Unusual Christmas traditions
The world we live in today is evolving at a ridiculous pace, but luckily at this time of year the more unusual Christmas traditions are happily carried down from generation to generation:
- South Africa – eating the Emperor Moth caterpillars.
- Norway – all brooms are hidden away on Christmas Day, so they can’t be stolen by witches.
- Venezuela – people roller skate to mass.
- Greenland – eating raw whale skin, stuffed with whale blubber, and a seal skin – stuffed with 500 Auk birds that have been left to ferment for 7 months- Pooey!
- Germany – children play ‘hunt the pickle’ in the tree, on Christmas morning.
- Ukraine – decorate their trees with artificial spiders and webs.
- Slovakia – the most senior male throws a spoonful of pudding at the ceiling, the more that sticks, the more luck it will bring.
- Canada – any letters posted to Santa Claus, North Pole, or Canada, are received and replied to.
There’s one rather barmy UK tradition, the Christmas day swim, that has been taking people out of their comfy homes for years, and it doesn’t look to be dying out anytime soon. What’s even more astounding, is that it isn’t restricted to just one swim, there are outdoor Christmas swims organised all over the UK, and some more popular than others.
How did it all begin?
It’s not, as some people like to believe, an antidote to too much Christmas pudding, or a way of making room for more Christmas pudding, it actually dates back to 1860 and England’s oldest swimming club. The Brighton Swimming Club was formed in 1858 by a small group of men, who wanted to improve their swimming. With limited access to public swimming baths, they began their training in the sea. With a schedule of daily sessions at 7am, they felt that missing out on Christmas Day would be detriment to their training and so the tradition began.
Just west of Brighton Pier on Christmas morning you can witness the 30+swimmers, along with around 3,000 spectators. It has become so popular that people turn up in all kinds of ‘festive garb’.
Whilst the benefits of outdoor swimming are numerous, the Christmas Day, and some Boxing Day swims have become something of a charity fundraiser for many organisations. Blending the sport with raising money for worthwhile causes seems to be very fitting at this time of year.
For other clubs, it’s a more serious affair – with a good old fashioned race. One of the most famous and brilliantly named is the Peter Pan Cup, held on the Serpentine lake in Central London. The Peter Pan Cup is restricted to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who must have qualified during the season. The temperatures of the Serpentine drop below 4C degrees, so it’s vital that participants have acclimatised.
In 1904, when Peter Pan made its London stage debut, J M Barrie donated the cup to the Swimming club. Since then, following in the true Peter Pan tradition, the Christmas Day cup sees grown-ups embracing their youth by throwing themselves fearlessly into the icy lake.
So just what is it about this increasingly popular tradition? The Royal Dorset Yacht Club says, “Watch the swim from the clubhouse with a glass of fizz or whatever takes your fancy! A great place to sit and watch the swim whilst enjoying the comfortable, warm surroundings of your clubhouse.”
Take the plunge – you never know, it may make it your best Christmas ever.
Photo by Ed Rosack