Many cities and countries have their own unique ways of celebrating over the Christmas holidays, such as scaring children with goat-horned demon costumes, fireworks fights and burning away the evils of the last year. Here are a few.
1. “Procession of the Kings” in Barcelona, Spain
On the evening of Jan. 5, the Three Wise Men arrive in Barcelona and parade through the town, where they are welcomed by children. Kids write letters with their Christmas wishes and give them to the Kings, hoping they’ll get what they asked for when they open their presents on Jan. 6.
2. “Krampus” in the Czech Republic
Krampus is a traditional figure in Eastern Europe who scares – and sometimes whips – children into good behaviour. Parades of people dressed as Krampus are common in the Czech Republic.
3. St. Nicholas and the devil in Francova Lhota, Czech Republic
In some villages of the Wallachia region, St. Nicholas and people dressed as devils roam from house to house for two or three days. St. Nicholas gives sweets and small gifts as presents to children, and the devils get up to mischief.
4. Lechon in the Philippines
Roasted pig, known as “lechon,” is regular fare at Philippine festivities, especially during Christmas and New Year celebrations.
5. Bearskins in Romania
In parts of Romania, locals celebrate the new year by parading through the streets in bearskins to scare away the evil spirits of the past year. A century ago, they used to have real bears.
6. Burning the Christmas Tree stump in Lithuania
During the winter solstice, people in Vilnius, Lithuania drag a stump around the town, beat it and then burn it to get rid of the evils of the past year.
7. Fireworks in Remedios, Cuba
People in Remedios, Cuba celebrate Christmas Eve with a massive fireworks battle between two competing neighbourhoods.
According to tradition, in 1820 the local Catholic priest tried to combat a decline in Mass attendance ahead of Christmas Eve by attracting worshipers by sending children into the street to make noise. Over time this developed into Las Parrandas, a carnival-type festival which engages the whole town in a night-long festivity with raucous bands, huge floats and a seemingly endless supply of home-made fireworks.
8. The Gavle Goat of Sweden
Every year at the beginning of Advent, the town of Gavle, Sweden displays a massive goat figurine. It is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw.
9. St. Anthony’s pig in Vilarandelo, Portugal
In 2015, the village of Vilarandelo, Portugal decided to bring back an old tradition: the Saint Anthony’s pig. A piglet is bought and left to wander around freely in the village while being fed by the population. On Christmas Eve a draw is held, and the lucky winner is supposed to turn it to pork. However that year, “Little Tony” the pig conquered the hearts of local residents and no one had the guts to kill him.
10. Bonfires in Florina, Greece
On Christmas Eve in the town of Florina in northern Greece and the surrounding villages, locals light big fires in every part of the city. This tradition is said to ward off evil spirits and symbolizes the shepherds who visit the newborn Christ. Around the fires, locals and tourists dance, drink wine and eat bean soup.