5 Christmas Traditions from Around the World

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Christmas is celebrated in many different countries around the world, but the way it’s celebrated varies from place to place. Here are 5 of the most unusual ways to celebrate the holiday:

Catalonia – Tió de Nadal

In Catalonia, one important part of the Christmas celebration is the “Tio de Nadal,” or the “Christmas Log.” That’s the polite name, at least. The Tio de Nadal is more commonly called “Caga Tió,” or “pooping log.” During the month of December, the hollow log is “fed” each night with sweets, nuts and candies. Then, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the log is beaten with sticks and made to “poop” out its presents. The last thing to come out of the log is something less tasty, like an onion, garlic or salt herring.

There are a bunch of different traditional songs that people sing while beating their Caga Tió. Here’s one, from Wikipedia:

caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!”

This translates to:

poop log,
poop turrón,
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
poop log!

Scandinavia and Midwestern US – Lutefisk

In Scandinavia and the Midwestern US, which was largely settled by Scandinavian immigrants, one traditional Christmas delicacy is known as lutefisk. This infamous dish consists of fish that has been soaked in lye until it attains a jelly-like consistency. Per Wikipedia, “The Wisconsin Employees’ Right to Know Law specifically exempts lutefisk in defining “toxic substances”.” That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Greenland – Kiviak

According to the Food Lorists blog, kiviak is a dish traditionally eaten in Greenland to celebrate Christmas. It consists of whole auks (a type of seagull) that have been sewn into a blubbery seal pelt and buried in the permafrost for 7 months.

To be fair, Food Lorists claims that kiviak tastes like cheese and compares the process to making fish sauce.

Wales – Mari Lwyd

The Mari Lwyd isn’t really a Christmas tradition, since it dates back to before Christianity. However, it is a seasonal Welsh tradition that’s performed either in December or January to celebrate the New Year, so we’ll include it here. Basically, the Mari Lwyd is like caroling with a horse skull. Here’s how it works: A group of people decorate a horse skull (the Mari Lwyd) and attach it to a pole. Fabric is used to hide the pole and the person carrying it, and the horse skull is carried around town. The Mari Lwyd party then stops at houses and businesses throughout the town, where townspeople and the person holding the horse-skull sing insulting songs at each other. Eventually, sweets or other little presents are sometimes exchanged.

Serbia – Ransom for Presents

In Serbia, it’s not traditional to exchange gifts on Christmas Day itself, but it is traditional to exchange them earlier in the month.

On the Sunday 3 weeks before Christmas, called Detinjci, children give gifts to their parents and others. On the Sunday 2 weeks before Christmas, called Materice, mothers give gifts to their children. Finally, on the Sunday 1 week before Christmas, called Oci, men give presents to their families.

What’s unusual about Serbia’s gift-giving traditions is that the designated “givers” get tied up, and then use gifts they’ve bought previously to ransom their freedom. Better make sure the recipients like their presents!