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It's not all turkey and Santa... Try some other Christmas traditions from around the world

For starters, there’s the ‘s**ting log’ and a finger-lickin’ bucket of cheer.
Dec 24th 2014, 10:00 PM 30,689 32

FROM THE RELIGIOUS to the pagan and the outright odd – there are about as many ways of celebrating Christmas as there are cultures around the world.

The Catalonian region of Spain, which includes the city of Barcelona, has a traditional figure known as the Tió de Nadal (Christmas log), more colourfully known as the Caga Tió – or “shitting log”.

The Tió has to be “fed” daily with treats in the lead-up to Christmas and in return it defecates nuts and other small gifts either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day after it is beaten with sticks.

Tió de Nadal Source: OK - Apartment

In Finland, many families use the occasion to remember the dead by visiting cemeteries where their loved-ones are buried and then singing songs to mark the long northern night.

Hietaniemen hautausmaa pyhäinpäivänä Source: deemu

Belgium gets not 1 but 2 Santa-like figures – although which one comes down the chimney depends on whether children are in the French-speaking Walloon region of the country, in which case they get Pere Noel, or in the Dutch-speaking Flemish region, where kids hope for a visit from St Niklaas.

Parts of the country also continue the dubious Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, who takes on the role of Santa’s elves. The blackface character has been the target of protest as a claimed racist symbol of the Netherlands’ colonial past.

Netherlands Belgium Black Pete Source: Peter Dejong/AP/Press Association Images

Meanwhile, in Austria and neighbouring countries, the goodly St Nicholas has an evil counterpart in the “Christmas devil” – or Krampus.

From early December young men have been known to dress up as the mythical figure and terrify children, although in recent years there have been attempts to soften the Krampus’s image and turn it into another gift-giving figure.

Austria Tradition Source: Kerstin Joensson/AP/Press Association Images

In keeping with things that have hooves and horns – the ‘Yule goat’ is a big feature of Scandinavian Christmas celebrations.

The function of the Yule goat was traditionally allegedly to show up and ensure that preparations for yuletide were being undertaken correctly – although a number of spin off traditions have developed, some involving individuals going door to door dressed as goats.

One take on the whole Yule-goat tradition takes place in the Swedish town of Gävle, where a giant three-tonne straw goat is built each year. The creation has had a rather unfortunate history.

Since being first erected in 1966 – it has been burnt to the ground on 36 separate occasions.

Source: Jonny Irwin/YouTube

In the Ukraine, spiders and their webs are welcomed as good luck at Christmas and locals decorate their trees with fake webs and spider-shaped ornaments known as pavuchky.

spider web lights Source: KWDesigns

In Australia, beer – rather than milk – is commonly known to be Santa’s preferred beverage of choice when leaving a refreshment out for the jolly fat man.

Meanhile, Christmas on Bondi Beach is a rite-of-passage for many expats, who slap on Santa hats and not much else as they soak up the December summer.

Australia Christmas Source: Rick Rycroft/AP/Press Association Images

Brave (or stupid) souls re-enact a similar tradition in Ireland, where the 40 Foot Christmas swim takes place each year in slightly cooler waters.

Christmas Swims at Forty Foot Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Few people celebrate Christmas in Japan for religious reasons, with the vast majority of the population either identifying as Buddhist or Shintoist, although the western habit of gift-giving has taken on.

But thanks to the wonders of advertising, a tradition of KFC – rather than turkey – for Christmas has sprung up the island nation, with the fast-food chaining routinely recording its highest sales of any time of year on the non-holiday.

Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas! Source: akaitori

In Brazil, which is home to the world’s second-largest Christian population after the US, many Christmas traditions have been inherited – and adapted – from the one-time Portuguese colonial rulers.

Nativity scenes, known as Presépio, are often displayed in churches, homes and stores, while Papai Noel (father Christmas) or Bom Velhinho (good old man) stand in as the chief gift-givers. But Santa Claus at least gets cut a break in the southern hemisphere nation, where his traditional outfit is made of breathable silk – rather than heavy cloth.

Brazil Christmas Source: Silvia Izquierdo/AP/Press Association Images

In Mexico, home to over 100 million mostly-Catholic Christians, many children take part in Los Posadas, a series of processions leading up to Christmas, which end in different homes hosting a “Posada party” – often complete with a piñata - each night.

Mexico Christmas Pinata Source: Marco Ugarte/AP/Press Association Images

Christmas gifts could come from either El Niñito Dios (the baby Jesus), Santo Clós, or Los Reyes Magos (the 3 wise men), depending on the region, and can be delivered anywhere between Christmas Eve and Epiphany on 6 January.

Meanwhile, the prize for the most lavish Christmas celebration probably goes to the Phillippines with its population of 100 million – about 80% of which is Catholic.

Philippines Christmas Typhoon Source: Aaron Favila/AP/Press Association Images

Celebrations often stretch for 3 weeks - although in reality festivals can start as early as September and run until January.

Filipinos often combine western and local own traditions – so Santa Claus makes an appearance, but one of the biggest events comes after midnight mass on Christmas Eve when families get together for the “Noche Buena” feast, when dishes like roasted pig and keso de bola – a ball of cheese covered in wax – are shared among relatives.

Philippines Christmas Source: Aaron Favila/AP/Press Association Images

In Africa’s most populous Christian country, Nigeria, families have been known to throw all-night parties on Christmas Eve before rolling in to religious services the following morning.

NIGERIA CHRISTMAS Source: UNDAY ALAMBA/AP/Press Association Images

Traditional dishes like rice and chicken take the place of turkey on Christmas Day, when children are dressed up in their best clothes and move between friends and relatives homes collecting cash as gifts. Sure beats another pair of socks.

What are you doing for Christmas? Tell us in the comments section below

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Peter Bodkin


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