Christmas is the festival of traditions par excellence. In the Netherlands, Christians go to church, most people bring a Christmas tree into their homes and the gourmet set appears on the table with many families. They do it very differently abroad. For example, Catalans know the pooping tree trunk, Sweden make straw buckets, and Wales hold parades with horse skulls.
NU.nl has listed ten striking Christmas customs from all over the world.
1. Catalonia - The feast of the pooping tree stump
In the Spanish state of Catalonia, people celebrate Tió de Nadal, the feast of the pooping tree stump, originating from Catalan mythology. From December 8, children feed the tree trunk every day. They also give Tió a cheerful face, legs and a red blanket against the cold. When Christmas arrives, Catalans put the end of the trunk in the hearth and ask him to "poop". To lend him a hand, they hit the stump with sticks and sing the song Poep but Tió . The tree stump then 'poops' sweets and small gifts.
(Photo: Getty Images)
2. Norway - Rotating brooms into the cupboard
On Christmas Eve, many Norwegians hide their brooms before going to sleep. They do this to prevent witches, who supposedly take to the streets during Christmas, to steal the stems and fly away with them. The tradition goes back to the time when people still believed in witches and evil spirits. Mops also go into the closet in Norway as a precaution.
3. Japan - Pass the KFC quickly
On Christmas Day the Japanese prefer to put a large bucket of chicken from the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken on the table. In Japan, only 1 percent of the population is a Christian and, moreover, Christmas is not a national holiday. At the opening of a new KFC restaurant in 1970, a Japanese entrepreneur saw his chance to create the Christmas tradition. In 2017, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese, about 3 percent of the population, ate from KFC during the Christmas season.
(Photo: Getty Images)
4. Czech Republic - Throwing the shoe
In the Czech Republic they have a special way of finding out whether a woman will marry soon or not. According to good Czech custom, an unmarried lady is supposed to throw a shoe over her shoulder during Christmas and throw it at a door. If the shoe lands with the tip to the door, it will get married within a year. If this does not happen, the woman in question will have to wait another year longer. The tradition also occurs in surrounding countries.
5. Sweden - A giant buck made of straw
The month of December is inextricably linked in Sweden with the Joelbok, a large goat made from Scandinavian mythology. Throughout the country, buildings in the shape of a goat can be seen around the holidays, but they can also be found in smaller variants. The 13-meter-high Joelbok, which has appeared every year since 1966 in the Swedish town of Gävle, is famous. The strobok is set down on the first weekend of Advent and is traditionally set on fire on New Year's Eve. Usually the goat is already the spindle before, because vandals often destroy the building, set fire to it or even steal it.
6. Iceland - Trolls and cats that children eat
Part of Icelandic folklore is the Christmas story about the thirteen Joelmen or Christmas boys. According to the story it is a kind of trolls that constantly play strokes. They would regularly harass and rob the population. There is also a mother figure named Gryla. Around Christmas she comes from the mountains to eat naughty children. The Icelanders also know the Christmas cat Jólakötturinn, a large black animal that comes to eat lazy children. Nowadays, the Joelmen no longer look so frightening and look more like Santa Claus. Children put their shoes for gifts. Naughty children find a potato in this.
7. Portugal - The Feast of Young Men
In the region around Braganca and in Porto, in the north of Portugal, they celebrate Festa dos Rapazes, the Feast of Young Men. The festival takes place during Christmas, but is also celebrated the following weeks in some villages. On this day, unmarried young men wear masks and colorful suits based on the devil. Music is made, collected and the men take part in strength tests. They can stand in the front of the church.
(Photo: Porto Convention & Visitors Bureau)
8. Denmark - The almond in the pudding
Many Danes eat roast duck, goose or pork on Christmas Eve. The dessert is traditionally ris à l'amande, a rice pudding with whipped cream, vanilla and almonds topped with a warm cherry sauce. A peeled almond is hidden in the pudding. Whoever finds the nut gets a present.
9. Wales - A procession of horse skulls
In some villages in Wales, white figures with horse skulls roam the streets during Christmas. With this folkloric custom, a chosen person is covered with a white dress, from which a white horse skull stands out. The horse is always accompanied by a group of people. This is how the parade goes from door to door. Special songs are sung and the villagers treat the 'animal' to food and drink, because according to tradition this brings happiness. The ritual dates from 1800. It is not entirely clear what the party is based on.
(Photo: Getty Images)
10. Mexico - Artwork of radish
Mexicans in the town of Oaxaca, in the south of the country, especially celebrate Noche de los Rabanos, Night of the Radish on Christmas night. About a hundred participants try to make the most beautiful cut in a giant radish. The radishes are specially grown for this. The artworks are exhibited all over the city and the winner receives a prize. The tradition dates from the nineteenth century. The origin of the party probably lies with local farmers, who wanted attention for their product.