By Jessica Haley
Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, is celebrated all across the globe. In many parts of the world Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” are practically synonymous with the holiday.
However, different cultures have put their own spin on the seasonal festivities meaning there are plenty of wacky traditions you won’t see in a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Let’s dig into some wonderfully weird Christmas traditions you might never have heard of.
Czech Republic: Shoe Tossing
All the single ladies toss your shoes up! If you don’t want to spend the next Christmas alone, this Czech tradition can possibly predict your romantic future. Stand with your back to the door and throw one shoe over your shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, it means you’ll be married within the year. If it doesn’t point to the door, better luck next year!
Finland: Family Sauna
While family dinners during Christmas are typical, the Finns take it a step further: a family sauna session on Christmas Eve. Most houses in Finland have a sauna, and according to local custom, it is believed the spirits of your ancestors reside in the home sauna. Therefore, spending time in the sauna on Christmas Eve is a way to honour the ancestors.
Ireland: The Twelve Pubs of Christmas
The 12 Pubs of Christmas is a recent tradition that may play into stereotypes about Irish drinking culture, but is sure to be a night to remember (or forget). Groups, usually wearing ugly or funny Christmas jumpers and set out on a mission to have a drink in 12 different pubs. There are often ridiculous rules implemented such as only drinking using your non-dominant hand in a particular pub, or not using the name of your drink when ordering at the bar. If you fail the task, you have to take a shot! Most people tap out at around pub 6 or 7, but the few who make it all the way to 12 can wear it like a badge of honour to make up for the almost inevitable hangover that follows the next morning.
Japan: KFC Christmas Dinner
The power of a good marketing campaign is responsible for this Japanese tradition. Ever since 1974, when KFC advertised the slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!), fried chicken has become the food of choice for Christmas dinner. In fact, the tradition is so popular in Japan that a KFC holiday bucket must be ordered months in advance.
New Zealand: A Summertime Christmas
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, you definitely won’t find one in the southern hemisphere where Christmas falls in the middle of the summer holidays. Kiwis tend to celebrate Christmas by going to the beach or camping and having a barbeque lunch in lieu of a more “traditional” Christmas dinner. New Zealand also has its own version of a Christmas tree called the Pōhutukawa, a beautiful large tree with striking red flowers. The Pōhutukawa is also important in Maori culture. Most Pōhutukawa grow on the North Island where they flower from mid-December until around the mid-January.
South Korea: Valentine’s Day 2.0
In Korea, Christmas is not a family-centred holiday like it is in many western countries. Instead, Christmas has been commercialised and advertised as more of a couples’ holiday to be celebrated with your significant other. Couples will often have a date night (sometimes wearing matching outfits) and exchange gifts. If you’re a fan of catchy Christmas music, then you’re in luck! The whole month December is packed with Kpop music award shows such as the MMAs, the MAMAs, and 3 Gayo Daejejeons on each of the major broadcast networks (KBS, MBC, and SBS). Kpop groups will pull out all the stops to put on incredible performances with elaborate costumes and dancing. In addition to original songs, there might even be some covers of popular western Christmas songs!
USA: The Running of the Santas
Originally starting in Philadelphia, this massively popular bar crawl has spread to other cities across the country. The event sees hundreds if not thousands of Santas gather together for a booze-filled night, raising money for local charities along the way.
There is no one way to celebrate Christmas. Things like culture, religion, climate, and family play a role in ever-evolving traditions. My own family always spent Christmas Eve at the beach building a “sandman” and taking pictures to send our cousins in the cold north. Meanwhile, my friend and her mom spend the day baking cookies and watching the movie White Christmas every year. Having unique customs is what makes the holiday season so special and memorable. Which wacky tradition on our list is your favourite? What weird Christmas things happen in your home?
From all of us here at Lifestyle Collective, we wish you and your loved ones, a safe and blessed Christmas!