Weird Christmas Traditions

December 24, 2013

Unique Christmas traditions around the world

The Christmas holiday holds special meaning for people around the world. From holiday meals to activities and transportation, every region has its own traditions. Whether you’re looking to experience something new this year or are curious about other cultures, this article has several ideas you might find interesting.

Traditional Meals

Kentucky Fried Chicken: In the United States, it’s not uncommon for households to serve turkey and ham as part of their Christmas dinner.  For the Japanese, the traditional Christmas dinner means a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken.  The Japanese have indulged in this tradition for almost four decades, despite its commercialized nature. Some say that this is partly because of the region’s distinct lack of turkeys. 

Fried Carp and Potato Salad:  In the Czech Republic, the mainstay of the traditional Christmas meal is fried carp, which families and individuals have purchased during the week prior to Christmas, kept alive, then killed and cooked the fish for Christmas Day.. According to “Hello Czech Republic, residents often fast on Christmas Eve Day, until the evening meal, when they put together quite the feast, including fried carp, potato salad and other dishes made of ingredients that they have grown in their own gardens. Meals on Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day vary, depending on where one lives and the family’s traditions.

Kiviak, or fermented bird: In Greenland, residents consume a fermented bird, prepared in a seal skin with up to 499 other birds and left to ferment for several months before opening it up on Christmas to eat the meal.

Traditional Decorations

Caganer, or Christmas Crapper: In Catalonia, Spain, it’s not unusual to see the Caganer, or Christmas Crapper, hidden in nativity scenes. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, these traditional statues of well-known figures defecating are symbols of hope, prosperity and fertility in the coming year. This quirky tradition began in the 18th century.

Christmas Trees Decked Out in Spider Webs: In the Ukraine, it’s not unusual to see the holiday tree artistically covered in fake spider webs. This tradition, according to, has its roots in a legend of an old woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and woke up Christmas morning to find that her children had covered her tree in spider webs.

Christmas Straw Goats: Sweden’s famous decoration is a giant straw goat. In the community of Gavle, the straw goat has a habit of being vandalized or destroyed. Since 1966, the straw goat has reportedly survived until Christmas day just 13 times; it is vandalized so frequently that it’s common to take bets on how long it will be up each year.

The Yule Cat, or Jolakotturinn: According to Icelandic lore, the Yule Cat, a scary Christmas character is said to eat children who have not completed all of their work before Christmas. This vicious-looking cat is also said to eat people who have not received clothes to wear for the Christmas feasts. It used to be a threat t to convince farmers to hurry and complete their work before the holiday.

Traditional Activities

Sauna Bath for Christmas Eve:  In Finland, families that have a sauna in their home indulge in a traditional sauna bath on the evening of Dec. 24, prior to the holiday church service.  Some say there is a “sauna elf” that keeps the sauna free from vandalism.

Bonfire: In Iraq, Christians light a bonfire of dried thorns in front of their home in order to bring prosperity to the home in the next year.

Christmas of Remembrance: Family visits to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones who have passed away. Candles are placed on gravestones and lit briefly to honor those individuals who cannot be in family events.

Hide the Brooms: Nordic legend says that witches visit homes on Christmas Eve, looking for brooms to ride on in the coming year. To avoid this, Norwegian families hide their brooms so that witches cannot get to them.

What other traditions do you think should be on this list? If these traditions and tips about Christmas traditions have put you in the mood to travel, sign up at Trekeffect to plan your trip.

-April Bamburg

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April Bamburg
April Bamburg is a freelance writer specializing in community news, travel writing, press releases and other blog posts. She dreams of traveling the world and getting lost in Italy, Turkey or even Scotland.
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