20 Weird Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas isn’t the usual turkey and tree night like we think it is…let’s take a look around the globe and see how the rest of the world celebrates during the holidays.

20. Noche de Rábanos, Oaxaca

In Oaxaca, Mexico, inhabitants traditionally hold a competition to see who can create the best nativity scene carved out of radishes. This tradition dates to 1897, when merchants needed a Christmas shopping gimmick.

Noche de Rábanos photo
Photo by ☆✩Rams✩☆ (cc)

19. Yule Cat, Iceland

In Iceland, people encourage children to work hard all year so that they can receive presents. If they don’t, they risk being consumed by the demonic Yule Cat, who will eat you if you don’t offer him some new clothes.

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18. Spider Webs in Ukraine

Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs in remembrance of a folk tale where spiders helped a poor family by spinning decorative webs that on Christmas day turned to silver and gold, after which the family never wanted for anything again.

17. KFC is Big in Japan

They love Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas in Japan! KFC markets so heavily to the Japanese at Christmas, the only way to get the chicken is to pre-order!

kfc japan photo
Photo by annainaustin (cc)

16. Pagan Sauna in Estonia

Estonia was one of the last corners of Europe to be Christianize. The people still assert their December 25 celebrations have nothing to do with Christ’s birth. Their celebrations include a naked sauna with the family.

15. Gävle Goat, Sweden

The Swedes erect a giant Yule Goat and place it in the town square for advent, and then the watch is on to see whether it is vandalized and burnt down by Christmas day. English bookies take bets on how long the goat will survive.

Gävle Goat photo
Photo by misterbisson (cc)

14. Britain’s Plum Pudding

Christmas Pudding is an important tradition to the people of Great Britain. The dark Christmas pudding is made several weeks before Christmas and each member of the family is supposed to take a turn stirring it, making a wish on each turn.

13. Poo Log, Catalonia, Spain

In Catalonia and Aragon, the Spanish have a tradition of caring for a log with a human face throughout the pre-Christmas season. On Christmas Eve it is placed in the fire to defecate presents while the kids are in the other room praying. Children also beat him with sticks on Christmas Eve, and “feed” him nuts, berries and water every day until that night.

12. Burning Thorns, Iraq

Iraq’s Christians have a tradition of burning a bunch of thorns on Christmas, right after they read the Christmas story in the Arabic Bible. If they turn to ash the family will have a good year.

11. Krampus the Christmas Devil, Germany and Austria

Krampus is a half-devil, half-goat who is sent to punish children who were naughty during the year. His origins is from the Norse mythology, where Krampus is the son of Hel, lord of the underworld.

10. Zwarte Piet, Netherlands

A highly problematic tradition in the Netherlands involves “Black Pete,” who is said to be an assistant of Santa Claus. The Zwarte Piet tradition has come under fire because people dress in blackface.

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9. Rotten Birds in Greenland

Fermented sea birds, anyone? Northern Greenland has perfected the stinky dish by burying a few hundred birds inside a seal skin and left to rot for 6 to 18 months. Then you eat it!

8. Feast of the Three Kings, Philippines

For the Feast of the Three Kings, children will wash their socks and polish their shoes to prepare for the Three Kings. The footwear will be used to hold gifts that the Three Kings will leave for the children.

7. Hide the Brooms, Norway

Pagan culture still abounds in Norway, where women hide their brooms on Christmas Eve and men will sometimes fire a warning shot, all to keep the witches away.

6. A Witch Bearing Presents, Italy

On the eve of the feast of epiphany (around Jan. 6, when the Three Wise Men met Jesus), La Befana flies around on her broom leaving candy for children. The Three Wise Men are said to have spent the night of their journey in La Befana’s house.

5. Find a Hidden Almond

In Sweden, families consume a bowl of Risgryngrot, a special rice porridge with one almond in it. The person who finds the almond will have good luck.

4. Skaters Rule, Venezuela

In Caracas Venezuela people roller skate to Christmas mass and the streets are closed off to cars. The season officially begins on Dec. 16 and many people attend church services every day until Dec. 25.

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3. Donald Duck in Sweden

The Swedes have yet another weird Christmas tradition: they watch “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul,” aka “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas” at 3:00 pm on Christmas Eve.

2. Throw Your Shoe, Czech Republic

The Czechs and Slavs are known for a tradition whereby those who are single toss a shoe over their shoulders on Christmas Eve. If the shoe lands toe facing the door, the person will marry in the coming year.

1. Volunteer for Letters to Santa, Canada

The Canadians know you address your letters to the North Pole, so they created a postal code and enlisted thousands of volunteers to answer letters to Santa. The post office answers up to 1.5 million letters in 30 languages, including Braille.