All things unusually Christmassy

Delightfully different Christmas celebrations
/ New Delhi
All things unusually Christmassy

From a game of luck to flying witch on broom, Christmas traditions around the world are fun and quirky

On Christmas, here are some unique ways in which different communities around the world celebrate this special occasion.
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Legend has it that while hung out in the fireplace to dry, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus put gold coins in the stockings of three poor sisters. Santa knew the family was very poor, so he threw three bags of gold coins down the chimney which landed in the sisters’ stockings. 

Consequently, the tradition originated that on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus loads his sleigh with toys and flies around the world, drawn by nine reindeer. Stopping at each child’s house, he slides down the chimney and leaves gifts, refreshing himself with milk and cookies left for him by the household.

While this is a tradition maintained all around the world, in some countries, the occasion is celebrated in totally unique manner. India Outbound takes a look at some of them.

Christmassy trick or treat: Czech Republic

Czech Christmas

Shoe throwing has been an age-old custom in Czech Republic

Kissing under the mistletoe might be sweet and romantic but just as much fun, if not more, is the shoe throwing custom in Czech Republic. On Christmas, girls and young women stand outside their homes and throw a shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe lands with the heel pointing toward the door, they will be married soon. If not, they can cherish being single for at least another year. Czechs also save up the carp from their Christmas dinner to put one or two carp scales in their wallet, believed to ensure that there will always be money in it right throughout the year. 

Roller skating to Christmas mass: Venezuela

Christmas mass: Venezuela

In Caracas, the residents head to church for mass each Christmas morning but on roller skates

Residents of Venezuelan capital of Caracas strap on roller skates to glide to Christmas mass. According to a legend, kids sleep with a piece of string wrapped around their toe and the other end hanging out the window. To signal to kids that it is time to put on their skates, skaters roll past and tug on the string. Along with the ringing of church bells, residents awaken to the sound of firecrackers going off in the street. Christmas-themed roller skating has become so popular that the government took to closing streets until 8 am so that families could skate together in safety.

A witchy affair: Italy

Christmas Italy

La Befana rides atop her broom throughout Italy to distribute Christmas gifts to kids

In Italian folklore, La Befana is an old woman or witch similar way Santa Claus or the Three Magi Kings. On Epiphany Eve or January 5, La Befana rides atop her broom throughout Italy, climbing down chimneys to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. Being a good housekeeper, belief prevails that she will sweep the floor before she leaves.  La Befana, also known as the ‘good witch of Christmas’, presides over the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. In fact, her name comes from the Italian word for the Epiphany, epifania

Game of luck served for breakfast: Finland


Whoever finds the almond placed inside one of the specially prepared Christmas puddings wins

On Christmas morning, it is customary for Finish families to commence their day with a bowl of rice and milk porridge topped with butter, milk, or cinnamon for breakfast. Whoever finds the almond placed inside one of the puddings ‘wins,’ but some families cheat and hide a few almonds so the kids don’t get upset. At the end of the day, it is customary to warm up in a sauna together.

Santa’s foil character Krampus: Austria

Christmas Austria

Legend has it that Krampus is the son of Hel the Norse god of the underworld

During the advent or pre-Christmas time in Austria, folkloristic figures are said to suddenly knock on children’s door! Traditionally, those well-behaved are rewarded with sweets, peanuts and tangerines by friendly St Nicholas or the beloved Santa Claus whereas word of warning or punishment may be given to the naughty ones by Santa’s cruel counterpart Krampus. Legend has it that he is the son of Hel the Norse god of the underworld. Children look forward to the much-feared Krampus Day on December 5, when people dress in scary sheepskin costumes, don goat horn-carved masks and create mischief in the village streets. 

Spiders for luck: Ukraine

Christmas trees in Ukraine are decorated with spider webs

Ukrainians hang spider webs on Christmas trees. Incidentally, Ukrainian lore has it that ornaments that look like spider webs bring good luck. Thus, Christmas trees in Ukraine are decorated with spider webs and embellished with spider-shaped trinkets. According to Ukrainian folklore, the tradition stems from an old story where a poor woman who did not have ornaments to decorate her tree spent the night in despair. The woman woke up to find that her Christmas tree was covered with sparkling cobwebs.

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