From constructing giant trees out of foodstuffs to persecuting tiny birds, a brief look at what "Happy Christmas" means for celebrants around the world
SWEDISH: “GOD JUL”
The 42-foot-tall straw Yule goat put up annually in Gävle, Sweden, is lucky if it makes it to Christmas Day. “Half the inhabitants take pride in the giant animal,” a Swedish paper noted after the destruction of last year’s goat, “while the other half take equal pride in attempting to burn it down.”
CHUUKESE: “NEEKIRISSIMAS ANNIM”
For 60 years the U.S. military has conducted Operation Christmas Drop, raining 275-pound crates of clothes, toys and food onto 50-odd Micronesian islands. To describe how isolated the islands are, a member of last year’s drop said, “Can you imagine a region on earth that Facebook hasn’t touched?”
CATALAN: “BON NADAL”
Catalan’s twist on the piñata, the tió de Nadal is a hollowed-out log a foot or so in length, with stick legs, a red beret and a drawn-on happy face. As part of the holiday festivities, kids hit the log with sticks until sweets and nuts fall from its rear end; special songs have been composed to accompany the act.
WELSH: “NADOLIG LLAWEN”
It’s a fading tradition in certain parts of Wales to spend the day after Christmas hunting wrens, then parading your prizes through the streets in “wren houses.” Some 8 million breeding pairs of wrens live in the U.K.; Welsh wren catchers, however, are on the verge of extinction.
ALBANIAN: “GËZUAR KRISHTLINDJET”
Besides being one of the world’s cheapest cities to live in, the Albanian capital, Tirana, can also lay claim to the world’s largest Christmas tree made entirely of pasta. Built by a local restaurant in 2006, it stood 52 feet tall, comprised about 6 million sticks of spaghetti and weighed in at 1 ton.