It’s almost time to decorate trees with tinsel and lights and wrap boxes in colorful paper. These are some traditions that are commonly practiced all around the world, yet there are some practices out there that are much more outlandish. Let’s take a peek at some of them.
Ukraine: The Christmas Spider
It looks like Charlotte and Spider-Man have a special role to play during Christmas in Ukraine. While most of us are content with lights, balls, and a star, a Ukrainian Christmas tree isn’t complete without a spider web. We don’t mean a real one—an artificial web and spider will suffice.
The origin of this tradition is a story of a widow who was so poor that she couldn’t decorate her tree for the yuletide season. The spiders in the house heard the cries of her children and decided to weave a glittering web for her overnight. People now believe the web to bring good luck to the household.
Italy: La Befana/Belfana The Witch
It seems witches aren’t as hated in Italy as the rest of Europe. Here, children look forward to a visit from La Befana or Belfana the Witch. Similar to Santa Claus, La Befana makes her way down chimneys and leaves candy in children’s stockings. Good children can expect to get a present too. In exchange, the children leave her presents in the form of delicacies and wine.
Oh, and while this is still considered a Christmas tradition, all this action takes place in January, typically on the eve of the fifth, on the Feast of the Epiphany.
Iceland: Yule Cat
Here’s something for the mass of cat lovers: the Yule Cat is a creature from Icelandic folklore. People say that a giant cat roams the countryside during the time of Christmas.
The Yule Cat isn’t your friendly cat bus like in the film My Neighbor, Totoro. Farmers made use of this tale as a form of incentive for their workers. They would gift clothes to those who worked hard while those who slacked off would not receive any. The catch is that the Yule Cat would come and gobble up people who didn’t receive new clothes during Christmas. That escalated quickly, didn’t it?
Scandinavia: The Yule Goat
The symbol of the Yule Goat exists all over Scandinavia as well as Northern Europe. Artisans typically make the goat out of straw or wood.
People debate over its exact origins, with there being multiple stories. Some believe it is connected to the Norse god Thor as two goats pulled his sky chariot. Others tie it to Dazbog, the god of the fertile sun and harvest. A white goat was his sigil.
No matter what the truth is about its origin, the Yule Goat has had several different purposes throughout the ages. As of present, it serves as a decoration or Christmas ornament. In Sweden, a giant goat made of straw and ribbon is on display. Sadly, it is a common target for pranksters and arsonists. The Swedish Yule Goat, called the Gävlebocken, even has its own Twitter account for people to track its struggle against these individuals.
Germany And Austria: Krampus
Forget about getting coal for Christmas. Germany and Austria have come up with something that’ll really scare your kids into being good this year: Krampus.
Krampus is a half-demon, half-goat figure and is the punishment equivalent of Santa Claus. If you make it on the nice list, you can expect goodies from Santa. If you’re naughty, Krampus whips you and drags you to hell where he munches on children.
Europe gets pretty festive with it too. Krampusnacht or Krampus Night is when the half-demon comes and visits people’s homes. People celebrate with the festive Krampuslauf where towns organize parades. Men also frequently dress up as Krampus and run around the streets, scaring or pranking people.
So there you have it. From giant cats to giant goats to half-goat demons, some countries really know how to change it up during Christmas. While some of these may seem unusual to us outsiders, these traditions are rooted in the culture and practices of each nation. What odd Christmas traditions do you have in your country?