Christmas customs: the world's seven strangest festive traditions
From defecating logs to KFC-fuelled feasts, Christmas provides a host of odd traditions
CHRISTMAS is a time for giving, a time for receiving and - in various parts of the world - a time for tossing shoes, roller-skating to church and feasting on KFC.
Here are the seven strangest Christmas traditions from around the world:
Finland: A festive sauna
The peak of Finnish Christmas celebrations comes on Christmas Eve, when Finns head to the sauna to strip off and relax before the evening festivities. But they have to be quick: according to folklore, the spirits of dead ancestors bathe in the sauna after the early Nordic sunset.
India: Christmas banana trees
Given the lack of pine trees in India, it is traditional for families to decorate a banana or mango tree in much the same way. The 25 million Christians in India often decorate their houses with Mango leaves and place oil-burning lamps on their roof-tops, symbolising the light of Jesus.
Czech Republic: shoe tossing for a husband
A Christmas Eve custom invites single Czech women to stand with their backs to the front door and remove a shoe. They hurl it over their shoulder towards the door, and how it lands will predict their romantic prospects for the year. If the toe of the shoe faces the door, the thrower is destined to marry. If it's the heel, it's another painful 12-month wait.
Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas
Over the past few years, it has become customary for the Japanese to tuck into a festive feast of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Day. Thanks to a successful advertising campaign, KFC branches throughout Japan report that families will queue around the block to pick up their battered thighs and wings. It has now become so popular that orders for the KFC Christmas Party Barrel are taken as early as October.
Venezuela: Christmas roller-skating
Every year between 16 and 24 December in Caracas, Venezuela, roads are closed to traffic to let people roller-skate to the early morning Christmas mass. On their way, skaters will tug on the ends of long pieces of string tied by children to their big toes and dangled out of the window.
Netherlands: Black Peter
Every November in the Netherlands, Father Christmas - or Sinterklaas, as he's know to the Dutch - arrives from Spain by steamship, bringing with him an escort of Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters), all with blackened faces, red lips and curly hair.
The role of the Black Peters is to assist Santa and perform impressive acrobatic feats to amaze the children who turn out to see them every year. The tradition has led to controversy, with the UN condemning it as “a throwback to slavery”, although its supporters insist that it's a harmless Christmas tradition.
Spain: Caga Tio the Catalan poop log
Caga Tio (pictured above) is a hollowed-out log with a happy face and legs, which must be fed with goodies such as sweets, candies and nuts in the run-up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, families put him by the fire and beat him softly with a stick until he's pooped out all the goodies. The last thing to come out is normally a garlic bulb, onion or maybe even a salt herring. During the beating, families often sing a song like this to encourage the log:
Poop log, poop nougats, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don't poop well, I'll hit you with a stick, poop log! ·