Surprising Christmas traditions around the world

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Believe it or not, no two countries celebrate Christmas the same way. Some spend the festive holiday baking and decorating Christmas cookies while playing joyful tunes. The others prefer to watch the classic Christmas movies with a glass of eggnog and leave a glass of milk, a carrot, and a mince pie out for SantaEvery family has different Christmas traditions and rituals related to the Christmas celebration. They vary widely around the world due to cultureweather and location. From putting a penny in the Christmas pudding, and cracker-pulling contests to hanging stockings above the fireplace – every nation has different festive traditions that have carried across the generations. Choosing the unusual Christmas traditions around the world was not an easy task. We did the hard part for you and crafted a list of unique Christmas traditions around the world.

different customs around the world

Every family has different traditions during the festive period.

 

Unique Christmas traditions around the world

Here are some of the ways people celebrate the festive season around the world. Read about these unique Christmas traditions around the world. Some of these weird and unexpected rituals may surprise you.

Norway

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Broom hiding is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because this Christmas tradition is mixed with an ancient pagan one. This Norwegian tradition dates back hundreds of years when people believed that witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve and take them to the sky. Therefore, many Norwegian people hide their brooms before they go to sleep.

As you would expect, Christmas is a big deal in Norway, and their culture is full of Christmas traditions. They eat traditional Scandinavian food, visit family and friends on Christmas day, and light advent candles on Sundays. Apart from that, some of their Christian traditions are mixed with ancient pagan ones. And they are certainly unique. One of them is broom hiding. This unusual tradition dates back hundreds of years. People once believed witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve and took them to the sky. Therefore, many Norwegian people still hide their brooms before going to bed.

 

Christmas traditions in Venezuela

Christmas traditions around the world: One of the unique Christmas traditions around the world comes from Venezuela, where every year between the 16th – 24th of December in Caracas, locals close the streets in the city and head to early morning mass on roller skates.

Forget building snowmen or roasting chestnuts – Venezuela’s Christmas tradition is more fun. Every year, between the 16th and 24th of December in Caracas (Venezuela’s capital) something unique happens. The locals close the streets in the city and head to early morning mass on roller skates. As they go, skaters tug on the long pieces of string, which dangle out of the windows. Pulling strings tied by kids to their big toes gives them a sign – it’s time to get up and put on those skates.

 

Japan

weird Christmas traditions around the world: One of the weird Christmas traditions around the world comes from Japan, where families go to KFC to get their buckets of festive fried chicken on Christmas Eve. It is due to a smart festive marketing campaign back in the 1970s.

 All I want for Christmas is KFC. © by timeout.com

 

Of all Christmas traditions, what screams more Christmas than Christmas dinner at KFC? Forget the Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. Or fish, or goose, if that is what you go for. For many Japanese families, fried chicken from KFC is a popular Christmas Eve meal. In fact, it’s their favourite Christmas tradition in Japan. How could this be even possible? 

Christmas may not be a religious holiday in this country, but eating KFC food has become a holiday tradition in Japan. It is due to a smart festive marketing campaign back in the 1970s. Since then, families have flocked to KFC to get their buckets of festive fried chicken. It certainly is one of the most unique Christmas traditions around the world.

 

Christmas tradition in Ukraine

unique Christmas traditions around the world: If you don't know, decorating a Christmas tree with spider web-shaped decorations is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world. It comes from Ukraine, and it is a symbol of good luck.

Did you know that a Christmas tradition in Ukraine involves spiderwebs? Yes, you have read that right. In addition to sparkly fairy lights and baubles, the Ukrainians decorate their Christmas tree with spiderwebs (fake ones, though).

 

The legend has it a poor woman didn’t have money to decorate her Christmas tree. Spiders heard the kids crying and decorated the tree with beautiful webs overnight. When they woke up, the children found a beautifully decorated tree with sparkling webs. 

Hanging fake spider webs on a tree remains a symbol of good luck. It’s also one of the most unique Christmas traditions around the world.

 

Besides, it’s a tradition to celebrate Christmas in Ukraine on the 7th of January. The Orthodox Ukrainians follow the Julian calendar. Moreover, they start their Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, but not before they spot the first star in the sky.

 

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China

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Gifting peace apples on Christmas Eve is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because it shows how much you care for the person you are giving it to. This new Christmas tradition comes from China and is so popular that the price of the fruit regularly rises every year on December 24.

As you probably know, Christmas is not a big deal in China. While only about 1 per cent of the Chinese population are Christians, young people in China have adopted one beautiful tradition in recent years. It is a tradition of giving apples. And no, we are not talking about an expensive Apple watch, which will cost you a fortune.

Young people in China have a tradition of buying apples in a local grocery store. Gifting apples on Christmas Eve has become a popular Christmas tradition. They are wrapped up in gift boxes and decorated with ribbons. They also have personalised Christmas messages printed directly on their skin

 

But why do the Chinese give apples around Christmas? 

People give engraved apples with messages on Christmas Eve because there is a similar pronunciation of the words Christmas Eve and apple in their language. In Chinese, Christmas Eve means peaceful (and, by extension, a peaceful evening). World apple in Mandarin sounds like the word for peaceHence, the idea of giving peace apples.

peace apple in China

While Christmas may not be widely celebrated in China, young people adopted some seasonal traditions from Western countries. One of them is gifting peace apples.

