HUNGARY: Christmas decorations at the Christmas Fair in Vorosmarty Square in downtown Budapest this week. Picture: Reuters

Cape Town - Forget the old-fashioned mistletoe and the carol singing, some Christmas traditions from around the world will have you laughing, crying ... and wondering just how these unusual customs came about.


JAPAN: Chicken and cake:

Christmas is a time for joy, celebration... and KFC?

The Colonel’s chicken is a festive season must-have in Japan. It’s a tradition that began 40 years ago and, true to Japanese culture, has been passed down. More than 240 000 barrels of chicken will be sold, about four to five times the regular monthly sales.

And what would follow a takeaway Christmas lunch better than fruit cake? Covered in whipped cream, chocolate and strawberries, these highly coveted cakes have to be ordered months in advance. And any not sold after December 25 are unwanted. Unmarried women older than 25 were once called “Christmas cakes”, although this is out of favour.


SWITZERLAND: Santa champs:

Since November 2011, men and women from across the globe have dressed up like old Saint Nick to duke it out in the Santa World Championship at the Samnaum Resort.

Teams of four compete in 10 events during the “ClauWau” – including snow sculpting, gingerbread house decorating, chimney climbing and sleigh racing, over two days.

A crowd favourite is Santa’s chimney climb in which teams compete to drop bags of gifts down chimneys.



Many of us have had to endure the Yuletide on our own at one point or another. But fear not, there is a solution.

Stand with your back to the door and throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas Day. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, then congratulations, wedding bells may be heard within the near future. If not, gear yourself for yet another year alone – and try again next Christmas.


UKRAINE: A creepy Christmas:

Put away your ornaments and deck the Christmas tree with spiders and cobwebs.

Well, the spiders aren’t real, but you get the point. According to legend, a woman was heartbroken when she couldn’t afford to decorate a tree for her children. But when the family woke up the next morning, the tree was covered in spider webs.

When the light from the morning sun hit the threads of the webs, they turned to gold and silver, and the family were not left wanting again.


AUSTRIA: Anti-Santa:

Every hero needs an evil arch-enemy, and Santa Claus is no different as he faces off against his diabolical counterpart, Krampus – who has been described as an evil demon, the anti-Santa or the jolly old man’s twin brother.

Whatever the case may be, he is on a mission to punish naughty children.

Krampus night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe.

People dress as Krampus and roam the streets at night, scaring children with rusty chains and bells. Naughty children he catches, or so the story goes, are thrown into his bag and whisked away.


VENEZUELA: Holy skates:

The morning mass on Christmas day is more than a breeze when you’re allowed to roller skate into church.

In the capital city of Caracas most people get to church by skating through the streets.

Many roads are shut for the day, so skating becomes one of the best forms of Christmas transport.



WALES: Horsing around:

Some Welsh people celebrate Christmas by pulling a sheet over their heads and walking around with a horse’s skull on a stick.

Mari Lwyd, translated as the grey mare, is an old tradition to bring luck. The Mari Lwyd walks from door to door, and sometimes pubs, singing songs and hoping to be rewarded for their efforts.



CATALONIA: Pooping log:

It could well be argued that the people of Catalonia may have taken things a bit too far with the pooping log.

A hollowed out log is filled with sweets and nuts, and decorated with a face.

On Christmas morning, the log is thrown into a fire or beaten with sticks – until it “poops” out its gifts.




INDIA: Tree of a different kind:

India is not the best place to find the traditional Christmas tree, so they use mango and banana trees instead.

About 2.3 percent of India’s population are Christians – about 25 million people – and they decorate the streets and homes with banana and mango trees and leaves.

Santa Claus is known as Christmas Baba in Hindi, Baba Christmas in Urdu, Christmas Thaathaa’ (Christmas old man) in Tamil, Christmas Thatha (Christmas old man) in Telegu, Natal Bua (Christmas old man) in Marathi, and in Kerala state he is known as “Christmas Papa”.


GERMANY: Pass the pickle:

Germans use a glass-blown green pickle as the last decoration on their Christmas trees, and these are often passed down the generations.

The pickle is placed somewhere on the tree, and the first child to find it will get a special gift and good luck for the rest of the year. - Weekend Argus