‘In Serbia, ladies bathe males with nuts’: readers’ prime Christmas traditions from their travels | Christmas and New 12 months holidays

Trolled by Iceland’s Yuletide Lads

In line with legend, the Yuletide Lads are the sons of a troll named Grýla and are available down one after the other from the mountains to trigger hassle but in addition to depart presents within the footwear of kids. The primary to reach, on 11 December, is Stekkjastaur, who bothers the sheep (he tries to drink milk straight from the ewe’s teat) in Icelanders’ farms. The subsequent day Giljagaur arrives: he’s recognized for stealing the froth from cow’s milk. On the thirteenth, it’s Stúfur, who steals meals from frying pans. Then there’s Þvörusleikir (spoon-licker), Pottaskefill (pot-scraper), Askasleikir (bowl-licker), Hurðaskellir (door-slammer), Skyrgámur (skyr yoghurt-gobbler), Bjúgnakrækir (steals sausages), Gluggagægir (window-peeker), Gáttaþefur (door-sniffer), Ketkrókur (meat hook) and Kertasníki (candle-beggar). After which, in the identical order by which they got here, when the final Yuletide Lad has departed, Christmas is over.
Collette

The Uppies and Doonies gather for the Kirkwall New Year Ba game.
The Uppies and Doonies collect for the Kirkwall New 12 months Ba recreation. {Photograph}: Mark Ferguson/Alamy

Orkney celebrates festivities with the Ba recreation in the primary city of Kirkwall: a scrum of 200-plus folks on two opposing groups – the Uppies and the Doonies – competing to get a ball to a vacation spot on both aspect of city. The retailers and homes alongside the streets get out planks of wooden to guard their facades, and a blanket of steam rises above the gang as the sport will get critical. One of many better-known legends surrounding the origins of Ba counsel it was first performed with the severed head of a mainland tyrant known as Tusker. One other custom islanders take pleasure in is first-footing, nonetheless a well-kept Hogmanay custom in varied components of Scotland, the place you hop between the homes of strangers and mates by way of the night time, with a bottle to toast the brand new yr.
Cassia Dodman

Tableaux and bathroom humour, north-east Spain

In Catalonia some small cities put superbly lit crib tableaux, enacting scenes from the nativity story, in home windows and open areas. Usually an historic market is depicted, at all times with a donkey and a few sheep. And the notorious caganer is usually to be discovered among the many angels and villagers (a nativity scene figurine within the act of defecation). It’s magical strolling slowly spherical, usually with seasonal music, hardly recognising acquainted lanes and ending the night with a glass of native wine and a candy biscuit.
Libby Harris

Viennese twist, Austria

Krampus figures can be somewhat alarming.
Krampus figures could be considerably alarming. {Photograph}: Sergio Delle Vedove/Alamy

Final yr, whereas strolling across the elegant streets of Vienna, my youngsters have been handled to the stunning spectacle of half-demons, half-goat creatures rising from bars, cafes and homes. Apparently in mid-December Krampusnacht is widely known, a throwback to the darkest Grimm fairytales. The Krampus is a devil-like creature with matted fur, stag horns and flaming coals for eyes, unleashed to punish naughty youngsters. He usually has an enormous birch department in his hand prepared for beating folks. After, that, my two youngsters have been grateful for even the most straightforward current at dwelling!
Yasmin

Into the woods, Serbia

In Serbia, the village males historically get up earlier than daybreak on Christmas Eve (6 January in Serbia) and head into the woods to chop oak branches (badnjak) taking selfmade šljivovica (plum brandy) and bread to assist them hold heat within the freezing climate. As darkness falls the branches are carried dwelling to make use of on the fireplace. As the boys enter with the wooden, ladies bathe them with nuts, dried fruits, wheat and cash. Solely then has Christmas arrived and a the arrival quick is damaged with a midnight meal.
Nilo

Pop into the cathedral, the Netherlands

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at St John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at St John’s Cathedral in ’s-Hertogenbosch {Photograph}: Rob Engelaar/EPA

Many individuals within the Netherlands go to the nativity scene within the St John’s Cathedral in ’s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) at Christmas. The scene is ready within the thirteenth century, on the time when St John’s was being constructed. Those that move by way of the portal are promised eternal happiness. On the best way over it’s important to take heed to the High 2000 on Dutch station NPO Radio 2: the programme begins at midnight on 25 December and ends at midnight on 31 December. It performs the two,000 pop songs voted better of all time. First broadcast in 2000, it has proved successful with listeners younger and outdated. Primary is often Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, though The Eagles, John Lennon, and Dutch stars Danny Vera and Boudewijn de Groot have made it to prime spot too.
Monique Gadella

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Disguise your brooms, Norway

One Norwegian Christmas Eve custom is for folks to cover their brooms. That is primarily based on the idea that that witches enterprise out on Christmas Eve searching for broomsticks to experience on. Sure, what a number of twaddle. I instructed them “witch posts”, within the type of a saltire hex signal on a fire, are far simpler for protecting witches at bay – it’s well-known, in northern England not less than, that witches enter homes by way of the chimney.
Mark Rounding

Effectively-meaning witch, Italy

La Regata delle Befane in Venice.
They got here by boat … La Regata delle Befane in Venice. {Photograph}: LaPresse/Alamy

In Italy younger youngsters look ahead to a go to over Christmas from La Befana. She is an ageing, well-meaning witch in black cape and black hat, who flies round among the many stars over the 12 days of Christmas earlier than touchdown on the Epiphany – 6 January. One story is that La Befana led the three kings, who obtained misplaced following the star on their journey to Bethlehem. She concludes the Italian festive season with easy presents for kids resembling sweets – or lumps of coal for naughty ones. I discovered this an enthralling custom after I lived in Italy.
Nigel Cox

Profitable tip: A fish known as Albert, Czech Republic

Essentially the most weird Christmas custom I’ve ever got here throughout was within the Czech Republic. Folks there purchase stay carp and put them of their bathtub, the place they swim for just a few days earlier than it turns into a Christmas dinner. Youngsters title the fish whereas it’s fortunately bobbing about within the tub. A pal there had a fish he known as Albert, which weighed round 4kg. It made a giant dinner.
Radka

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