Ten Crazy Christmas Traditions

So much for the lucky country.

I am watching a man endure the cruelest misfortune.

Poor bloke has been bombarded by hundreds of pre-schoolers. Screaming, hollering. They all want a piece of the man in the heavy red suit.

Did I mention it's approaching midday? On what feels like the hottest day in a decade. And he's outside, under the baking Australian sun. Not a tree within cooee.

This was just one daycare centre Christmas party. Scenes like this must surely be repeated in thousands of parks across the country.

And on December 25, in stifling heat, thousands more people will slave over a hot oven to create a traditional Christmas lunch.

We've got our fair share of crazy Christmas traditions in this country. But dreaming of a White Christmas in the driest continent on earth seems remarkably sane compared to some.

10. The log that poos

Spain, as you'll read later, has a strange obsession with Christmas poo. In this case, it's the Tio de Nadal - a log that poos out Christmas treats. Children care for it from December 8th, feeding it vegetables and covering it in a blanket to keep it warm. Then they beat the hell out of Tio de Nadal with a stick, singing this song: "Christmas log, do not poop salted sardines, which are salty, poop torrons (a type of lolly) which are very good, and if you don't poop well, I will hit you with a stick."

9. La Befana

Perhaps Santa's just not quite religious enough this close to the headquarters of the Catholic Church. So children instead wait for a witch to deliver them presents. La Befana sweeps in on her broom on January 5. But if you've been bad, you'll only get a lump of coal. Sound familiar?

8. Hide the brooms

Sadly, thieves don't take Christmas holidays. In Norway, they take brooms. On Christmas Eve. While the rest of the world is downing egg nog and singing carols, Norwegian families are desperately hiding all their brooms, just in case they get stolen by demons. You could really get swept away with that kind of fun.

7. Krampus & Perchta

In Austria, Santa doesn't waste time making a list and checking it twice. Instead, he hangs out with demons. There's nothing so simple as a lump of coal for naughty children. Saint Nick gets his mates Krampus and Perchta to deal with them. Krampus, Austrian kids are told, will send them to hell if they've been bad. Perchta simply cuts them open, removes their guts then stuffs the hole with pebbles and straw. I'm beginning to understand why those kids in the Sound of Music were so well behaved.

6. Still single?

Looking for the perfect man? Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic tells women if they'll meet Mr Right in the next 12 months. Or Mr Left, for that matter. All you have to do is stand outside your front door and toss a shoe over your shoulder. If the toe's pointing back at the door you'll be married within a year. Or, they can put a cherry twig in water on December 4. If it flowers by Christmas Eve, it's wedding bells. Another sure fire way of predicting a white wedding, is to shake an elder tree. If a dog barks at the same time, start planning your honeymoon.

5. Tree spider

From webs of love to webs of luck. Ukrainian Christmas trees always have one special decoration. While we tend to stick with a star or an angel, they prefer a spider's web. Tradition has it a mother was so poor, she couldn't afford decorations for the tree. When she woke on Christmas morning, spiders had weaved their magic for her.

4. In a pickle

In Germany, it's rumoured the last decoration to go on the tree is a gherkin. And the first child to find the morsel on Christmas morning gets an extra present. But perhaps the most bizarre part of this "tradition" is that it's largely unheard of in Germany. But somewhere, someone's making a killing out of glass gherkins.

3. Catalonia's Caganer

Those crazy Catalans. They love their religious festivals. And they do nativity scenes, with a difference. Apparently, while the Virgin Mary was bringing the son of God into the world to save all mankind, there was a peasant giving birth to something far less holy. This poor soul with the dodgy bowels is hidden somewhere within the nativity scene. Apparently a game of "Spot the Caganer" can also pass as a game of "Spot the Celebrity". There's a website devoted to selling Caganers in pretty much anyone's likeness. Yes we can!

2. Kiviak

Very few people get to experience Christmas Greenland style. That's probably not a bad thing, considering lunch is likely to be Auk (a seabird) that's been wrapped in seal skin and buried for around seven months. Apparently it tastes like matured cheese.

1. Kentucky Fried Christmas

If you're in Japan, Christmas lunch is most likely a bird that tastes like chicken, rather than cheese. That's because it is chicken. KFC. The fast food giant has marketed itself so successfully over many years, that some Japanese families now place their orders for Christmas lunch months in advance. KFC must be licking their fingers all the way to the bank.

More Christmas fun next week at www.therundown.com.au

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