We all know how Christmas in Australia plays out.

The days leading up to it are spent hanging out with friends and family. Perhaps some of you attend a church service while others worship the great summer weather. The out of town relos might arrive and stay for the holidays, or you’ll bundle into the car and go visit them instead.

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, your tree-in-a-box should be fully decorated with tinsel, ornaments and an angel. There will be presents at the base of it and fairy lights zigzagging the exterior of the home.

Come Christmas morning, presents are unwrapped, and many Australians throw some eggs and bacon on the BBQ and make rolls for breakfast. The standard argument as to whether tomato sauce or BBQ sauce is better usually follows when it’s time to eat. The rest of Christmas day is spent eating prawns and pork, socialising with friends and family and otherwise enjoying your presents, either by the pool, in an air-conditioned room or down on the beach.

For us, spending Christmas this way isn’t unusual. It’s what we’ve grown up with and what we’re all used to. To many other cultures though, Australian Christmas must seem pretty strange. Especially compared to those who live in the Northern Hemisphere.

This got the team here at Australia's favourite online casino wondering: how do other countries celebrate the Christmas season? In this article, we’ve broken down five foreign Christmas-time rituals that are practiced around the world.

1. Hang a lantern in your window in Colombia

The start of the Christmas season in Colombia is marked by Little Candles Day, otherwise known as Día de las Velitas. Held on December 7, this public holiday takes place in honour of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception.

During this time, Colombians across the country place candles and paper lanterns on their balconies, in their windows and in their front yards. Entire towns and cities are suddenly illuminated, and many people go to great lengths to create elaborate displays. The best candle and lantern arrangements, however, are said to be found in the municipality of Quimbaya, where competitions are held to see who has the most spectacular exhibition.

In addition to Día de las Velitas, many Colombians also take part in 'novenas' that begin on December 16 and run until Christmas Eve. Novenas are essentially periods of time when family and friends and even neighbours can come together to pray, sing carols and eat mountains of hearty Colombian food.

One of the main Christmas dishes that’s eaten on Christmas Eve night is called 'Cena de Navidad'. This dish, or collection of different dishes, includes a ham, turkey or chicken soup called 'Ajiaco Bogotano' and 'lechona', which is pork stuffed with rice and peas. Cheese fritters called 'Buñuelos' and a fried pastry with sugar and jam called 'hojuelas' are also popular Christmas time meals in Colombia, as is a custard dessert by the name of 'Natilla'.

The Christmas traditions don’t end there though, and another important part of the holiday season in Colombia is the decoration of a nativity scene with letters written to baby Jesus by children. In these letters, children can ask for which presents they’d like to receive in the hope that Jesus will bring them on Christmas Eve. This is similar to when kids sit on a mall Santa’s lap in Australia, except you don’t have to deal with the musty smell of Santa’s fake beard or the stench of his mothballed suit.

2. Hide your broom from witches in Norway

Norway was once the home of pagan Vikings who preferred to pillage and plunder, rather than sit in front of a Christmas tree and swap gifts. To the Vikings, what we know as Christmas was called Jul, and it was celebrated in the middle of winter to mark the end of the year’s harvest. Much beer was consumed, and those naughty Norseman and Norsewoman enjoyed a period of revelry in honour of their pagan gods.

This all changed around the first millennium CE, when Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia. Since then Christmas traditions have evolved and become decidedly more modern. There is one tradition, however, that has remained: the hiding of household brooms on Christmas Eve.

The hiding of your broom on Christmas Eve if you live in Norway isn’t an act of rebellion against sweeping, but rather a custom that dates back to a time long ago when people truly believed that witches emerged on the 24th of December, looking for broom to snatch up and fly away on.

While we now know that the only way to make a broom fly is to throw it, the majority of Norwegians still conceal their brooms in the most secure room of the house to safeguard it from the gnarled hands of witches who cannot afford to travel via plane.

