5 curious Christmas traditions from around the world

Every family has their own Christmas traditions, whether that’s eating mountains of food until you pass out, joke-gifting the same money box back and forth each year or fighting over who won the purple paper hat in the cracker-pull. But while Australia might have some odd festive quirks, given our lack of one-horse open sleighs and White-Christmas snow in December, here are some yuletide traditions from around the world that make wearing a thick red suit in 40-degree heat seem positively mundane...

An Italian witch delivers pressies from her broomstick. Instead of a jolly fat man with an inexplicably roomy sack of elf-crafted gifts, Italian children keep an eye on the skies for a witch by the name La Befana, who drops toys, games and other treats from her magical broomstick. That’s only for boys and girls who have been good, though. Bad kids can look forward to receiving nothing but a bag of ashes or an onion from her when they wake up on January 6. (For the parents, La Befana might also sweep the floor before she heads to the next homestead, which is nice of her.)

Serbian kids hold their parents to ransom. In a strange, more honest version of the gift-giving process, Serbian youngsters tie up their mothers with a belt, rope or scarf two Sundays before December 25...and poor old mum has to pay presents as a ransom before they’ll untie her! Dad doesn’t seem to learn from her lesson either, since he cops the same treatment the following Sunday. Apparently this tradition isn’t very common anymore, so if you’re visiting Serbian relatives this Christmas, it’s probably not the best idea to tie them up without warning.

"Apparently this tradition isn’t very common anymore, so if you’re visiting Serbian relatives this Christmas, it’s probably not the best idea to tie them up without warning."

Iceland has 13 (terrifying) Santas. At first, 13 Santa Clauses seems like a recipe for good times – surely there will be 13 times the presents, right? But as usual, there’s a twist. The Yule Lads are more like trolls, and they range in personality from “harmless prankster” to “doesn’t mind eating children”. Fortunately their names – ranging from Sausage Swiper to Doorway Sniffer – indicate the type of creature you’re dealing with on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas Day. If you’ve been well-behaved, sleep on in the knowledge that the Yule Lads will leave nice things on your window sill. Otherwise, you might be in for nothing more than 13 rotten potatoes! (Hey, at least you can make vodka.)

santa mugshot

If this guy doesn't keep you on the nice list, we don't know what will!

In the Philippines, it’s all about shoes. While Aussies tend to put out a pillowcase for Santa to fill up, the traditional vessel for the big man’s pressies has always been the stocking, hung by the chimney with care. In the Philippines, they’re having none of that – maybe the climate doesn’t welcome stockings? Do they not have a lot of chimneys? Instead, kids put out their shoes in the hopes of seeing them stuffed with everything they put on their wish list. Wonder if that gives basketballers an unfair advantage...

Rollerskate your way to church in Venezuela. This South American nation has put its own modern spin on Christmas. In the capital, Caracas, people are encouraged to strap on a pair of rollerskates and make their way to mass on eight wheels. They even close the streets to traffic in the morning to make it easier for these mobile parishioners. And because no youngster wants to miss the biggest holiday of the year, they’re also known to tie a piece of string to their big toe and dangle the other end out their bedroom window for passers-by to tug on – in case they oversleep and need to be woken up!