by Diana Ruiz

1.  Guatemala: Burning Devils

To rid houses of bad spirits for the new year, Guatemalans clean their entire house every December 7. Every last speck of dirt and dust is gathered from every home, and each neighborhood creates a large pile. Then, a devil statue is built and placed on top of the offending dirt, and burned. The bad omens are said to burn up with the devil.

2. South Africa: Don’t eat Santa’s cookies

To stop children from eating Santa’s cookies, parents tell their children a chilling story about a boy named Danny. Danny ate all of Santa’s cookies and angered his grandmother. In her blind rage, she killed him. Now their ghosts haunt houses and children during Christmas time.

3. Iceland: Fear the Yule Cat

Children who don’t receive new clothes by Christmas Eve will be devoured by a mythical monster from Icelandic folklore known as the “Yule Cat”. The Yule Cat is a large and angry feline rumored to lurk in the snow. The strange tradition comes from farmers who used the myth as an incentive for their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. The ones who took part in the work would be rewarded with new clothes, but those who did not would get nothing and thus would be preyed upon by the monstrous cat.

4. Italy: Don’t fear the Christmas Witch

Italians aren’t looking for a jolly old man in a red suit on Christmas Eve. Instead, they look out for Befana, a friendly witch that brings toys and candy to all good children.