Christmas in Britain follows a very traditional format. We might differentiate slightly in the order we do things – some of us have our Christmas dinner before the Queen’s speech, some after. Some of us have a Christmas tipple first thing in the morning, and for some of us the perfect time for a Bailey’s is when we’re sitting on the sofa, bellies full of turkey and paper crowns on our heads. Some go to church in the morning, others prioritise visiting family. Across the world, though, Christmas is celebrated in myriad ways. Below we’ve highlighted some of the weird and wonderful ways in which different countries celebrate.
Germany In Germany, children write to St Nicholas, who visits on the 5th and the 6th and puts the presents into their shoes, which are usually placedby doors. Children in South East Germany also write letters to ‘Das Christkind’ and leave them on their windowsill at the begging of advent. In Nuremberg, each year a little girl is chosen to participate in a parade dressed up as Das Christkind, wearing a white and gold dress and a crown. Who knew? Italy Move over Father Christmas, in Italy, people believe that all the action occurs on January 5th when a witch named Belfana visits. Much like Santa, Belfana enters the house down the chimney and fills childrens’ stockings with treats like wine as well as local delicacies.
Norway The award for perhaps one of the most fantastically strange traditions we’ve ever heard of goes to Norway, where on Christmas Eve people hide their brooms in their houses. The tradition dates back to centuries ago, when Norwegians believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve. Many people today still tuck away their brooms, just in case.
Venezuela In the capital of Caracus in Venezula, every morning on Christmas Eve residents make their way to Church on roller skates. The tradition is so popular that many roads are closed to cars at 8am in the morning so people can skate to church in peace, before coming home for a Christmas Dinner of tamales. Austria While British Children are well acquainted with Santa’s ‘naughty and nice’ list, spare a thought for the kids of Austria, where an evil creature called Krampus is said to wander. St Nicholas’ nasty equivalent, Krampus searches out badly-behaved children at Christmas in the streets. If you visit, expect to be terrified by ghoulishly masked men playing pranks on adults and children alike.
Iceland Another peculiar fact is that people in Iceland traditionally believed that at Christmas time, a giant cat would roam the countryside, devouring everyone in its path. Farmers would use the legend as incentive for workers: those who worked hard would be rewarded with a set of new clothes, but those who slacked would be left to the mercy of the Yule Cat. Nowadays, everyone is given a set of new clothes at Christmas, in case the cat is prowling.
As it turns out, Christmas around the globe looks different depending where you visit. Whatever your favourite tradition, we hope you have a good one. Merry Christmas!