Think your family tradition of dressing up in feetie pajamas and sipping hot chocolate while you drive through the neighborhood looking at holiday lights on Christmas Eve is unique?
There is a great big world full of odd and interesting and fantastic (and sometimes puzzling, we're not gonna lie) holiday traditions out there. We've pulled together a few of the most fascinating in our newest edition of "Did You Know?"
We promise once you see what they're doing across the country and across the world, you won't be so embarrassed to admit that Christmas morning is all about three generations of naked gift opening. On second thought, you might want to keep that to yourself.
1. In Norway, there is a sweep on brooms following dinner on Christmas Eve as they are all hidden away out of sight. "Norwegian legend has it that when Christmas Eve comes, it brings with it all manner of evil spirits and witches. As such, it's customary for households in Norway to hide all their brooms before bedtime lest any hags get their gnarled hands on them," said MSN.
Sounds like a good excuse to take a break from cleaning! No word on how Norwegians feel about vacuums.
2. Guatemala also has a holiday tradition related to brooms, although this time it's making good use of them, if you ask us. Around December 7, Guatemalans practice what is called "La Quema del Diablo," during which they "sweep their homes, collect trash from around their property and create a massive heap of refuse in the street," said Reader's Digest. "As a final touch, the pile is crowned with an effigy of the devil and set ablaze."
This symbolic cleansing ritual is said to expunge evil spirits and negative energy from the upcoming festivities... but it is perhaps more commonly accepted by Americans as "the great breakup ritual."
3. Did you know that Old St. Nick has a counterpart with a devil-like appearance and seriously unappealing name? Krampus (like we said, unappealing) sets out to punish bad children before Christmas, according to this Austrian and Hungarian holiday legend. "In other words, he's no jolly fat man," said Travel and Leisure. "Instead, picture a red devil with cloven hooves, horns, and a long tongue (though he can take the form of a bearded wild man or huge hairy beast)." Hmmm. We'd say it's a tossup on which one is worse. Especially since Krampus supposedly "carries chains and a basket for abducting especially bad children and hauling them to hell." Good times await in celebration of this delightful tradition at Krampusnacht parties and Krampus Runs, "during which rowdy revelers cavort through town in beastly costumes."
4. Spending the holidays in Hawaii? Expect to see Santa "in a bright red outrigger canoe, escorted by elves in aloha shirts," said Forbes. Yes, even Santa gets into the Aloha spirit. And can you blame him? It's all part of the "Honolulu City Lights... a month-long extravaganza featuring a lighted 50-foot Christmas tree and eye-popping light displays throughout the city." Oh, and don't forget the 20-foot-tall barefoot Santa who sits dipping his toes in the fountain" at City Hall.
5. When it's time to ring in the New Year, we watch a ball drop from the sky and count it down before planting a kiss on a loved one - or whomever happens to be closest to us. Perrrrrhaps that seems odd to people in other countries. But clearly Ecuador has no leg to stand on.
After all, Ecuadorans celebrate the New Year by dressing "a straw man in old clothes on December 31. The straw man represents the old year. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults," said Scholastic. "At midnight, they burn the straw man, in hopes that their faults will disappear with him."
It's not unlike our practice of making New Year's resolutions. Except for the whole burning straw man thing.
6. Heading to Christmas Eve church service in Caracas, Venezuela? Bring your holiday spirit… and your knee pads. It's tradition to roller skate to church for evening services the day before Christmas - and it's a tradition so embraced locally that the streets are blocked off for skaters' safety.
7. If you're planning to celebrate Christmas in Sicily and Southern Italy, we hope you like fish. Because their "Feast of the Seven Fishes" tradition means you're going to get a belly full. "Traditionally, Roman Catholics in the region fast on Christmas Eve, so a feast of seven (or even more) seafood dishes at the end of the day is a true celebration of the area's bounty," said Delish.
Oh, and the seven fish are also fried, thanks to the fact that "many observant Catholics refrain from eating meat or dairy" before special holidays. So don't plan on going to Italy on a diet. Or on a gluten-free eating plan. Unless your goal is to crack up a Sicilian.
8. Don't expect to excuse yourself from the table if you're celebrating Christmas in Poland. Not unless you want to tempt fate, that is. "After supper, family and guests stay at the table until, at a signal from the host, they all rise in unison and leave," said California Mall. "This is the result of an old belief that the first to rise will die before the next Christmas Eve." Cheery
9. And you thought caroling was taxing. Be thankful you're not in Wales for Christmas, where their tradition includes "Mari Lwyd," which "translates as 'Gray Mare' and involves carting a horse - either a life-size figure or someone dressed as a horse - door-to-door, accompanied by a group of colorful singers and dancers," said Travel and Leisure.
Good news though. In addition to traditional Welsh songs, "Mari Lwyd can also include a rhyme contest between the troupe and residents - a satirical back-and-forth not unlike a modern rap contest." Wait - a Welsh rap-off whilst carting a horse door to door? We're so in.
10. Forget that Christmas ham. In Japan, it's all about chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken, to be exact. "While it's true that Christmas isn't really celebrated in Japan, a December 25th tradition centers on KFC," said Reader's Digest. "In fact, the Colonel's special recipe is so popular in Japan at Christmas that KFC suggests that customers place their holiday order two months in advance."
Reader's Digest says the "chicken craze" dates back to 1974, when "KFC bosses unveiled their first Christmas meal for visiting foreigners who wanted something that resembled a traditional holiday dinner." Frankly, as long as it comes with mashed potatoes, we're good.