10 Little-Known Holiday Traditions Around The World (Slideshow)
December 2, 2013
Check out some of the curious celebrations happening around the world today
Skate to Church
Roller-skating is a lost art. But not in Caracas, Venezuela, where it is the traditional mode of transportation on Christmas Day. It is customary for children to tie strings to their toes on Christmas Eve before going to sleep, leaving them to dangle out their windows while they rest. In the morning, church-bound skaters tug the strings to wake the young ones from their slumber.
As legend would have it, each year on Christmas Eve in Germany a glass pickle ornament is hidden within the Christmas tree's boughs. The first person to find the pickle gets an extra gift from St. Nick and good luck in the coming year. However, ask any German about the fabled glass pickle and they'll clarify that this tale is strictly mythical. The German St. Nick doesn't even arrive on Christmas Eve; he makes his rounds earlier in the month on Dec. 5 or 6.
In Catalonia, Spain, and a few other Mediterranean nations, "the Caganer" is a particularly peculiar figure. Dating back as far as the late 17th century, this figurine has traditionally been placed within the manger scene in a rather compromising position. To be more precise, the Caganer is doing his business amidst the nativity for all to see. Modern depictions have evolved with the times to include prominent leaders and celebrities. The Caganer's relevance has been debated over time. Some say it represents lightheartedness and humor, while others claim the figure speaks to human nature in all of its forms. When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?
Tió de Nadal
The Caganer is not the only holiday figure to focus on the posterior end of things. "Tió de Nadal" is another Catalonian Christmas character who brings the weirdness. Beginning on Dec. 8, children stuff the Tió, a hollow log painted with a grinning face, with various candies and nuts each night. Tió is bundled up in a cozy blanket for the duration of his stay indoors. On Christmas Day, kids take sticks to poor Tió, beating him until these "gifts" are deposited from his rear end.
If you have a raging appetite on Christmas morning, Greenland is not the place to be. Months before the yuletide season begins, Auk birds are in high demand. Their meat is stripped, wrapped in seals' skin, and left to age under a rock for months. The rancid meat is served up on the 25th for all to enjoy... or not.
Each year in the town of Gavle, Sweden, a roughly 45-foot-tall goat made of straw is assembled in the center of town. This tradition dates back to 1966, when the goat was set aflame at midnight on Christmas Eve. Mischievous arsonists have been persistent ever since, and the goat has been burned 25 times as of 2011, though they are confident that this year there won’t be a burning incident.
In Japan, where less than 2 percent of the population celebrates Christmas, KFC has become the dinner destination of choice. The reason? Why, a brilliant corporate marketing campaign, of course! In Asia, KFC is commonly associated with America, so the company took advantage of this popular cultural belief and now holds market dominance over the holiday. A special Christmas package has even been created with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken that comes with a Christmas cake attached in a separate compartment hidden underneath the cardboard container.
In countries around the globe, New Year's customs often revolve around welcoming good fortune and prosperity in the coming year. In the Philippines, round fruits symbolize these ideals and are incorporated as the New Year approaches. Bowls of fruit are set out on tables and some party-goers even don polka-dotted clothing. Similarly, in Spain, citizens wolf down 12 grapes at midnight. Each grape is said to bring good luck for each month of the year.
Christmas Pudding Wishes
Known across the pond as Christmas pudding or plum pudding, this oddly plum-less pudding cake can be found on many a British dinner table. Centuries ago, raisins, the main dried fruit found in the dish, were known as "plums," hence the misleading name. During the dessert's preparation, participants historically took turns stirring the batter as they made wishes for the New Year. Traditionally, a coin was inserted in the dough prior to baking and whoever found it in their piece was blessed with good fortune.
Trash Heap Lighting
While many of the traditions that made this list take place across the globe, there are some quirky holiday customs that occur right in our own backyard. One of the most peculiar (and most work-intensive) transpires in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill. Each holiday season, workers complete the daunting task of stringing roughly 30,000 lights across 234 acres of trash. Yes, you read that correctly — 200-plus acres of pure garbage. The surreal scene is complete with giant candy canes clocking in at 25 feet tall.