Ah, the holiday season—a time for twinkling lights, cozy sweaters, and some seriously weird Christmas traditions. From shoe-throwing superstitions to festive log-poop rituals, our global holiday traditions are a merry mishmash of the heartwarming and the downright hilarious.
1. The Christmas pickle – Italian & American
A German-American tradition, this one involves a sneaky green ornament shaped like a pickle. The deal is, parents hide it in the Christmas tree, and the first kid to find it gets an extra present.
2. The Yule Cat – Iceland
Imagine a gigantic cat prowling around during Christmas, not to spread joy, but to terrorize those without new clothes. In Iceland, there’s a legend about the Yule Cat, who supposedly gobbles up anyone not sporting fresh threads for the holiday. So, if you’re in Iceland, watch out for fashion-forward felines!
3. Kentucky fried Christmas – Japan
4. Roller-Skating to Mass – Venezuela
Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, has a unique way of getting into the Christmas spirit. In the early morning hours leading up to Christmas Eve, the city’s streets are closed to cars so that people can roller-skate their way to the Christmas morning church service.
5. The Gävle Goat – Sweden
In Gävle, Sweden, they build a massive straw goat every year in the town square. Why? Well, it started as a festive decoration, but it quickly turned into a wild game of “Will it survive until Christmas?” See, locals and pranksters from all over try to burn down the goat before the holiday. Some years it stands tall; other years, it’s a crispy pile of straw.
6. The Caganer – Spain
In Catalonia, Spain, it’s a Christmas tradition to include a figurine called “Caganer” in nativity scenes. This little guy is, well, taking care of business in the corner – a symbol of fertility and good luck for the coming year. It adds a whole new meaning to “nature calls” during the holidays.
7. Krampus Night – lots of European countries
While many kids are eagerly awaiting Santa, in some countries they have Krampus – a devilish creature who punishes the naughty ones. On Krampus Night – December 5th, people leave their cleaned boots at the door in anticipation of a gift. If they have been naughty they get a branch instead.
8. Giant Lantern Festival – Philippines
In the city of San Fernando, the Giant Lantern Festival lights up the night sky. Locals compete to create the most intricate lanterns, turning the city into a dazzling display of lights and colors.
9. The Night of the Radishes – Mexico
Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrates Christmas Eve with an event called “Noche de Rábanos,” or Night of the Radishes. Talented people carve intricate scenes out of radishes, everything from nativity scenes to folk tales or funny objects.
10. Donald Duck cartoons – Sweden
So, in Sweden, when Christmas Eve rolls around, gathering around the TV to watch “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck in Swedish) is practically a national pastime. It’s like a holiday must-do. The show in question is “From All of Us to All of You,” a Disney special that’s been airing on Swedish television since 1959. The show usually includes classic Disney cartoons and snippets, featuring Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the gang, all wrapped up with a festive bow.
11. Hide your brooms – Norway
Norwegians have a quirky belief that witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride. In order to foil their plans, Norwegians hide all the brooms before going to bed.
12. Spider webs as decorations – Ukraine
In Ukraine it’s common to find Christmas trees decorated with spider webs. Legend has it that a poor woman couldn’t afford decorations for her tree but when her children woke up on Christmas morning, they found the tree covered in sparkling spider webs – a Christmas miracle!
13. Christmas witch – Italy
In Italy, there’s a character named “La Befana,” who is a friendly witch that delivers gifts to children on the night of January 5th. Children leave out stockings for her to fill with treats and small gifts. It’s a way to get gifts twice each year but sadly it doesn’t get that much traction nowadays.
14. Gifting poop – Catalonia, Spain
Brace yourself for this one – in Catalonia, there’s a Christmas tradition involving a log called “Caga Tió” or “Poop Log” or “Tió de Nadal.” Families “feed” the log treats leading up to Christmas, then beat it with sticks while singing songs to make it “poop” out candies and small gifts.
15. Feast of the Seven Fishes – Italian & American
In some Italian and Italian-American communities, there’s a tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve with a massive seafood feast known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” It’s a delicious way to ring in Christmas, but you might need an extra napkin or two.
16. Dinner for One – Germany
While not a tradition per se, it’s a German New Year’s Eve television tradition to watch a British comedy sketch called “Dinner for One.” The funny part? It’s entirely in English.
Recommended reading next: 22 Weird, Funny Or Unusual Traditions Around The World
17. Throwing your shoes – Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, single ladies have this fun thing going on. On Christmas Day, they toss a shoe over their shoulder towards the front door. If it lands toe-first, jackpot—they’re supposedly getting hitched next year. But if the heel points at the door, they’re in for another year of the single life.
So, as you wrap up your presents and trim the tree, remember that the holiday season isn’t just about the usual carols and cookies. It’s a time when cultures around the world spice things up with a dash of the unexpected and a sprinkle of the absurd. Here’s to a season filled with laughter, love, and just a touch of the wonderfully weird Christmas traditions.