10. Ukraine’s Spider Web Tree
Christmas trees in the Ukraine are often covered in spider webs. An ancient legend tells of a poor family who grew a Christmas tree from a pinecone. The children, so thrilled by the idea of their very own tree, spent months dreaming up ways to decorate it for the holiday. But the family was penniless, so the children’s tree would remain unadorned. Upon waking, the children discovered that spiders had spun webs of glistening silk around the tree’s branches. Each thread magically turned into silver and gold as the morning’s sun danced upon the tree’s bows. Today, Ukrainians dress up their trees with spider webs to welcome good luck into the coming year.
11. Italy’s Befana
Don’t waste your time asking Santa Claus for presents on Christmas Eve in Italy. An ugly yet kind old witch named Befana (‘giver of gifts’) controls the gift-giving duties instead. As per tradition on the eve of Epiphany – January 5 – obliging parents leave out a plate of regional cuisine (often broccoli with spiced sausage and a glass of wine) for Befana. Flying around the world by broomstick and entering each house by chimney, the good witch delivers toys, clothing and candy to well-behaved children. Come the morning of January 6, happy faces awake to a bounty of treats tucked into their stockings.
12. Newfoundland’s Mummering
The Maritime province has a long tradition of Mummering – the boisterous practice of visiting neighbourhood homes while dressed in elaborate disguises. Mummers often adopt unique speech patterns, gaits and postures, and men will dress as women and vice versa. Through song, dance and comedic plays, the mummers try to remain unrecognizable to the people they visit. If the homeowners identify the mummers, the unmasked reveler is gifted with food and drink. Each December, Newfoundland throws the fun-filled Mummers Festival with parades, concerts and workshops. Join the party! For more details, visit http://mummersfestival.ca/