Other presumably fairytale creatures also appear at Christmas time in Norway, most notably small gnomes called ‘Nisse’. No taller than 90 cm with a long white beard and a bright conical cap, Nisse knock on the doors of people's homes and hand out presents.

This means that if you’re a child in Norway and you get a dud present, you can blame it on one of these silly gnomes (which is somewhat convenient for parents who stuff up their child’s Christmas gift list).

3. Enjoy a Kentucky fried Christmas in Japan

Forget the stuffed turkey that’s served in the States and give those fresh prawns a miss in Australia, because the team here at Australia’s favourite online casino reckon Japan does Christmas dinner right… with Kentucky Fried Chicken.
No your eyes aren’t deceiving you. When it comes to Christmas in the Land of The Rising Sun, the Japanese are bonkers for KFC. The reason for this can be traced back to a popular advertising campaign that was broadcasted in 1974. Called Kentucky for Christmas, or ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii’ in Japanese, this campaign sold the locals on the idea that a bucket of chicken is the best way to enjoy Christmas Day.

Given that Christmas isn’t a widely celebrated holiday in Japan, only a small portion of the population actually partake in this strange ritual. This small portion, however, still works out to be about 2 million people. This is more than enough to make December the busiest month of the year for KFC restaurants throughout the country, to the point that people are required to place their orders in advance and total sales account for about a third of the chain’s yearly sales in Japan.

If you’re wondering what a KFC Christmas meal involves, you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t just a breast and thigh combo. Instead, meals are tailored to the holiday season so that boxes can include such items as a bottle of wine, a cake and of course a full roasted chicken. With the actual premium Christmas package (all mains plus sides) worth 5,800 yen… or roughly 77 Australian dollars.

4. Partake in the Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines

The Philippines go all out during Christmas time, marking the occasion with an annual event held in the city of San Fernando called the Giant Lantern Festival. Beginning in mid-December, this celebration is based on a Christmas tradition called ‘Lubenas’, which is a procession of saints lit by lanterns.

The highlight of the Giant Lantern Festival falls on the Saturday before Christmas, whereby residents of San Fernando create humongous lanterns to display in front of a local church. The spectacle attracts audiences from all over the country and across the world, many of whom come to see who out of the eleven barangays, or ‘villages’, can build the grandest and most extravagant structure.

It’s said that everyone in their respective community pitches in during the design and construction phase. Using bamboo and other easily accessibly materials, they’re able to create lanterns that reach as high as six metres at their tallest point. Electric bulbs and other ornaments are also added to the lanterns in an effort to wow the local patrons.

The effort involved in creating such a structure makes December in the Philippines vastly different to December in Australia. For us and the team at Fair Go casino, you’re more likely to see us horizontal on the couch in an airconditioned room watching cricket or on a beach, rather than sweating it out on a building site.

To each their own though.

5. Beat the poo log until it spills it sweets in Spain

To round off our list, we’re heading to the Spanish province of Catalonia. As if to put a final exclamation mark on this article, we’ve left what most will consider to be the strangest Christmas tradition till last. Known as ‘Caga tió’, which can be loosely translated as the defecating or pooping log, this bizarre custom is hard to comprehend if you’re not from the northern parts of Spain.

Essentially, the tradition begins on Christmas Eve with the entire family gathered around a small hollow wooden log. This is no ordinary wooden log though. It’s stuffed with sweets and treats and even nuts. And with its two twig legs and the smiley face pained on one end, it’s safe to say this log has charisma.

Unfortunately for the log, it’s not here to join in on the Christmas celebrations. Instead, it’s to be beaten with sticks by family members until it spills open and “poops” its contents all over the ground for the kids to collect. This odd tradition is made even more incredulous by the fact the family members sing a special song as they’re laying into him, part of which goes 'if you don't crap well, I’ll beat you with a stick'.

The team here at Australia’s favourite online casino aren’t too surprised this ritual hasn’t caught on anywhere else. Who doesn’t want to play with a timber poo on Christmas Eve, right?

Celebrate Christmas with Fair Go casino – win big this year and get into the festive spirit.

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