Hello Noctium-ians (we’re still working on it) and Ho Ho Ho or Bah-humbug, depending on your mood.
That’s right, it’s nearly Christmas, so I thought that I would do a Christmas themed blog, which will be looking at how different cultures celebrate Christmas all around the world. Because I like Christmas, I enjoy the build up to it, and in general the day is pretty good. Spending time with your family, the food…all of the food.
OH MY GOD, THE FOOD!!!!!
Sorry, I think I passed out for a second.
I was going to concentrate on just one specific area such as other countries versions of Father Christmas, the food they eat or the cultural traditions that they have. Instead, this is a mixture of all that. I’ve been clawing through the internet and I have come across some funny, interesting and just down right strange traditions from all over the world and these are my favourite, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did.
The Yule Lads, apart from sounding like a great name for a boy band, are 13 mischievous creatures which have become a huge part in Icelandic Christmas tradition. They have been portrayed in various ways that have included gift-givers, pests and even bloodthirsty creatures who kidnap and eat children. (Who said this wasn’t going to be light-hearted?) But they are mostly known for playing weird tricks. One of the creatures known as Stekkjastaur, is said to walk on peg legs and harass sheep. (Well, we’ve all got to have a hobby). In the thirteen nights leading up to Christmas Eve, along with the Yuletide Cat who is known to eat naughty children, the Yule Lads leave gifts in the shoes of children who have been good, while children who have been bad are given potatoes.
It has become a tradition in the capital city of Caracas on the morning of Christmas Eve that all the roads are closed to cars, so people can roller skate to Mass.
While most of us might leave Mince pies and a glass of milk out for Father Christmas (or maybe a Whiskey, if he’s been good) for the Irish it’s all about mince pies and a bottle of Guinness instead. They also use Guinness when making their Christmas pudding, it’s said that due to the high alcohol content it can last for months and even to next Christmas.
4) Czech Republic
“All I want for Christmas is…a shoe?” not quite the famous words of Mariah Carey’s Christmas hit but very apt for when it comes to Czech women’s love life and their unusual tradition. On Christmas Eve day Czech women will go out and stand with their backs to their house and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the heel of the shoe lands towards the door, then she is to be single for another year. But if the toe of the shoe points towards the door, then it means that she should start making wedding preparations.
Much like Father Christmas, La Befana delivers presents to good children and leaves coal to those who have been naughty, the only slight difference being that she’s a witch and she rides around on a broomstick. (We’ll let it slide). She is often described as a kind woman, and is said to have given food and shelter to the three wise men, when they were on their way to visit baby Jesus. She’s also the best house guest you could ask for, as she is known to sweep the floor around the chimney on her way out.
Sticking with the theme of witches, in Norway it is an ancient belief that witches and evil spirits would steal brooms on Christmas Eve and ride around on them in the night sky. The solution? There is absolutely no cleaning to be done on Christmas Eve as all cleaning equipment is locked away. Oh, and the men fire their guns into sky to warn off evil spirits, just to be sure.
Nothing says Christmas better like the food; turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, parsnips. However, due to a successful advertising campaign back in the 70’s, KFC has become the food of choice for Christmas in Japan. Due to it’s high popularity, if you wished to sit in and dine at one of their fine establishments on Christmas, you’re going to need to make a reservation.
Instead of tinsel, Ukrainians decorate their trees in cobwebs. This stems from a legend about a poor widower who had no money to decorate her family’s tree and some very friendly spiders (ahh good old anthropomorphism) were so saddened by what they saw that one night, while the whole family were asleep, decorated their tree in gold and silver. From then on the family became prosperous, lucky and were never in financial trouble ever again. Therefore, Ukrainians cover their trees in cobwebs to signify wealth and prosperity for next year.
We all love a good game at Christmas and in Germany that well known classic, which we all love, involves hiding a pickle in the tree on Christmas Eve. Whoever finds it first on Christmas morning, gets another small present. I really hope it isn’t another pickle.
10) South Africa
We’re back to food again, my favourite part of Christmas if hadn’t mentioned, and if you wish to celebrate South African style then I recommend a fried caterpillar of the Emperor Moth kind. And you thought sprouts were bad?
The amount of Christians in India only comes to 2.3% but as India is one of the most populated countries in the world, that means a whopping 25 million people celebrate Christmas there. Thank goodness we have spare chairs in the back. Also, due to a lack of fir trees in the country, Indians use mango or banana trees as a substitute.
Did you know that there is an actual postcode area in Canada where you can send your letters to the North Pole? The rightfully named, HoH oHo. However, as it is not centrally addressed, thousands of volunteers help to respond to every letter, even ones sent in braille. Well done Canada, you win at Christmas!
There you have it. I hope you’ve all learnt something, as there’s going to be a test.
I’m kidding I would never hold a test so close to Christmas…it’ll be afterwards.
So from all of us here at Noctium, we hope that wherever you are and whoever you’re with this year, that you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year.