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Nutty as a Fruitcake

Is there something in the eggnog, or are we all just a little nuttier over the holidays? In pursuit of answers, GCF has compiled a list of unusual traditions from places near and far. Sit back and enjoy a peek into the surprising ways folks around the world celebrate the season.

Mum's the word.

No one is sure how the tradition started, but mumming is the way to celebrate the holidays in Ireland, England, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and, yes, Philadelphia, PA. The tradition usually involves wearing masks and costumes while singing, dancing, and parading through the city streets.

The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be…

The "Mari Lwyd" (or "Gray Mare" in English) is a Welsh tradition in celebration of the New Year. A group of revelers goes from house to house with one of them disguised as a horse. They stop to sing at each door, hoping to be let in and treated to food and drink.

How do you say, "Finger-licking good" in Japanese?

The Colonel has become a special guest at many Christmas Eve dinners in Japan. Forget the turkey and dressing for the holidays—when in Tokyo, you will need to order up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The demand is so great that many families reserve their "Christmas chicken" ahead of time.

Who knew Santa had an evil twin?

Krampus is his name, and this beast-like creature punishes children in the Alpine region, should they misbehave during Yuletime. Unlike jolly ole St. Nick, Krampus is said to capture naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

Swept away

Italian children look forward to a visit from an old woman called La Befana on the night of January 5, Epiphany eve. La Befana goes from door-to-door to deliver sweets or lumps of coal to children, depending on whether they are nice or naughty. Before leaving, La Befana uses her broom to sweep up the house, symbolically representing fresh beginnings for the new year.

Dish your friends

A Danish New Year tradition involves throwing and breaking dishes at your friends' front doors. The family with the largest tower of broken plates, glasses, cups, and other crockery on the first day of the year is considered the luckiest because they have so many loyal friends.

Happy holidays from Baltimore, hon!

Since 1947, neighbors on one small block of the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore transform their rowhomes into a glittering display for the holidays. On New Year's Eve, "Mr. Baby" makes an appearance (an adult male dressed in nothing but a diaper) to represent the new year as a lighted ball is dropped into a cardboard box.