Christmas is celebrated around the world by millions. Most Christmas celebrations are alike with a common message. But Christmas traditions in some communities and countries radically vary. These traditions are anything from unusual to bizarre to downright funny. Here is a glimpse of some of the strangest Christmas traditions in the world.
Spain, Portugal and Italy
The Caganer is a figurine placed in traditional Christmas decorations in these countries. The decorations have the complete model of the city of Bethlehem instead of the usual manger scene. Along with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and other traditional characters, the Caganer too is popular and is often found pushed into a corner, far away from the scene of the manger. Children are supposed to search for the hidden figurine as per tradition.
People believe that defecating caganers symbolically fertilize the land, thus bringing in wealth and prosperity.
Caganer was a traditionally dressed man half bent with his pants half down busy in the act of defecating. In recent years, the traditionally dressed man has been replaced by business magnets, political figures and even celebrities.
Austria has one of most the bizarre Christmas traditions in the world. When in other parts of the world children await the arrival of Santa with gifts, Austrian children are actually afraid as on Krampusnacht or Krampus Night, a goat-horned devil, Krampus, comes to punish misbehaving children.
Krampus, the holiday devil, is believed to be the opposite of Santa and represents the evil world. Krampus shakes rusty chains and roams around the streets beating naughty children with a stick. People dress up as Krampus in ghostly masks and costumes and terrorize children during Christmas celebrations.
The Czech Republic
Czechs have an interesting Christmas tradition of fortune telling. The future wellbeing of the family is predicted by floating walnut shells. Each member makes a little boat with walnut shells and places a candle in it. These boats are then floated on a bowl of water. If the boat gets across the bowl then the owner of that boat has a healthy and prosperous life, while if any member's boat sinks then bad luck is predicted for him/her.
Foretelling marriage is another interesting Christmas custom for Czech women. Unmarried girls will stand facing against the door and throw a shoe over their shoulder toward the door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointed toward the door, then it is believed she will get married within a year. If the shoe falls in any other direction then they have to wait for one more year.
Japan has an amusing Christmas tradition, which was started by KFC. This may be the best example of marketing excellence. The craze for poultry is common in Japan, and KFC, which sniffed a business opportunity when it saw one, started the tradition by advertising their chicken delicacies as Christmas specials in the 1970s. With time, eating KFC chicken became an integral part of Japan's Christmas celebrations. The people now have to book weeks in advance for their chicken buckets.
Like in Austria, Dutch Christmas tradition also has dark elements in it. According the Dutch myth, Zwarte Piet or Black Peter, as he is popularly known, will visit the country to take away misbehaving children to Spain. It is believed that Black Peter is Santa's slave and traditionally Dutch youth used to dress up in black robes, wear black masks and African wigs. But due to strong protests over the racist symbolism in the custom, the story of Black Peter has Now changed to a more acceptable one. Now it is said that Black Peter is black only because of the soot from the chimney.
In Norway, during Christmas, you won't not find brooms in any house. People believe that evil witches come in search of brooms to be used for flying around during Christmas. Women hide all the brooms to keep evil spirits away from their homes.