If you thought that Christmas is celebrated in just one manner throughout the world, you couldn’t have been any farther from the truth. People have truly embraced this festival and embellished it with their own unique (and sometimes bizarre) traditions. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Roller Skate Mass, Caracas, Venezuela
Residents of Caracas head to the mass early in the morning every Christmas Eve. Big deal, right? But, here’s how they own the tradition- they don’t walk to the mass, they skate. Yes, you read that right, guys. The tradition is so popular and religiously followed that the main streets of the city are closed to let the skaters head to the church in safety. We don’t think we can see Christmas mass in the same light anymore!
2. Gävle Goat
A 13-metre-tall Yule goat has been built since 1966 in the centre of Gävle’s castle square for the Advent, which has given rise to a rather strange tradition, that of people trying to burn it down. Since the year it was built, the goat has been burnt down 29 times with the most recent one being in 2016.
3. Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Christmas capital of Philippines, San Fernando hosts Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, popularly known as the Giant Lantern Festival. It’s held the Saturday before Christmas eve with a rather fiercely competitive fervour as every participating village tries to build the grandest lantern. What used to be humble Japanese origami paper lanterns lit with candles has now transformed into lanterns of varying materials and of about six metres in size lit with electric bulbs. Oh, how the sky must look with all the lanterns adorning it!
4. Krampus, Austria
Anti-Santa figures roam the streets of Austria wearing demon-like masks on the eve of St. Nicholas Day as a nightmare for kids, especially those judged to be naughty. No, this isn’t their version of Halloween. The beast-like creatures are the evil accomplices of St. Nicholas who is named Krampus. While St. Nicholas rewards obedient and nice children, these Krampus figures frighten the naughty ones with bells and chains. We need them in India ASAP!
5. The Yule Lads, Iceland
If you visit Iceland during the Yuletide season, you can expect to spot one of the Yule Lads, troll-like characters clad in traditional Icelandic costume who come out to visit children across Iceland. The children leave their best shoes out of their homes for the Yules to fill them in with either gifts or rotten potatoes, judging on how good they’ve been. This happens during the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Gee, imagine the anticipation of the Icelandic kids!
6. Cobweb Christmas ‘Trees’, Ukraine
People with arachnophobia, you may not be too keen on this one. In Ukraine, stars, fairy lights, tinsel, and baubles are replaced by decorations mimicking finely structured spider cobwebs. The legend behind this tradition tells the tale of a poor widow who couldn’t afford to buy Christmas tree decorations for her children. The spiders in her house took pity and spun awe-inspiring webs around the house for the children on Christmas. Hence, spider webs are deemed lucky in Ukraine. Pretty strange, eh?