Think Christmas traditions are only about presents. mistletoes, Christmas trees and Santa Claus? Think again. Here are nine surprising Christmas traditions around the world.
Instead of wishing upon a star, the British wish upon their Christmas pudding. Tradition dictates that wishes will come true if you make them while mixing the ingredients in a clockwise direction. These puddings also have good keeping properties and leftovers are known to be served during Easter.
There are a number of Czech Christmas customs that young girls perform to find out if they will get married the following year. One popular practice involves a girl standing with her back to a door and throwing a shoe over her shoulder on Christmas day. If the toe of the shoe points towards the door, she should be married by the time 25 December next comes around.
The capital city, Caracas, gets into a skating mood during the lead-up to Christmas. To facilitate residents getting to morning mass service the week before Christmas, streets are closed off in the morning, allowing churchgoers to rollerskate their way to church.
All brooms are hidden away after dinner and the opening of presents on Christmas Eve. This is because Norwegians believe mischievous spirits come out when everyone’s asleep to steal brooms to ride. As an added precaution, men will head out and fire a shotgun to scare the spirits.
Mango and banana trees take the place of traditional fir trees for Christmas in India. They are commonly dressed in garlands made of palm fronds, coloured stone, gold paint, green silk and red-orange bows. The leaves of these trees are also used to decorate the house.
Irish children don’t leave milk and cookies out for Santa when he visits on Christmas Eve. Instead they prepare mince pies and Guinness ale as a snack for jolly ole St Nick.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a spider on a tree in Ukraine! It’s believed to be good luck to find a spider web on Christmas morning. According to legend, spiders covered a poor woman’s bare tree in cobwebs on Christmas Eve. The next day when the morning sun shone through the window, the webs turned into silver, forming what is known today as tinsel.
There aren’t just one or two Father Christmases in Iceland – there are 13. Better known as Yule Lads, these merry but mischievous fellows take turns visiting children with presents during the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. They have interesting names too, including Spoon Licker, Door Slammer, Sausage Swiper and Meat Hook.
To find out what lies in the year ahead, the head of the household will take a spoonful of lokshe– a traditional Christmas dish made of bread, poppy seed filling and water – and fling it towards the ceiling. The greater the amount of mixture stuck to the ceiling, the more prosperous the next year will be for the family.
The text in this article first appeared on INVITES Dec 2014, a magazine for RWS Invites members.