Unusual Christmas Traditions Across Europe
Christmas seems like it should be a fairly straightforward affair – something sweet and a little bit boozy with some snow and a pretty lights is all there is to it, right?
Not quite! All across Europe there’s hundreds of strange little traditions and customs – and here are our favourites!
Barcelona, the heart of Catalonia, displays some of the oddest customs around Christmas. The first is the Caga Tia – the pooping log. This is a hollowed log which might sit beside the fireplace waiting expectantly to be whacked with a stick – when you whack it, it “poops” sweets and other treats from the 8th of December until Christmas day – its last, er, deposit, is a salted herring, garlic bulb or an onion. The Caganer is another scatological favourite from the Catalonians. This is a small, bottom-bearing gnome defecating in the corner of nativity scenes. A good game around Christmas time is to try and spot the Caganer in windows displays across the city – you’ll be surprised where he turns up!
In A Pickle
The Germans are more or less the creators of the standard Christmas celebration we all know and love today. Yet they kept a few bits of weirdness back for themselves. While in the UK often the topper ornament (a fairy or a star) is the final item to be added to the tree, the last piece of the puzzle for Germans is the addition of a gherkin ornament. The pickle is hung somewhere not obvious – and the first child to find it gets an extra present!
The Last Straw
The Irish have a weird Wickerman-esque tradition of men carolling in straw costumes carrying dead wrens on sticks (although, thankfully, the wrens are now made of paper). St. Stephen, while attempting to evade his British captors, hid amongst the reeds – and which point a wren gave away his location.
A Christian Witch
In Italy, where the Vatican rules on all matters Jesus flavoured, it was decided that Santa-Claus was a bit too pagan. So instead of a bearded old man popping down the chimney to drop of presents there is a witch dropping off presents – witches obviously having no pagan connections at all! La Befana drops off presents because she missed the birth of Christ when called upon by the wise men, a bit like a guilty auntie making up for missing your birthday.
Proof In the Pudding
Even the British have a few silly customs of their own – on being the addition of coinage to the Christmas pudding (for those that don’t know Christmas pudding is a boozy, sweet lump of stodge which is the final nail in the coffin for any activity on Christmas Day). Coins are added to the pudding, and those that find them (hopefully with their eyes rather than by choking on it!) are in receipt of good luck. That’ll teach you to wolf your pudding down!