When you think of Christmas I’m sure a number of your family traditions spring to mind. Whether it be sitting down to watch Elf with a huge mug of hot chocolate, or decorating the tree with your siblings and fighting over whose pre-school angel gets to have the Christmas tree peek up her skirt this year, everybody has at least one tradition which makes Christmas special for them. If you don’t like to discuss your family’s Christmas customs because you think you may be ridiculed for their peculiarities (beef instead of turkey, bunting instead of tinsel etc.) do not be afraid, it seems you are most definitely not alone in the strange Christmas traditions stakes…
Legend has it that long ago in a small village in Ukraine lived a poor mother and her children. They did not have enough money to buy ornaments to decorate a tree with but they brought a tree indoors all the same so that they could still join in with part of the Christmas traditions. On Christmas morning the mother and her children woke to find beautiful and intricate webs had been spun on the tree as a form of decoration, gifted from the spiders. Therefore Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with small artificial webs and spiders to remember how the poor woman and her children were blessed and so that they are brought good luck and fortune for the coming year. A beautiful story, but to save my nerves I think I’ll be saving my spider decorations for Halloween!
Greenland’s most-gorged Christmas meal is something called Kiviak. To make Kiviak you put up to 500 whole auks (local birds) including feathers, beaks and all in a seal skin, which is then sewn up and sealed with grease. You put a large rock on top to keep the air content low and then you let the whole package sit for months. When you open it up the auks are fermented and smell like Stilton cheese and are quite tasty apparently.
Christians make up 2.3% of India’s population, which may not seem a huge amount but considering the size of their population, it actually accounts for over 20million people. Similarly to the west Indian Christians sit down to eat a family meal on Christmas day, and exchange gifts with one another, they even decorate trees with ornaments. In contrast to us however, and probably due to their lack of pine trees, Indians drag twigs, leaves and branches of their own native trees into their homes and decorate those, even using the leaves themselves to create decorations. Sparkly mango trees branches sound really rather beautiful if you ask me!
Japan is unique in that a huge number of its population eats KFC on or around Christmas day due to an extremely successful advertising campaign by KFC in the 1970’s. This has resulted in the KFC Colonel being transformed into Santa Claus in the lead up to Christmas and people booking tables months in advance of the big day. At least they get to steer clear of sprouts and are guaranteed a ‘finger lickin’good’dinner….
Us Brits shouldn’t feel entirely left out, however, as we have a couple of strange traditions ourselves. For example, did you know that everyone in the household, yes family pets included, must mix the Christmas pudding mixture in a clockwise direction and make a wish, before it is baked. Why? Because why not! And a coin is supposed to be dropped into the mixture before baking, bringing monetary wealth and luck to whomsoever is fortunate enough to find it in their pudding bowl (and not choke on it) on Christmas day. Before the task of scraping around in your custard to find said choking hazard, there is a final custom involving the traditional Christmas pudding (which I’m yet to be convinced that anyone actually eats). Spare a thought for those who have to be on high alert with a fire extinguisher at the Christmas dinner table, patiently waiting for their (in my case) tipsy mother to strike a match and set fire, yes you read correctly, to our brandy doused Christmas pudding. How this became a tradition and why it continues I have no idea, however I do know that it is a ritual which occurs across the country, in hundreds of thousands of households on Christmas Day every year.