I rarely experience trouble sleeping (quite the opposite, actually), but
1. United States: We hide a decorative pickle somewhere on the Christmas Tree; whoever finds it will have good luck in the new year. (Falsely attributed to Germany, possibly because glass ornaments were first imported from the country.)
2. In Slovakia, Loksa (bread pudding) is thrown at the ceiling to foretell next year’s crop; the bigger the blob that sticks, the bigger the reaping.
3. English tradition calls for each member of a household (usually at least the children) to wish upon their Christmas pudding, which may also contain coins, wishbones, or tokens to indicate wealth, luck, etc.
4. The Portuguese make a fruit and nut crown-shaped Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) that contains a hidden fava bean. Whoever finds the bean must pay for the next year’s cake.
5. In Lithuania, the Christmas Eve meal begins after fasting during the day, and not until the first star in the sky is seen. If it’s cloudy, the head of the household decides when dinner begins. A extra place is set for any family member who cannot attend, or who has died during the past year.
6. South Africans enjoy a tasty Christmas treat: Fried caterpillars (Gonimbrasia belina).
7. Greenland’s Christmas eats include Kiviak: many tiny Auks (birds) which are sealed whole inside a hollowed-out seal body (essentially the skin), then buried to ferment for about seven months. Natives also enjoy whale skin with a piece of blubber inside, often swallowed whole because it’s too tough to chew.
8. Serbians eat a specially prepared wheat flour bread called česnica; a coin is hidden inside the dough. Before eating, a prayer is recited and the česnica is rotated counterclockwise three times, then equally broken apart between family members. The person who receives the piece of bread with the coin inside is believed to have good fortune for the next year.
9. In Lebanon, a manger scene called the Nativity Crib is decorated a couple weeks before Christmas with chickpeas, lentils, sprouts, beans and grains, which are sprinkled over cotton and watered. On Christmas, the small plants are used to decorate the crib and Christmas trees.
10. Japan celebrates Christmas day with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. An extremely successful 1974 KFC ad campaign took the country by storm. Chicken for Christmas is so popular, families must order their chicken months in advance.
11. The Mexican city of Oaxaca de Juárez celebrates Night of the Radishes, a celebration that kicks off December 23rd, and continues through Christmas day. Specially grown giant red radishes are carved by farmers and craftsmen into figures, buildings and nativity scenes, then entered into a competition. The first prize winner gets his/her photo in the newspaper.
12. In Sweden, a traditional smörgåsbord (buffet) of hot and cold foods is served. Dessert includes rice pudding with an almond hidden somewhere in the bowl. Whoever receives the portion containing the almond will either have good luck in the next year, or be the next person to marry (or both, depending upon one’s perspective).
13. Norwegians sip Akvavit, an alcohol mandated to be spiced with dill or caraway, with their Christmas dinner. Akvavit is said to aide in digesting the rich, fatty holiday meal.
14. Catalan countries pretend feed a homemade log critter called the “Tió de Nadal“ (defecating log) fruit, nuts, water, etc. in the days leading up to Christmas. Then on December 25th, they put Tio into the fireplace, order it to…poop, while beating it with a stick and singing to it. But don’t worry; the children won’t see parents smacking the poor fella. Kids are sent from the room for that part so Mom and Dad can secretly put out their holiday presents!15.
16. Slovakians keep Kapor (carp) in the family bathtub until it’s cooked on Christmas day.
17. In Bulgaria, the feast is eaten on Christmas Eve, then everything left on the table overnight, so the holy spirits may have something to eat. Walnuts are cracked open by each person in the family, and their taste/freshness predicts the next year’s fortune.