Whether you are celebrating a white Christmas or a balmy one, there are certain trappings commonly found surrounding the holiday in all corners of the world. Turkey dinner with all of the fixings, savory stuffing, gravy boats, Santa Claus, and gift-giving all make the list of common traditions — but what about the Christmas oddities? Some cultures around the world celebrate the special day in a variety of strange and unique ways, the most interesting of which are detailed below.
Mummering — Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
The island of Newfoundland is home to an Irish-inspired culture which promotes friendliness, community, and resilience in the face of economic hardship. It’s also the home of mummering, per LittleThings, a Christmas tradition which sees individuals dress up in homemade masks, housecoats, and other eccentric garb. While costumed, mummers — usually in small groups — will visit various homes in their community. Cracking jokes, telling tall tales, and enjoying the warm hospitality of an amused host are all on a mummer’s itinerary. When the host correctly guesses the identity of their visitor, the jig is up — and the outed party will usually bid farewell, moving on to a new host to pester.
Alcohol may or may not be part of the proceedings.
Open today until least 4, maybe 5, depending on your presence and/or calls. If you spend $40 or more Young Owen will sing a Red Sovine Christmas song for you! Please Mummer responsibly. pic.twitter.com/0fcpmYBi5a— Normals Books (@NormalsBooks) December 24, 2018
Caga Tio (“Poop Log”) — Catalonia, Spain
This somewhat filthy yet funny tradition comes to us from the Catalan region of Spain. In the weeks preceding Christmas, a long log with a painted face representing a smiling figure is “fed.” Taking the name of Caga Tio, or Tio de Nadal — which roughly translates to “poop log” — the cutely decorated log is fed by children before they go to bed. On December 24, children sing songs and strike Caga Tio with a stick until he defecates turron, or nougat candies.
As NPR details, the entire affair is extremely entertaining.
“The first time I heard about Caga Tio, or Tio de Nadal, my family was getting settled into our life abroad in Barcelona this fall. A new friend’s teenage daughter was telling us about the Catalan traditions she celebrates in school.’During Christmas, there’s a log that you feed scraps of food, and then he poops presents when you hit him with a stick and sing a song!'”
Do you know what Caga Tió is? It is a very popular tradition in Catalonia. The children bang a wooden trunk to give them presents. #hiltondiagonalmarbcn #cagatio #tradicions— Hilton Diagonal Mar (@hiltondiagonal) December 24, 2018
Pic by Greg Gladman pic.twitter.com/eYgIwOijGu
The Legend of the Christmas Spider — Ukraine
Stemming from a touching folk-tale in which an impoverished family cultivates a Christmas tree from an acorn, per Vancouver Christmas Market, the “Legend of the Christmas Spider” is the inspiration for many modern Ukrainians whom decorate their trees with cobwebs and spider ornaments. In the legend, though the family painstakingly grew the acorn into a Christmas tree, they remained too poor to decorate it. The spiders that lived in the hovel with them overheard the lamentations of the poor family, and spun great threads of spider silk about the boughs of the tree overnight. When the children woke up on Christmas morning, day breaking through the window of the shack turned the spiderwebs to gold and silver, changing their lives forever.
Nowadays, fancy ornaments in all sorts of shapes and design can be purchased in the Ukraine in celebration of this story — though some traditionalists prefer a fabric web cast about the branches.
Did you know... a Ukrainian #Christmas Tree is decorated with spiders?— Mark Rees (@reviewwales) December 19, 2018
In the European folktale The Legend of the Christmas Spider, a kind widow can't afford decorations for her tree. But when she wakes on Christmas Day, it's glistening with cobwebs.#WednesdayWisdom #folklore pic.twitter.com/BlsfaNbjpl
Festivus — United States
Any list of strange Christmas traditions would be incomplete without mention of Festivus — for the rest of us. Becoming a big hit almost as soon as it aired on Seinfeld, the concept of Festivus — first broached by Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) — was originally a low-level story in the writer’s room, per Uproxx.
“Feats of Strength” will be performed for all to witness. The exciting “Airing of Grievances” allows participants to unburden themselves to their loved ones. Several “Festivus miracles” are expected to take place during the festivities.
As ABC affiliate WLOS points out, it’s not known precisely how many people celebrate Festivus — but we’re willing to be that it’s not an insignificant number.
Pre-Order KFC For Christmas — Japan
Apparently a tradition started by savvy businessman Takeshi Okawara in 1970, as Fox News reports, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a Christmas staple in the island nation of Japan. Profiled on television after dressing himself — and his Colonel Sanders fixtures — in Santa Claus suits, Okawara told the viewing audience that Westerners loved to eat fried chicken on Christmas day.
“I know that the people are not eating chicken, they are eating turkey, but I said yes. It was lie,” he told interviewers, laughing. “I still regret that. But people, people like it because [it’s] something good in the U.S. or European countries. People like it.”
KFC, for their part, disputes Okawara’s account — claiming that it was a customer’s suggestion to start pushing marketing in Japan.
Approximately 3.6 million Japanese families will chow down on KFC for Christmas, as Business Insider details.
Eating KFC on Christmas is a big tradition in Japan — but it may be based on a lie https://t.co/zmwsjyJZxQ— Business Insider (@businessinsider) December 24, 2018
No matter which of the above traditions spurred your imagination the most, it’s quite clear that Christmas is a season of tradition — regardless of where in the world one resides.