Unique Christmas Traditions From Around The World
Presents under the tree and milk and cookies for Santa -- it's what Americans do every year in anticipation of Christmas. Around the globe, people of different cultures have their own traditions to celebrate the holiday, and some are more unique than others. Here are five of the most unique Christmas traditions from around the world.
Italy: La Befana
In Italy, while they do honor Santa Claus, it's not St. Nick who climbs down chimneys delivering presents. Rather, a witch known as La Befana is the one children might catch on the hearth bearing gifts. As the legend goes, the Three Wise Men invited the witch to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem, but the witch was too busy to join them. When news spread about Christ's birth, she regretted not going with the Three Wise Men. Every year on the Eve of the Epiphany, the witch flies on her broom from house to house using the fireplace as her entrance. She peers in on the sleeping children and leaves gifts just in case one of them happens to be Jesus.
In Scandinavia, Santa's helpers who create all the handmade presents, take a backseat to Nisse. Nisse is a good little farm helper who looks after the animals, as long as farmers take care of him. On Christmas Eve, he expects a bowl of porridge and beer, but if the farmer forgets, Nisse plays tricks on him. To keep him happy, kids have the responsibility of leaving out porridge for him.
While St. Nick is the kind and giving spirit of Christmas, in Germany they have his polar opposite: Krampus, a horned, hairy creature that you don't want to find lurking in your home after dark. For all the good children, St. Nick rewards them with gifts; the bad children are punished by Krampus who delivers them piles of coal.
In Finland, on Christmas Eve people pay their respects to the dearly departed. Most Finnish families crowd cemeteries to light candles and create special lanterns out of hollowed out snowballs or buckets of ice. While it seems like a gloomy tradition, it's a way to connect families to their loved ones who have passed away. The trip to the cemetery brings peace.
Ukraine: Spider Webs
While Americans decorate for Halloween with spiders and their winding webs, Ukrainians save the arachnid's fiber frills for Noel netting. Folklore tells the story of a poor Ukrainian family who didn't have money to decorate their Christmas tree. Under the table, the spider of the house heard the cries of the children on Christmas Eve and, to make the holiday cheery for the children, by Christmas morning, the spider had spun a beautiful web around the tree as decoration.