More than 160 countries around the world celebrate Christmas. Overseas and elsewhere, some holiday traditions may seem wonderfully weird — and maybe even a bit bizarre. For some chuckles, let’s check out the yearly happenings in:

Slovakia: During Christmas Eve dinner, the oldest male resident tosses a spoonful of loksa pudding (a mixture of sweetened poppy seeds, bread, and water) onto the ceiling — the more that sticks, the better his crops or business will do during the next year.


Guatemala: Each neighborhood sweeps dirt into one large pile and then plants an effigy of the devil on top before setting it on fire.


England: The idea of kissing under the mistletoe began here. Refusing a smooch was said to bring bad luck, and one tradition required that, with each kiss, the participants pluck a berry from the mistletoe bunch.


New Zealand: Summertime Santa often appears in “jandals” (New Zealand sandals) and an All Blacks (their national rugby team) shirt. Kids leave beer and pineapple chunks for Mr. Claus and carrots for his reindeer.


Venezuela: Caracas streets close to all traffic when Christmas Eve arrives. This is a safety measure as many city dwellers roller-skate — nobody seems to know why — to late-night Mass.


Norway: All brooms are hidden in order to keep witches from finding them and riding off into the Christmas Eve night. Men also fire their guns into the evening sky.


Japan: Since 1974 the power of persuasive American advertising has established a newer tradition: enjoying a Christmas Day feast at the nearest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.


Greenland: Folks relish holiday treats of mattak (whale skin with a strip of blubber inside) and kiviak, the raw flesh of auks (a type of Arctic bird) that has been buried whole in sealskin for seven months until it has reached a certain level of decomposition. (Seconds, anyone?)


Wales: Some villages in South Wales celebrate Mari Lwyd, a wassailing folk custom in which a local man parades through the streets, his identity hidden under a sackcloth while bearing a horse’s skull on the end of a stick.


Germany: Each Dec. 5, German children leave a shoe outside the house. Well-behaved kiddies awake to find the shoe stuffed with sweets. Those behaving otherwise are likely to find a tree branch instead.


Canada: There’s an actual postal code used in Canada to send letters to the North Pole: HOHOHO. All the letters received, even those in Braille, are answered by thousands of volunteers who donate their time every year.


Czech Republic: Some folks fast on Christmas Eve in the hope that they will visualize a golden pig — a sign of good luck — appearing on a wall before dinner.


South Africa: After residents enjoy a traditional Christmas Day meal, they eagerly tuck into after-dinner treats of plump, fuzzy caterpillars that have been fried in oil.


Final thought: Doesn’t it make you wonder how some of our own Christmas traditions might seem strange to others, as well?


Randal C. Hill can be reached at

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