Christmas was officially declared as the birth date of Jesus by Pope Julius 1 in 350 AD; however, this winter celebration can trace its roots to the Pagan celebration of Deus Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun god). 1
Christmas traditions vary around the world where it is celebrated. Perhaps your family will want to adopt some of these practices if observe this holiday.
Iceland: Jólabókaflóðið “The Christmas Book Flood”
Jólabókaflóðið began in 1944 when Iceland got its independence from Denmark. The tradition had its roots in the Icelanders love of books, and the fact that paper was not rationed during the war, as were other materials used for other gifts. For the holiday, people give each other books!
On Christmas Eve, people open their gifts of books and begin reading them immediately while sipping hot cocoa or jólabland, an alcohol-free holiday ale. 2
Venezuela: Roller Skating to Church
In Caracas, Venezuela, children go to bed with a string tied around their big toe and the other end dangles out a window. The roads are closed to cars because the tradition is for people to roller skate to Christmas morning mass. As they skate by, they tug on the string to wake the children and tell them to get their skates on. 34
Spain: Caga Tió “The Poo Log”
In the Catalonian region of Spain, Christmas is celebrated with the Caga Tió or Poo Log. This hollowed out log is stuffed first with a garlic bulb or onion then with sweets, turrón nougat, and nuts. The log is decorated with human characteristics like a face and limbs and a red hat.5
On Christmas Eve, the Poo Log is beaten softly with a wooden spoon and encouraged to poo out the goodies while people sing:
Caga tió, (Poop log)Via: NPR
tió de Nadal, (Log of Christmas)
no caguis arengades (Don’t poop salted herring)
que són massa salads (They are too salty)
caga torrons (Poop turróns)
que són més bons! (They are much better!)
It seems pooing is part of the holiday tradition in this part of the world. In addition to the Poo Log, Catalonians also feature a defecating statue in their nativity scenes called Caganer. 6
Czech Republic: Throwing of the Shoe
In the Czech Republic, Christmas Eve is an auspicious day for unmarried women to predict their future. Women stand with their back to their front door, take off a shoe, and throw it over their shoulder towards the door. If it lands with the toe facing the door, they will be married during the coming year. If the shoe lands heel facing, the woman will have to wait until next Christmas Eve to try again for marriage. 7
Another holiday tradition that predicts marriage is for a girl to shake an elder tree. If a dog barks while she is shaking the tree, she will marry a man for the direction of the bark.
It’s not just women who use Christmas as a time to foretell the future in the Czech Republic. After Christmas Eve dinner, each person cuts an apple in half with the stem facing down. If the core is shaped like a star, good fortune is predicted. If the core is a four-pointed cross, someone at the table will become ill or die in the upcoming year.
In fact, the Czechs have quite a few superstition regarding Christmas Eve dinner:
– No lights should be lit in the house before the first star comes out. After it does, dinner is served.Via: My Czech Republic
– The table should be set for an even number of guests. An odd number brings bad luck or death.
– An extra plate can be used to even out the number of guests. An extra plate should also be prepared in case
– an unexpected guest or a person in need comes by the house at dinner time.
– The legs of the table can be tied with a rope to protect the house from thieves and burglars in the coming year.
– No one should sit with their back to the door.
– Christmas dinner should consist of nine courses including soup, bread with honey, carp, potato salad, fruit (dried,
– fresh or canned), dessert (apple strudel or vánočka – Christmas bread), and other foods.
– No alcohol should be served on Christmas Eve.
– No one should ever get up from the Christmas table before dinner is finished. Doing so brings bad luck and death
– in the family.
– Everyone should finish their dinner and leave nothing on the plate.
– The first person to leave the table after dinner will be the first one to die in the coming year – that is why everyone
– should get up from the table at the same time.
– Any leftovers from dinner (crumbs, fishbones, etc.) should be buried around the trees to ensure they will bear lots
– of fruit.
– All household animals should be fed after dinner so that no one goes hungry on Christmas Eve.
From pooping logs to throwing shoes, there are many fun winter holiday traditions around the world that do not involve consumerism and shopping. What unique and fun holiday traditions does your family follow?