Around the World, Kids' Christmas Gifts Include KFC, Books and 'pooping logs'

CNN/ Newswire | 12/20/2017, 6:15 a.m.
Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow, are now relishing -- or eagerly awaiting -- holiday celebrations around the world.

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

(CNN) -- Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow, are now relishing -- or eagerly awaiting -- holiday celebrations around the world.

In places like the United States, where 90% of people celebrate Christmas, children will look for presents from Santa Claus under the tree and treats in their stockings.

Yet in other regions of the world, who brings gifts and what those gifts are can vary, depending on where families live and which holiday they are celebrating.

Here is just a sampling of the whimsical ways some parents and children celebrate the season across cultures.

La Befana delivers candy or coal

In Italy, children receive gifts from Babbo Natale, or Santa Claus, but there's also a witchlike woman who delivers gifts to the nice and coal to the naughty during the holidays.

"Befana is the female Italian equivalent of Santa Claus," said Anne Rashford, director of special exhibitions and events at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, who curated the museum's Christmas Around the World exhibit currently on display.

Rashford described La Befana as an elderly woman who flies on a broomstick across Italy, giving gifts to children on Epiphany Day, a Christian holiday celebrating the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The holiday, on January 6, is also known as Three Kings Day or the Feast of the Epiphany.

Various versions of the legend of La Befana describe her as a little old woman, a kindly witch or a fairy queen. In some tales, legend has it that La Befana declined an invitation to join the wise men on their journey to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus, and so to this day, she takes flight every Epiphany Eve to search for the holy child on her own, Rashford said.

Yet while children follow the tale of La Befana in Italy, in some parts of Africa, they wait for Old Man Bayka.

Old Man Bayka just wants presents

In Liberia, Old Man Bayka, or the county's "devil," wanders the streets begging for presents on Christmas Day, according to the ONE campaign, a world advocacy organization.

In other parts of the African continent, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, children often participate in church musicals or Nativity plays for Christmas, according to ONE. In Sierra Leone and much of Gambia, towns and villages celebrate with masquerade parties.

Christianity -- and, it could be assumed, the celebration of Christmas -- has grown significantly in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Asia-Pacific region.

The portion of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010, while in the Asia-Pacific region it rose from 3% to 7%, according to the Pew Research Center.

Kids get KFC for Christmas

In Japan, where about 1% of the population identifies as Christian, many children and adults alike who celebrate Christmas do so with a big bucket of finger-lickin' good Kentucky Fried Chicken.

KFC was established in Japan in 1970 and launched a nationwide Christmas campaign on December 1, 1974, according to the company's website. Ever since, KFC has implemented Christmas campaigns in all stores every year.