The nice thing about Christmas is that every family has their own tradition. Some families bring everyone together and see who can get the drunkest by midnight. Other families keep it nice and small and just have dinner with a handful of people. Some people go celebrate Christmas in a warmer country, others go celebrate in a Scandinavian country, right underneath the Polar light.
While there’s a lot of differences in how individual families celebrate that jolly good time of the year, there’s also a huge difference in how cultures experience and celebrate Christmas. Let’s take a look at some of the weirdest Christmas traditions around the world so you know where to celebrate Christmas next year. Or where not to.
Christmas Log (Catalonia)
The Catalan part of Spain has a Christmas log tradition, where they literally create a Christmas character out of a small log. They put it up 14 days before Christmas and feed it nuts, fruits and sweets every day. Once Christmas Eve arrives, they beat the living shit out of that log with sticks and force it to excrete the treats. They also sing songs while doing it. You thought I was overreacting when I said “beat the shit out of”, didn’t you?
In Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, tradition is to go to early-morning Christmas mass on roller skates. Why? Nobody has a clue, it’s just how they roll. Literally. They even go so far as to clear the roads so people can just roller skate up to church.
In perhaps the least weird but the creepiest tradition, Consoda, Portugese families will place extra plates at Christmas dinner for the family members that have deceased. The practice is claimed to provide good fortune to the household, and a really awkward conversation when you introduce your new boyfriend to grandma’s plate.
What, a weird list and you didn’t expect Japan to show up? Although virtually no Japanese people are Christian (either in name or religion), they celebrate Christmas in great numbers. But it’s slightly different. Santa Claus is named “Santa Kurohsu” and has eyes in the back of his head to keep an eye on naughty children. I’m scared to look, but I’m 80% sure it’s probably already been turned into an anime series.
Christmas Sauna (Estonia)
Estonian families will usually take a nice sauna on Christmas Eve. Now this is a tradition I can 100% get behind.
Mari Lwyd (Wales)
In this random tradition that adds nothing to the Christmas spirit whatsoever, certain rural areas in Wales will pick a random villager to perform the ritual of Mari Lwyd. They walk around with a horse skull on a pole and the other villagers sing traditional songs. White sheets cover the pole and the person holding it, and sometimes they go the extra mile and spring-load the horse skull so it can be used to snap at people. Because why not.
Christmas Dive (Britain, Ireland, France)
Because what’s a better way to celebrate Jesus’ birth on the wrong date than to take a dive into a freezing pool of water? What’s that you say? Everything? Well, the people in London, Ireland and Nice will disagree with you. They dive the fuck out of that freezing pool of water.
Black Pete (Belgium, Netherlands)
One that’s caused quite a bit of controversy among the local population in recent years, Black Pete or Zwarte Piet is part of the Sinterklaas celebration in early December. While Sinterklaas is pretty much a literal translation for Santa Claus, he’s actually named after Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus is translated as “Christmas Man” to avoid overlap. Because why only celebrate once when you can do it twice? Anyway, Black Pete is Sinterklaas’ servant (we don’t say slave anymore). The story says it’s a white person that has a black face from crawling through all the chimneys to bring the presents to the kids. Which means it’s a white person in blackface. Yeah. Also, they dress Santa-but-not-Santa up like a priest.