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How Do You Celebrate Christmas


More than two billion people celebrate Christmas globally every year, so here is a fun guide to some of the unusual ways in which other nati­ona­lities mark the occasion...

Tradition: Tying up mum and dad
Here it's not tradition to give presents at Christmas, but on the Sundays before. Two Sundays before December 25th the children tie up their mum. She then has to pay a ransom in the form of gifts to be freed. The following Sunday the same happens with dad.

Tradition: Presents on a broomstick
A good witch called La Befana delivers children's presents on January 6th using a broomstick rather than a sleigh. But if you've been bad – expect lumps of coal.

Tradition: Sinterklaas and Black Peter
In Holland Santa Claus is called Sinterklaas. He doesn't live at the North Pole, but in sunny Spain and arrives by steamboat with a helper called Black Peter rather than an elf.

Tradition: Porridge instead of cookies and carrots
Across the region a gnome like character - called Tomte in Sweden and Nisse in Norway - is believed to protect barns and brings presents too. Every Christmas the children leave a bowl of porridge out for him.

Tradition: A different sort of Christmas log
In the region of Catalonia traditional Nativity scenes get a cheeky addition in the form of a character called the 'caganer'. And there's no polite way to say this – the figure is squatting as if going to the toilet. Sometimes they are shepherds, but can even be footballers or politicians.

Tradition: Rudolph the red nosed Kangaroo
Of course Down Under Christmas falls in summer. Their tradition has it that Father Christmas swaps his reindeer for 'six white boomers' or kangaroos. It's also traditional to enjoy a barbecue on the beach on the big day.

Tradition: Decorating mango trees
For Christians on the sub-continent fir trees aren't common. Instead mango trees are often decorated instead and mango leaves used to brighten up homes.

Tradition: Rotting bird feast
The hardy folk in the Arctic Circle tuck into some unusual dishes. Kiviak is decomposed bird that has been wrapped in sealskin and buried under a stone for several months. They also feast on mattak, slices of raw whale skin.

Tradition: Spider webs on the tree
It may sound more like a Halloween tradition than a Christmas one but Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs. Legend says that a magic spider once visited a poor family at Christmas and turned the webs in their home into gold and silver.

Tradition: Stick patting
One of the Christmas traditions is koleduvane involving boys singing carols outside neighbours' houses then patting them on the back with decorated sticks.

Tradition: Basil and burning shoes
Basil is wrapped around a cross and used to sprinkle holy water around the house to ward off mischief making goblins called killan­tzaroi. It's also traditional to burn old shoes for good luck in the following year.

Tradition: Iron under the table
The main meal is on Christmas Eve. Poles place a piece of iron under the Christmas dinner table to make sure everyone has strong legs. The table legs have to be strong too – there are traditi­onally 12 courses, two of which are carp.

Tradition: 13 Santas
There are 13 Santas in Iceland. These Yule lads, more troll like than our traditional Father Christmas, traditi­onally come down from the mountain one by one during the days of the festive period leaving presents or rotten potatoes depending on the child's behaviour. They have names like Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.

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