Our travel options may be limited this Christmas, but there’s nothing stopping us importing traditions from around the world and giving them a try in our own homes. Take your pick from this collection of interesting festivities we stumbled across. Oh, and “Seng Dan Fai Lok”!
Put this Spanish autonomous enclave on your Christmas destination bucket list to experience the tradition of Caga tió or the “poo log”. We’re told it starts with getting craftsy and creating a character out of a log. Then you give it a face and a hat, and the family “feeds” the poo log nuts, treats and sweets for a fortnight. On Christmas Eve, you round up the family to beat “poo log” with sticks to help it, erm, excrete its gifts. And if it needs a little persuasion, there’s even a song that accompanies the tradition; it (kind of) translates as, “If you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick”. How … Christmassy?!
How to say Merry Christmas in Catalan: “Bon Nadal”
In the Czech Republic, some single women are said to take part in a unique tradition to find out whether the upcoming year will continue to be one of single-hood, or whether marriage is on the cards. On Christmas Eve, they turn their backs to the house door and throw one shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the heel facing the door, the woman will stay single for another year; if the front of the shoe faces towards the door, she should move out of her parents’ house and start making wedding preparations!
How to say Merry Christmas in Czech: “Veselé Vánoce”
Sticking with the spooky theme, in Guatemala some locals are thought to believe that evil ghosts and spirits lurk in the dirty corners of the home. That’s why they have a massive clear-out the week before Christmas, sweeping, cleaning, decluttering and collecting all their rubbish. They then pile it up in a massive heap outside, stick a devil effigy on top, and set the whole monstrous pile on fire. The tradition is called La Quema del Diablo –“Burning the Devil”. The idea is to set alight the rubbish from the year and start the new year in a decluttered fashion. Marie Kondo would be proud!
How to say Merry Christmas in Guatemalan (Spanish): “Feliz Navidad”
India’s population is mainly Hindu and Muslim, but those who do celebrate Christmas tend to decorate mango or banana trees instead of purchasing a Christmas tree!
How to say Merry Christmas in Indian (Hindi): “Śubh krisamas”
If you fancy celebrating the season in bright and merry Japanese style, just head down to your nearest KFC for its finger-licking, festively good chicken. The famous fast-food chain has become a popular Christmas hangout in Japan, due to an advert that ran in 1974 called “Kentucky for Christmas!” (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!). You can even order your crispy fried chicken in advance (along with an estimated 3.6 other million people) in what has become a nationwide festive tradition.
How to say Merry Christmas in Japanese: “Merii Kurisumasu”
Hide your broom, the witches are out! We’re told that in Norway, those spooky women in black with the pointy hats decide to head out to join festivities on Christmas Eve. So it’s a smart move for everyone to hide their broomsticks. You really don’t want to wake up to find your favourite sweeping brush stolen or trashed by a party-pooping witch, right?
Merry Christmas in Norwegian: “God Jul”
Russia and Ukraine celebrate this special day, not on the 25th of December, but on the 7th of January! This is because the Orthodox church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebrations. A traditional Russian Christmas can see people fasting up to 39 days, then celebrating once the first evening star appears in the sky on January the 6th (Christmas Eve), when a 12-course meal, in honour of the 12 apostles, will begin.
How to say Merry Christmas in Russian: ‘S rozhdyestvom Hristovym!’
For decades now, to mark the beginning of the festive season, the town of Gävle in Sweden has erected a huge straw goat in the town centre. At which point, some residents of the town promptly start planning to destroy it – usually by burning it to the ground! While it’s actually illegal to destroy the goat, it doesn’t stop ne’er-do-wells trying everything in their power to vandalise the festive symbol. Even if that means dressing up in a Santa disguise. Since the goat first appeared over 50 years ago, it has only survived until Christmas Day around 15 times!
How to say Merry Christmas in Swedish: ‘God Jul’