Christmas is celebrated in most countries across the world with the same aim of sharing, giving, caring and showing love to those who are close to us. However, Christmas traditions differ from country to country. Here are 9 of the strangest Christmas traditions from outside the UK:
1. Bulgarian Leftovers
In Bulgaria, people have a Christmas tradition of leaving food out after Christmas Eve dinner. According to their beliefs, these leftovers are meant for their ancestors’ ghosts to eat overnight. Similar Christmas traditions are also popular in other eastern European countries such as Estonia and Lithuania.
2. Spanish Yule Log
The Spanish have a tradition to paint a face on a hollow log, and then bring it out each night from December 8 until Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the log is beaten by children and they sing songs to it so it will bring presents for Christmas.
3. Witches of Italy
The Italians have a Christmas tradition called ‘La Befana’. This is an old witch who shows up on January 6. She travels around the country on Christmas Eve to give presents to the good children and leave a lump of coal in the stockings of bad children. La Befana is celebrated across Italy, and is prominently on display in the Pizza Navona market in Rome.
4. Festive Felines in Iceland
In Iceland, there is a belief that a giant cat goes on the prowl during the Christmas season. It is called ‘The Yule Cat’. The cat goes about eating people who do not have new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve. This cat is said to be a pet of Gyrla, the giantess who eats naughty children, and her sons the Yule Lads distribute gifts to good children. Their portraits are regularly on display all around Reykjavik during the Christmas season.
5. Filling Your Boots in Germany
The German children have a tradition to leave their clean shoe at the door of their bedroom overnight and, if they have been good, it will be filled with gifts when they wake up the next morning. This tradition occurs on December 5th. During the Christmas season, there are also Christmas parades in Hamburg which feature Santa Claus and his elves.
6. Christmas Beasts in Austria
Krampus is a hairy, horned beast who deals with bad children during Christmas. In Austria, there is a parade of Krampus known as Krampuslauf where adults dress up like a Christmas beast and accept schnapps from strangers. This usually occurs on December 5th. It is believed that the beast makes himself available in the Salzburg Christmas market.
7. Future Brides in the Czech Republic
On Christmas Eve, there is a tradition for single women to stand facing away from the door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the toe of the shoe lands pointing to the door, they will get married next year. They can also test their marriage potential in the upcoming year by putting a cherry branch on water on December 4th. It is believed that if the branch blossoms by Christmas, she will be married by next year.
8. Impish Elves in Denmark
The Danish culture has the Nisse as a Christmas character during the Christmas season. The Nisse is a mischievous elf who gets offended easily. In the Dane Christmas tradition, families will intentionally leave out a bowl of porridge for the Nisse on Christmas Eve so it does not play tricks on their household.
9. Breadcrumbs and Broomsticks in Norway
It is a tradition for the Norwegians to hide brooms on Christmas Eve in order to avoid witches stealing them. They also have the Christmas tradition of Pepperkakebyen which is the largest gingerbread town in the world.
There are plenty of bizarre Christmas traditions practised all around the world. But they all have one common objective: rewarding those who have been good, and showing kindness to others throughout the year.
Christmas is just around the corner, which means the New Year won’t be far behind. Keep an eye out for great new deals and exclusive offers from CareCo in our January sale!