Christmas is all about giving in to gluttony at the family dinner table and decorating needle-leaved evergreens, right? Wrong. Well, at least in parts of the world we will be taking a closer look at today.
Quite a few Japanese choose to opt out of the tedious, obligatory Christmas dinner preparation ritual standard in western households. Instead, the country’s residents head to their local KFC branch and proceed to tuck into a bucket of hot wings and/or chicken tenders – a tradition that came to exist after an incredibly successful marketing campaign once launched by the worldwide fast food chain.
Moving on to a very different sort of edible Christmas delights, Greenland is a place where no dinner time is wasted forcing down bland mashed potatoes. Preparations extend far beyond Christmas Eve – already a few months before the big day, multiple small arctic birds are carefully wrapped in whale skin and buried in a seal carcass, only to reach the perfect stage of decomposition by the time December 24th comes around (the result is lovingly referred to as “kiviak”). Raw, fat-lined whale skin is also eaten on its own (well, “eaten” might be a bit of a stretch – it is reportedly too hard to chew and is simply swallowed whole). Bon appetite.
Christmas isn’t about treating ourselves to edible delights alone – in Estonia, the historic custom of going to the sauna on Christmas eve is upheld by some families and groups of friends. Before being admitted to the abundant table, one must cleanse oneself off all stains – both literally and figuratively.
India’s climate isn’t exactly conducive to the growth of firs and pines, the iconic and (seemingly) irreplaceable Christmas trees. A local solution to the unfortunate weather conditions was found when someone, somewhere decided to work with nature – not against it – and do to a palm or mango tree what one would to a spruce, i.e. deluge it with decorations and ornaments to admittedly amusing results.
The nation’s capital – Caracas – makes our list of oddities for its very special means of Christmas transportation – the city gets flooded with roller-skaters on Christmas morning, when (what seems like) the entire city is headed to the holiday Mass. Streets are closed off to traffic until 8am, allowing for unhampered passage of hundreds upon hundreds of skaters.
In Sweden, Christmas day is marked by a peculiar, semi-official tradition of binge-watching Disney’s Donald Duck cartoon series at precisely 3 o’clock in the afternoon (the hour the show is broadcast on Swedish television). The origins of this particular tradition are blurry and, quite sincerely, irrelevant as long as one is in possession of a working TV set at 3pm on Christmas day.
Celebration of this traditionally snow-themed holiday is – quite literally – turned on its head in the land down under, where Santa-Claus-costume-clad individuals ride the waves on surf boards, and open-air barbecues are held with no added risk of guests getting frost bite. The crisp white sand of Australian beaches really puts a different spin on the concept of a “white Christmas”.