Odd Christmas traditions at Boise State and around the world

Boise State freshmen Evan Long-Quian and Breanna Burke put their heads together and thought a minute.

“Weirdest holiday tradition?” Long-Quian asked incredulously, as if to verify the question.

But Burke jumped right in.

“In my family we don’t celebrate Christmas on Christmas, ever,” Burke said. “We celebrate Christmas in the beginning of January, because my mom works on Christmas.”

Long-Quian’s family, on the other hand, celebrates Christmas on the normal date, but in a special way.

“We all wake up at exactly 6 am on Christmas morning, every Christmas. It’s like telepathy,” Long-Quian said. “We eat the exact same thing for breakfast every year. It’s a ham, cheese, and hash-brown casserole and it’s delicious.”

The idea of a typical American Christmas may bring to mind images of star-topped evergreens, shiny gift-wrap, and a jolly old gift-dispensing man with a beard and a belly (like a bowl full of jelly).

Every family celebrates Christmas in their own special way, and many of these traditions may come across as strange to other people.

Similarly, different countries observe this festive season in ways which seem odd from an American point of view.

Here are six of the most unusual Christmas traditions from around the world:

In Spain, nativity scenes often feature a “caganer.”  Español-speakers can translate this as – that’s right – “the defecator”, or one who discharges bodily waste. Why was there a designated defecator present at the birth of baby Jesus, you may wonder? According to legend, the “caganer” is featured in nativity scenes to ensure a fortunate harvest for farmers.

In a similar vein, one Catalan Christmas tradition involves a piñata of sorts, in the form of a hollow log. This log is given a special name: Caga Tio, or the pooping log. Every evening from Dec. 8 until Christmas Eve, family members place little treats inside the log. On Christmas, Caga Tio is thrown into the fireplace and beaten until he poops out goodies for little boys and girls to enjoy.

Christmas in Japan revolves around the saintly Colonel Sanders rather than Saint Nick. It is a widespread Japanese custom to enjoy Christmas dinner at a local KFC, which accepts reservations for this purpose. It is recommended to phone several months in advance, especially if you and your family expect to sit in a booth.

Italy may have Halloween and Christmas confused. In Italy, an old witch, warts and all, takes over Santa Claus’s gift-giving duties, taking up a broomstick in place of the good old-fashioned sleigh.

You may have heard of this one: one German or German-American Christmas tradition includes hiding a pickle-shaped Christmas ornament – the last ornament to adorn the tree – deep within the branches. The first person to find the pickle camouflaged in the foliage on Christmas Day receives a bonus gift.

In Ethiopia, a high-spirited and often very violent ball-and-stick game called ganna is played on Christmas. You probably did not know  that was how the biblical shepherds first celebrated the birth of Jesus.

About the author  ⁄ katiemeikle