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Some Weird and Wonderful Christmas Traditions

Jueves, 1 de Diciembre de 2016

Read our December article.

Christmas Is Coming! Some Weird and Wonderful Traditions from Around the World

That time of year is upon us again, along with all of the traditions and customs that come with it. Here, then, is a look at some of the weirdest and most wonderful ways in which people from all over the world get into the Christmas spirit…

Japan: Kentucky Fried Chicken

Here’s something truly bizarre: on Christmas Eve in Japan millions of households will eat out, at tables they may have reserved weeks or months in advance… at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Long queues are common, and have become part of the tradition. The meal itself might include chocolate cake and sushi as well as fried chicken, and is usually served with champagne. The roots of this lie in a hugely successful advertising campaign from 1974, ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’, which played on the fact that turkey is impossible to find in the country, and translates to ‘Kentucky for Christmas’!

Italy: The Good Witch Befana

Much like in Catalonia, in Italy the Epiphany is a bigger deal than the 25th of December, and legend has it that on the eve of the 5th January the good witch Befana visits homes up and down the country to leave sweets and presents for the children (or a lump of coal or a stick if they’ve been bad). There are various explanations suggesting the origin of this custom, but they all seem to agree that La Befana was a woman who provided the Three Wise Men (or the Three Kings) with shelter during their search for baby Jesus. So pleasant was their stay in her home that they asked her to join them on their journey, but she declined, deciding that she had too much work to do around the house. Later, however, she changed her mind, but was unable to find the men or the baby, however hard she looked for them - and that is why she roams to this day. (There are other, darker versions of the story, but this is the one I like best.)

Czech Republic: Golden Pigs and Shoe Throws

Here are a couple of sweet superstitions: on Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic, if you don’t eat meat all day, it is said that you’ll see a flying golden pig in the sky! Even better, perhaps, is this: on Christmas Day a single woman can discern whether she is going to get married by standing with her back to the front door of the house and throwing a shoe over her shoulder. If the toe of the shoe points to the door - that is, outside - then she will leave and marry; if not, she will stay.

Venezuela: Roller-Skating to Church

Did you know that in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, it is customary for the entire city to roller-skate to early mass during the Christmas period? Me neither, though it’s a big deal over there, with roads closed during the early morning in order for the unconventional commute to take place. In one of the more endearing traditions - though one that I don’t imagine is widely-practised - children are said to tie a long piece of string around their big toe before going to sleep and let it out of the window into the street, so that others who have awoken before them can give the string a gentle pull as they skate by to wake them up.

Ukraine: The Legend of the Christmas Spider

A real heart-warmer, this one, although arachnophobes might disagree. Legend has it that a poor widow and her family could not afford to decorate the Christmas Tree they had looked after since a pine cone took root the previous summer. The family woke early on Christmas morning to find the tree covered in cobwebs, and when the first rays of sunlight hit the tree they lit them up in shades of gold and silver. To this day, small ornaments of spiders and their webs form a part of Christmas Tree decorations in Ukraine.

Catalonia: The Caga tió and Caganer

Honestly, one of the strangest customs I’ve come across is one that is extremely important and beloved here in Catalonia: the concept of the Caga tió. Though it bears some similarities to the Mexican piñata, its distinct appearance and the bizarre nature of the songs sung to it make it a wholly unique, utterly strange idea, if you really think about it. And the Caganer! Try explaining these things to people unfamiliar with Christmas in Catalonia and you’re likely to be met with disbelief… Which, of course, makes them all the more brilliant.

In researching some of the peculiar ways that other countries celebrate the holiday - and there are many, many more than the few I’ve outlined above - one thing remained constant: Christmas means a great deal of things to a great number of people, and, all over the world, it places a strong emphasis on families coming together. It’s because of this, even more-so than all these fantastic, fantastically odd customs, that it’s become such an important and well-loved time of year, and long may that continue.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Cambridge School!

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