10 Weird Alternative World Christmas Traditions

By Gary Cutlack on at

Bored of eating raw poultry while your sister gets drunk and starts crying about perceived lifelong favouritism? Do Christmas like a jolly foreigner instead!

Because, if you're getting on a bit, chances are you're bored of the UK Christmas. It's an annual Groundhog day of the same food, same music, same TV, same present anxiety, same old faces and barbed looks about seating arrangements as no one wants to sit next to y... grandad.

What you want to do is take a holiday. Not literally, as that's expensive. But why not bring some overseas fun into Christmas this year, by doing it like you're foreign?

Foreign people have weird Christmases, Christmases not entirely ruled by physical fights over how the Brussels sprouts should be prepared. Interesting Christmases. Pretend you've married someone foreign and do Christmas differently for a change.


In Haiti, Children Leave Their Shoes Outside

The Haitian Father Christmas is called Tonton Nwèl. Children leave their shoes outside for him, shoes they've filled with straw. The hope is that Tonton Nwèl will remove the straw and put present in their shoes. Then, children get drunk on a mildly alcoholic rum-based drink called Anisette, so hopefully they're in bed by 5:00pm and you can have chocolate for dinner without shame.


In Poland, They Eat a Virgin Mary Biscuit

Polish Christmas sounds much better than ours, as it's built around abstinence during advent and not using Christmas as an excuse to eat four Kit Kats a day for all of November and December. They blow it on Christmas Eve, though, as that's when local traditionalists enjoy a 12-dish meal of fish and beetroot soup, after a starter consisting of a wafer that may have the face of the Virgin Mary on it. It is a catholic country, after all.


In France, They Binge-eat on Christmas Eve

French-speaking places -- like France and, er, some of those bits of Africa they still own -- celebrate with a Réveillon. It's a lengthy multi-coursed dinner that often starts early on Christmas Eve and lasts until midnight. That's quite a good idea, as it means on Christmas Day you can then eat nothing but chocolate Brazil nuts, which are so good for you they're practically a detox.


In Parts of Spain, They Celebrate a Pooing Man

Caganer, his name is, which loosely translates to "the crapper." For reasons not entirely known, the pooing man has become a regular fixture in the nativity scenes of people in the Catalan provinces, with his poo either symbolising the fertilisation of the earth or some sort of vague mocking of establishment figures.


In Denmark, They Hunt Almonds

Not outside, but inside -- in rice pudding. A local dish known as Risalamande is made, filled with chopped almonds and one magical whole nut. Whoever finds that wins, and gets extra presents. Hopefully something other than more rice pudding.


In Wales, They Whirl Around a Pretend Horse

In the mysterious, farway worlds of evocative South Wales, they occasionally celebrate with the Mari Lwyd. It's a cobbled together hobbyhorse, one locals drag down the streets to dance about with. It doesn't happen very often now, though, seeing as we've all got telly and computers.


In Greenland, They Eat Rotting Birds

The reason Santa's so happy to eat your terrible mince pies is to take the taste of kiviaq out of his mouth -- a local Inuit delicacy that's basically a raw dead bird that's been preserved inside a seal carcass for months. Mmm, seconds please! Turn your nose up at that, and they might instead give you some whale blubber. Probably best not marry a person from Greenland, as you really don't want their mum serving any of that up.


In Sweden, They Have a Yule Goat

Instead of depressing trees reminding us that winter is a time of death in nature, Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries have a yule goat. It's often placed in town centres where we might put a tree and can be the size of a house, while smaller versions dangle from trees and sit beside fireplaces.


In Austria, They Have a "Kock Pass"

In which local men dress up as a monstrous half-demon known as Krampus and parade through the streets, wearing chains, in a strange and often drunken rampage. A bit like bonfire night in Lewes.


In Thailand, They Go To Work

If you hate it all, get yourself converted to Thai. Christmas Day is a normal working day out there, lucky them, a day full of the joys of being on the internet all day while getting paid. 

Image credit: Caganer, yule goatRisalamande, Thailand from Shutterstock