While many of you may feel as though you have the most bizarre family and/or family rituals, take note: there are people out there who celebrate the holidays waaaaay differently than we do. So, in honor of holiday celebrations everywhere, we give you: 5 of the most bizarre holiday traditions we've ever heard of!
Japan + Christmas = KFC?!
Yes. In Japan, it’s not turkey or ham that highlights the holiday dinner. Col. Sanders is their Santa Claus! Or, rather, he’s responsible for providing them with their holiday meal of choice. Sales at KFC in the month of December in Japan are 5-10% higher than any other time of year. The popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken took off in Japan 40 years ago when a hugely successful marketing campaign brought a Christmas meal of chicken and wine for a then pricey $10. It has been increasingly popular ever since!
Ecuador’s New Year
This Ecuadorian tradition involves the burning of año viejos, which are also called effigies. In China, people torch paper copies of things they want to acquire in the coming new year. This is kinda the opposite of that. Ecuadorians burn objects/figures made of old clothes, sticks, and sometimes top them off with paper mache heads resembling cumbersome politicians or political figures—things they no longer want around—and then set them on fire in the streets. It’s very out with the old, in with the new. With a kerosene twist!
Belgium’s Two Santas
The lucky kids in Belgium have two Santas: Saint Nicholas and Pere Noel. In early December, Belgian tradition says Saint Nick investigates children to see if they’ve been naughty or nice. He then, in turn, passes his behavioral findings off to Pere Noel, who doles out the appropriate gifts. If you’ve been good, you get presents. If you’re naughty, you get a handful of twigs. Literally. This has happened. A lot, apparently. Hey, there are people on deserted islands who would kill for a handful of twigs! Firestarters, baby (see: Ecuador's New Year).
Donald Duck in Sweden
At 3 pm on Christmas day, most Swedish folk are collectively doing one thing: watching Donald Duck! Every year at the exact same time and day, a Donald Duck Christmas special, Kalle Anka, airs. As per tradition, the great majority of Swedish families sit down together to watch, much like how we gather to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or the Grinch. Except they take this viewing seriously! DVRing Donald or watching him at a later date is frowned upon. This tradition started in the 1960s, when most Swedes only had access to two channels, and television programming around Christmas was limited to Disney-type fare.
Latvian Mumming/Mummer Ceremony
This Christmas tradition involves donning a various assortment of masks, usually resembling the heads of bears, horses, or gypsies, and walking through neighborhoods during the winter solstice. These mummers, who look like they’re celebrating Halloween with their festive costumes, go house to house, singing songs and telling people their fortunes for the coming year. It sounds kinda scary... but also kinda cool!
What holiday traditions have you heard of that fall on the "bizarre" side of the celebration spectrum?