There are some very interesting Christmas rituals performed around the world. Some are truly baffling to me, but if I lived in the part of the planet where they occur, they might seem completely normal. I’m not here to judge… but I will anyway! Here are some of the most unique holidays customs:
Pickled Tree – North America
This is a tradition that Ma Sip picked up from when we were on holiday years ago in Leavenworth, Washington. How it works is that you bury a pickle ornament somewhere in your tree and the person who first finds it Christmas morning is rewarded with good luck (and sometimes gets to crack open the first present of the day!) for the following year. The custom has been attributed to Germany, but is actually unheard of to many Germans. In actuality, it’s said to have developed in the United States.
Roller Derby – Caracas, Venzuela
I love skating and it doesn’t matter if it’s on ice or pavement, so this tradition is right up my alley. On the morning of Christmas Eve, the streets on Venezuela’s capital city are closed off, allowing citizens to skate to morning mass. There is, however, one snag in this ritual… you have to go to church, which I view as one of the most uncomfortable settings in the entire world. I suppose I could just join the mob for a little skate and then ditch them when it’s religion time!
Burning Goat – Gavle, Sweden
It’s tradition in this Swedish town to construct a massive straw goat at the start of the Christmas season… but it’s even more of a tradition for the townspeople to do everything they can to destroy the goat before Christmas Day. Since 1966, the goat hasn’t survived many times, despite it being protected by fences and guarded by security and even military. The goat has been destroyed through various acts (fire, sabotage, hit by car) and once only lasted six hours before two drunk teenagers torched it.
Spider Chronicles – Ukraine
So, apparently the Ukraine got Christmas and Halloween mixed up, because it is tradition for them to include a fake spider and webbing in their Christmas trees. Spiders are good luck, you see… shame on all of you out there that didn’t already know that. Think of all the arachnids you’ve killed over your lifetime. That’s like smashing a mirror to a Ukrainian folk. Mrs. Sip has some Ukrainian in her, but given her fear of spiders – even itty, bitty ones – I don’t think she’s going to adopt this custom.
Night of the Living Radishes – Oaxaca, Mexico
Well, this certainly wouldn’t qualify as organic. In Oaxaca, residents grow massive radishes by any means necessary, for the purpose of carving them up into sculptures depicting the nativity scene, parties, famous figures, building models, and saints. Not being a fan of radishes, I’m all for an event that doesn’t require their consumption. The Dec. 23 ‘Night of the Radishes‘ is attended by thousands of people. The winner of the competition gets their photo in the newspaper and a lifetime supply of radishes (okay, only the newspaper photo is true!).
Love, Japanese Style – Japan (obviously!)
While us westerners are opening presents and spending quality time with family, in Japan, the holiday is treated similar to our Valentine’s Day. A Christmas dessert of strawberry sponge cake is quite popular, except single women of 25 years or older are referred to as “unsold Christmas cake”. It should also be noted that red Christmas cards are a definite no-no in the Land of the Rising Sun, as funeral notices are printed in that hue and can be cause for bad luck and shows poor etiquette.
Letters to Santa – Worldwide
I’ve already touched on Santa’s Canadian address (postal code H0 H0 H0) in my look at Christmas urban legends, and apparently we’re not alone with giving St. Nick free housing. In New Zealand he can be found at ‘Santa’s Workshop, The North Pole 0001’, while Australian children can reach him at ‘North Pole 9999’. Lastly, the United kingdom has provided the jolly fat man with the post code ‘SAN TA1’. This brings much awesomeness to the commonwealth!
Drink #254: Kiss Me Santa
- 1 oz Raspberry Liqueur
- 0.5 oz Vodka
- Top with Rose Champagne
- Garnish with a Candy Cane
In closing, here’s one last interest custom that varies throughout the world and that involves Santa’s mode of transportation. Us normal folk claim that he rides a sleigh from house to house on Christmas Eve, but that story is quite different in other locales, where he is believe to travel via kangaroo (Australia), canoe (Hawaii), horse (Netherlands), and finally and most awesomely, by zipline from heaven (Czech Republic)!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
For this recipe, you have your choice of using Strawberry or Raspberry Liqueur. The champagne cocktail came across much stronger than I expected. The flavour was decent, but I’m still not a huge bubbly fan and as a result, there just wasn’t enough to bump this drink’s score up higher.