Looking to spice up your holiday routine? Subject your family and friends to these creepy, hilarious, and amusing traditions from around the globe. You can argue that the ensuing mania (roller-skating to church, hitting children with sticks, feeding a pet log) is all in the name of broadening your horizons. After all, Thomas Friedman may have argued that the world is flat, but—upon reviewing this list—I think we can all agree the world is insane, as well. Here are the craziest traditions from around the globe to bring home with you this December:
Blade to church every morning
Venezuelans roller-skate to Early Morning Mass (Misa de Aguinaldo) daily from December 16th to the 24th. In the capital of Caracas, roads are closed to traffic: no cars, just sk8ers.
Enjoy Christmas dinner at KFC
Although less than 1% of the Japanese population celebrates Christmas, when they do, they order KFC. In a land of fish, the whole chicken purveyor is king. The chain is so popular and overwhelmed by demand on December the 25th that customers are advised to place orders in advance.
Mingle with friends in a cemetery
On Christmas Eve, it’s a tradition in Finland to light a candle and head to a cemetery to honor the dead. This is not an invite-only event, so friends & strangers are likely to meet amongst the graves to reflect. And you thought your family dinner was morbid.
Toss a shoe to predict marriage
All the single ladies stand by a door on Christmas Eve, and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe points towards the door when it lands, they will hear wedding bells within the coming year. If not, they’re out of luck. Another superstition I’ve heard (from an American): never gift your significant other footwear of any sort: it encourages them to walk out of the relationship.
Eat snacks from your shoe
Another foot-centric Christmas tradition takes place in the Netherlands on December 6th, when kids place their shoes in front of the fireplace for Sinterklaas (a kind bishop) to fill with treats. Pumped-up kicks for real.
Hit children with sticks
Another event that occurs on December 6th. The Swiss version doesn’t feature a kindly bishop, but rather Santa’s evil helper, Schmutzli (literal translation: the dirty one). Schmultzi and Santa visit families, beating bad children with a stick. Santa’s twiggy weapon is a Fitze. This was practiced recently in Lucerne, when teenagers attacked children with broomsticks. Talk about the nightmare before Christmas.
Dress as a demon, terrorize kids
To continue with Santa’s demonic sidekicks, in Austria his evil helper is named Krampus. He, too, punishes children. During Christmastime, men roam the streets dressed like Krampus to terrify children. The practice was even turned into a movie, with Adam Scott. Why relegate dressing up and scaring children to Halloween?
Cobweb your Christmas Tree
Another spooky tradition: Christmas trees in Ukraine are often decorated with cobwebs and spiders (fake ones, of course) for good luck. This is based on the legend of a woman who couldn’t afford ornaments or lights, and was rewarded one Christmas morning with a tree coated in cobwebs. Beggars can’t be choosers. Literally.
Take care of a pet log
This tradition will be best appreciated by those with a Middle School sense of humor. From December 8th to the 24th, it is Catalonian tradition to keep a ‘defecating log’ as an imaginary pet: feeding it, covering it in a blanket at night. On Christmas Eve, the children beat the hollow log with sticks (which seems to be a theme here) to release the treats; a biologically-correct piñata. Defecation is a crucial element to Catalonian Christmas: characters are often relieving themselves at nativity scenes.
Go forth and take all of this worldly knowledge and apply it to your holiday celebrations. It's never too late to thoroughly freak out your entire family.
Anything to add? Let us know in the comment section.