Soon it will be Christmas! Most families have some Christmas traditions, maybe they were passed down for ages, some are more newer. I thought I would be a Christmas sleuthing elf today and find some Christmas traditions from Around the world.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? Ah always learning we are here on this blog dear readers. Whether you want to or not! 😉
An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck. A Ukrainian folk tale says that there once lived a woman so poor that she could not afford Christmas decorations for her family. One Christmas morning, she awoke to find that spiders had trimmed her children’s tree with their webs. When the morning sun shone on them, the webs turned to silver and gold.
Iceland: The Christmas Cat
Jólakötturinn is the Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. He might eat you! See, in many Icelandic families, those who finished all their work on time receive new clothes for Christmas; those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, their parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas, and they would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It’s no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.
The tradition of mummers is associated with the winter solstice more than Christmas. It dates back to pagan times when people would try to employ magic to encourage the sun to return before daylight completely disappeared. In Britain, mummers perform small dramas about the struggle between the sun and the forces of winter -a tradition that survives to this day in some areas. In Latvia, Christmastime is still a solstice holiday, and is often celebrated from December 22nd through the 25th. Customs of a Latvian Christmas are usually traced to activities that encourage the return of the Sun Maiden. Latvian mummers are more like Halloween trick-or-treaters, going from house to house wearing masks, usually disguised as some kind of animal or the spirit of death. They play music and bestow blessings on the homes they visited, and are given food to eat.
Spain, Portugal and Italy
A traditional Christmas tradition in parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, is to set up a model village of Bethlehem. Along with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, a Caganer, or “Shitter” in English, is placed in the scene. The Caganer is a figurine, traditionally of a man, in the act of defecating, pants around his knees bending over with pile of feces at his heels. He is usually placed in a corner, perhaps because he needs privacy. The Caganer has been around for a few hundred years and in recent times it has evolved from a traditionally dressed man taking care of business to figurines of celebrities, nuns, politicians and Santa Claus.
On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women practice a traditional fortune telling method to predict their relationship status for the upcoming year. If you’d like to give this a try, here’s how to do it: 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 that you will get married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, you’re in for another year of unmarried status.
Photo of Christmas KFC in Japan © ozchin
For many Japanese, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is so popular and well marketed that reservations may have to be made to eat at a KFC on Christmas in Japan.
Photo of Krampus, Austria © annia316
If you thought that being on Santa’s naughty list was the scariest thing to happen around Christmas, you’ve never heard of Krampus Night. Krampus is Santa’s evil twin whose job is to beat and punish all the children who have misbehaved. On December 6th men dress up in some of the scariest devil-like costumes you can imagine and drunkenly run around towns hitting people with sticks and switches. The Krampus legend originates in the Germanic alpine regions and is widespread throughout Hungary, Bavaria, Slovenia and is especially popular in Austria.
Being part German I knew about this one! Instead of a star to top their trees or maybe an angel, Germans put their glass pickle ornaments on their tree last. The ornament is hidden away, and on Christmas morning, the family must search for the ornament. Whoever find it will get an extra present and will have good luck for the next year.