Christmas has been around for a long, long time. And it's celebrated worldwide. Perhaps it's for those very reasons that lots of strange traditions have come to be associated with Christmas.

Strange is in the eye of the beholder, of course. What you and I might think of as strange may seem perfectly normal for the people that practice these traditions.

But they sure don't seem normal to us!

  1. Has Santa Been Naughty? On Christmas Eve, kids all around the world hope for a late night visit from a chubby, white-bearded old man wearing a red suit. That's a long-standing tradition.Klausjagan
    But it seems that over the centuries, quite a different tradition has evolved in Switzerland. It's called Klausjagan. Translated, that means, "chasing the Klaus." It involves townspeople marching through the streets, cracking 8-foot whips, blasting horns and clanging cowbells - all directed toward harassing Santa.What on earth did Santa do to inspire such an annual uproar directed at him? If the people of Switzerland know, they're not telling. Guess that's between them and jolly old Saint Nick.But we're going to rate this tradition solidly in the Weird category. (And we can't help but wonder if the milk and cookies that Swiss kids leave for Santa are safe to consume!)
  2. Christmas Redux. If you're a kid in Italy, and you've been good, you're going to hit the jackpot this Christmas season. That's because good Italian kids get two visits from benevolent strangers bearing gifts.They get the traditional Christmas visit from Santa, just like the rest of the world. But then on January 5, another visitor makes the rounds of all the good kids in Italy, leaving a second deposit of toys and candy.Who is this visitor? Strangely enough, it's a witch by the name of La Befana. And if you're conjuring up an image something like the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz - sorry.La Befana

    La Befana is a witchy-looking witch in the traditional sense, all old and wrinkly and haggy. Even flies around on a broomstick. But in spite of her appearance she's a kindly soul, just like Santa. Even the lumps of "coal" she leaves for bad kids are likely to just be coal-colored lumps of sugar.

    We're going to rate this one in the Wacky category and the Wonderful category. And thumbs-up to being a kid in Italy!

  3. Radish Radness. OK, radishes have their place in this world. They're perfectly fine in a nice salad, for example. But are these run-of-the-mill roots really deserving of being the focus of Christmas? [caption id="attachment_19117" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Night of the Radishes Night of the Radishes[/caption]

    They think so in Mexico.

    In the Oaxaca Region of Mexico, each year on December 23 they have a Christmas-themed art festival called the Night of the Radishes. It's been going on for more than a hundred years. And by all accounts it's wildly popular, drawing tourists from around the world.

    So what do they do at this Christmas festival? Carve radishes. They carve radishes of all types, large and small, into mostly Christmas-themed images.

    With apologies to radish lovers (of whom there are apparently many!), we're going to have to rate this one solidly in the Weird category. We’re happy to munch on a radish in a nice Christmas dinner salad, but that's about all the attention we can spare the radish on Christmas!

  4. We Wish You a Webby Christmas. Tinsel, ornaments, lights - everything you need to decorate a Christmas tree, right? Wrong - if you live in the Ukraine. Because in the Ukraine, no Christmas tree is considered complete without a nice dressing of spider webs.christmas-tree-spider-webs A long-standing Ukrainian tradition holds that spider webs are a sign of good fortune for the coming year. According to legend, it all started with a poor widow woman, who long ago had to send her children to bed crying because there was no money for decorating the Christmas tree. But some sympathetic spiders overheard the crying of the heartbroken children, and overnight spun a fabulous latticework of light-reflecting webs to decorate the tree. And then the widow and her children enjoyed great good fortune for the rest of their lives. So now, it's considered good luck to have a Christmas tree draped with spider webs.We think most Americans would agree that this tradition belongs in the Weird category. In many American households, in fact, a big gnarly spider found in the Christmas tree might wreak nearly the havoc caused by the Christmas tree squirrel in the Clark Griswold household!
  5. Bored with Turkey? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have the same-old, same-old dishes every Christmas dinner? Well, maybe you should try a wildly popular, traditional Christmas dish from Greenland. It's called "Kiviak." And it's really big in Greenland; just about everyone eats it on Christmas (or so we're told). Want the recipe? OK, here you go: Round up a bunch of auks (birds native to Greenland). Five hundred of them will do. Now find yourself a whole sealskin. Cram all of those auks - feathers, beaks, innards and all - into the sealskin. Sew up the sealskin, and seal it with grease so that it's airtight. Now all you have to do is wait for the Kiviak to achieve gustatory perfection.Kiviak
    Proper Kiviak is well fermented, so you'll have to get started on this recipe early. It'll take a lot longer than thawing and roasting a Christmas turkey. But at least you'll be out of the Christmas turkey rut.

    We're going to rate this one in the Wacky category. And we're also going to add a Repulsive category just for Kiviak.

    Although, we're told that Kiviak has a very, umm, special flavor. And that when you burst open the sealskin on that slimy mass of fermenting birds, a particularly unique aroma wafts throughout the house.

    You can let us know about that, though. You have the recipe.

Whatever Floats Your Boat…

There aren't many holidays that are celebrated world-wide like Christmas. Most holidays are more regional, and based upon a particular culture or country. And that's one of the wonderful aspects of Christmas: the global sense of unity it inspires.

But some of those traditions that our friends across the seas practice each Christmas? They can keep them.

Though they probably think the very same about some of our "wacky" American Christmas traditions!