi are evil spirits that live deep inside the earth most of the year, but they emerge to wreak havoc on Greek homes over the Christmas holiday.
There are lots of ways to ward off these pests, which appear in various forms; some say they look like people, some say they look like very tall things that wear metal shoes. One description says they have monkey arms and red eyes and are covered in fur. The tradition? Hang a pig jaw inside the chimney to keep them from coming down.
7. Skating to Church: Venezuela
On a lighter note, the capital city of Venezuela has a neat tradition. The streets in Caracas are closed off in order to allow churchgoers to get there by roller-skate. Nothing like getting a little cardio in before a church service.
6. Stirring the Pudding: UK
Pudding is very important in the Christmas traditions of Great Britain. If you make the pudding right, it can bring you luck as well. Legend has it if you mix your pudding in a clockwise direction and make a wish the wish will come true. Just make sure everyone in the family gets a whirl – it’s rude to keep all the wishes for yourself.
5. Lose a Shoe, Gain a Man: Czech Republic
Tired of being single? If you’re a woman you can do this simple Christmas Eve tradition from the Czech Republic. Just go outside in the daytime, stand with your back to your door, and toss one of your shoes over your shoulder. If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means you’ll get married within the year.
If you enjoy being single also try it to find out what awaits you in the new year. If the heel faces the door then you’re in luck – no man in your upcoming life.
4. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Portugal
If luck is what you’re seeking, you should take a hint from the folks in Portugal. The ‘consoda’ feast takes place Christmas Day. You set extra places at your dinner table for the souls of the dead. Offer them food and they will bring you luck throughout the year.
3. Don’t Throw Out That Horse Skull Just Yet: Wales
This tradition from Wales, called the Mari Lwyd (Venerable Mary), involves a horse skull and a horsehair sheet.
In its purest form (still to be seen at Llangynwyd, near Maesteg, every New Year’s Day) the tradition involves the arrival of the horse and its party at the door of the house or pub, where they sing several introductory verses. Then comes a battle of wits (known as pwnco) in which the people inside the door and the Mari party outside exchange challenges and insults in rhyme. At the end of the battle, which can be as long as the creativity of the two parties holds out, the Mari party enters with another song.
The industrial revolution and the rise of fire-and-brimstone chapel preaching had a serious effect on the Mari Lwyd. The parties had gained a bad reputation for drunkenness and vandalism as they roamed the villages. Many a sermon was preached against the continuance of such a pagan and barbaric practice, and the participants were urged to do something useful instead.
2. Tió de Nadal – The Poop Log: Spain
This tradition is fun for the whole family. At the beginning of December, get a little log and hollow it out. Then decorate with a face and some arms and legs. For fun, and to stay in the Christmas spirit, you can make it look like a reindeer or something holiday-ish. Then start “feeding” the log on December 8th. It should be full of candy and toys and stuff by Christmas.
And the payoff: just like its Mexican pinata counterpart Then, beat the log (or “Caga Tio”) until he “poops” out all the goodies. If the stuff won’t come out, there is a song you can sing. It translates to “Poop log, poop turron, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, poop log!” For real
1. El Caganer – The Great Defecator
A Caganer is a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, Valencia, Northern Catalonia (in southern France) and the Balearic Islands. It is most popular and widespread in these areas, but can also be found in other areas of Spain (Murcia), Portugal and southern Italy (Naples). The caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. A tradition in the Catalan Countries is to have children find the hidden figure.
The exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but it is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th- or early 18th-century, when the caganer became highly popular feature of Catalan nativity scenes. Nobody really knows why. Some explanations say that it represents fertility for the earth, as in good crops, others say that it is just for fun.