Christmas traditions mean something different for everyone. However, Europe is full of customs that might seem unusual, even odd, for the rest of the world. Some of them have their origins in the religious syncretism that marked the early centuries of the spread of Christianity. Others have somewhat more modern origins, but some remain truly difficult to explain.
Norway - The Norwegians believe that Christmas Eve coincides with the time of year when evil spirits and witches make their appearance on Earth. Therefore, in Norway, all brooms are hidden on Christmas Eve to deprive the witches of their tools. After all, no one wants to wake up on Christmas morning to find a broken broom under the tree.
Iceland - Jólakötturinn (the name given by Icelanders to the Yule Cat) is portrayed as a giant creature, the size of a house. Legend has it that it roams the island, looking to devour anyone who crosses its path and is not dressed warmly enough for the harsh Icelandic winter.
A possible explanation for the origin of the legend could be that, traditionally, well-behaved and hardworking children who completed their chores given by their parents before Christmas received new clothes, while the lazy ones did not. Icelanders say that they visit each other for Christmas to protect one another and ensure that no one is eaten by the Yule Cat.
Sweden - Every year, families throughout Sweden gather on Christmas Eve around the TV at exactly 3:00 PM to watch Donald Duck's Christmas message. Swedes plan their Christmas activities around this special broadcast, with over 40% of the country's population tuning in.
Ukraine - A favorite and truly unique tradition of Ukrainians involves decorating the Christmas tree with artificial spider webs reminiscent of spider silk and adorning it with small spider-shaped ornaments. They are not too lazy to remove Halloween decorations, as one might initially think; instead, they throw them on the tree, creating a distinctive and unconventional festive display.
Italy - In Italy, there is a story according to which an old witch named La Befana helps Santa Claus bring gifts to all the children who have been good.
Romania - Romanians have plenty of Christmas traditions, some stranger than others. For instance, in some villages in Moldova, housewives prepare a type of round bread in the shape of the number 8, called "Craciunei." These are placed near icons and kept until the spring equinox. On March 21, men take the bread and break it into several pieces, which they then place under the plows and give to oxen or horses, hoping for abundance throughout the year.
In the villages of Argeș, houses are sprinkled with the water of good fortune for several days, up to a week, depending on the hardships the family has faced before Christmas. The water of good fortune is a mixture of holy water and a blend of herbs such as geranium, mint, and lavender.
Germany - Germans hide a pickled cucumber in the Christmas tree and have their children search for it. After finding it, the child is rewarded with a gift.
Estonia - On Christmas Eve, Estonians choose an extremely unusual way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They go to the sauna together with their families.
Slovakia - In Slovakia, the oldest person in the family takes a spoonful of “loska,” a traditional Christmas pudding, and then throws it at the ceiling. The more of it sticks to the ceiling, the greater the success.
Czech Republic - Here, unmarried women stand with their backs to the door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing toward the door, it is believed that they will get married in the coming year.
France - The French people celebrate Christmas with 13 desserts. It is said that each delicacy represents one of the 12 apostles, and an additional one symbolizes Jesus. Typically, the desserts are served all at once, and everyone is expected to share, taking at least a bite of each. Traditions may vary from one household to another, but each tasty dessert contributes something to the table, symbolizing certain elements of the Christian religion or superstitious customs.
Portugal - The Portuguese people remember the deceased on Christmas Day. Families in Portugal light candles at the graves of their loved ones, and cemeteries transform into enchanting places during this time.
We’d love to hear of more unusual Christmas traditions you’ve heard of in the comments.