 

Gifting apples on Christmas Eve is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world. This new tradition in China has become popular because giving a peace apple wrapped in a special box shows how much you care for the person you are giving it to. For that reason, the price of this fruit regularly rises every year on December 24. 

 

Christmas traditions in Australia

Christmas traditions in Australia are similar to American, British and Irish traditions. However, some of them are more laid-back. While for many of us, Christmas is synonymous with cold weather and snow, for Australians, it’s all about sunny skies and barbecues

In Australia, the summer season starts in December. Therefore, you find more people wearing bikinis than Christmas jumpers on Christmas Day. Shopping centres are filled with displays of fake snow and winter-inspired decorations. Even Santa makes an appearance at the beach. Many Aussie families celebrate their Christmas Day with barbecues, and then they do outdoor activities. Or they spend the day by the pool. Head to the beach, and most likely, you will spot Santa (or Father Christmas, as they call him here) catching the waves. That is how the Aussies do it!

 

Christmas traditions in Czechia

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Throwing a shoe over a shoulder towards the door on Christmas Eve is one of the fun and unique Christmas traditions around the world. It's because it helps an unmarried girl to find out if she will marry the next year, or not.

Maybe you do not know it, but Czech folklore is rich in superstitions and customs. Some are focused on material possessions, while others help young girls in the family predict if they get married in the next year.

In the Czech Republic, the main Christmas celebrations are on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, Baby Jesus delivers presents during Christmas Eve dinner. Once Baby Jesus brings the gifts and dinner is finished, everybody gathers around the Christmas tree to open all the presents. 

 

Foretelling the future 

On Christmas Eve, an unmarried girl in the family can find out if she will get married the next year. The only thing she needs to do is to throw a shoe over their shoulder towards the door. If the tip points towards the door – the girl will marry within a year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, she will remain single for at least another year. 

Also, another old tradition says that the family should place fish scales under the tablecloth on Christmas Eve to bring wealth to the house. Similarly, carrying a fish scale in your wallet all year ensures that money will not run out. As you can see, there are many weird and funny Christmas traditions around the world!

 

Austria

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Meeting Krampus is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because this folklore tradition rewards well-behaved kids. Those who misbehave receive punishment with birch rods. This Christmas tradition is also popular in Central European countries.

Anyone who visited Austria during the Advent season knows that a devil-like creature joins St Nicholas’s festivities. His name is Krampus, and he arrives with St Nicholas on December 6th. Krampus is the Christmas Devil who goes from house to house. He scares and punishes naughty children. 

During the first week of December, men in certain parts of Austria dress up in costumes. They parade through the streets and perform an old pagan ritual. This German folklore tradition is, in fact, hundreds of years old. It has roots in pre-Christian Yuletide traditions.

 unique traditions around the world: Meeting Krampus is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because this folklore tradition in the Central European countries rewards well-behaved kids. Those who misbehave receive punishment with birch rods.

The half-goat, half-demon Krampus costume usually consists of fur and large horns. He even has a demonic mask.

 

Well-behaved kids usually receive gifts, such as oranges, walnuts and sweets from Christmas Devil. Those who misbehave receive punishment with birch rods.

Meeting Krampus is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because this folklore tradition rewards well-behaved kids. This Christmas tradition is also popular in Central European countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and even northern Italy.

 

Guatemala

Christmas traditions around the world: Unique Christmas traditions around the world also come from Guatemala, where every year on 7th December at 6 PM, the locals build bonfires outside their homes. The tradition of burning the devil burns the bad from the previous year. This annual Guatemalan Christmas tradition started back in colonial times.

@prensalibre

 

Traditions are important for the Guatemalans, especially burning the devil before Christmas. Locals light bonfires outside their homes at 6 PM on December 7th every year. This annual Guatemalan Christmas tradition started back in colonial times. 

The people in Guatemala believe that the devil lives in the dark and dirty corners of their homes. Therefore, before Christmas, they sweep up, collect rubbish, and pill up household items outside. After that, they place a devil statue on top of the pile and set everything on fireThe tradition of burning the devil burns the bad from the previous year. This certainly is one of the most unique Christmas traditions around the world!

GOOD TO KNOW:

Nowadays, many people realise the negative environmental impacts of this event. Therefore, many are replacing the trash burning with breaking devil piñatas. It is a much safer and more environmentally friendlier tradition.

 

Mexico

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Radish carving is, in fact, one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because the Night of Radishes has turned into a spectacular contest marking the start of Christmas in Oaxaca. Today, it's a famous event in Mexico where the creator of the best work wins a grand prize.

©viveoaxaca.org

 

If you find yourself in Mexico in December, consider visiting Oaxaca in the southwest part of the country. Every year, thousands of visitors flock here to celebrate the unique Oaxacan festivalNight of the Radishes, or the Noche de Rábanos, is a radish-carving festival dedicated to the carving of oversized radishes. Yes, that is right, this fun Christmas tradition involves radish carving. This unusual Christmas tradition is, in fact, a popular holiday event. It stretches back more than a century. 

Night of the Radishes

The radish carving competition dates back to a year when the radish crop was abundant. Because of that, one field section stayed unharvested for a few months. Two monks pulled up some forgotten radishes. They brought them to the Christmas market on December 23rd. Gigantic vegetables attracted attention, and the locals carved various shapes and figures into them. It was a hit, and the mayor of Oaxaca decided to create an official radish carving competition.

night of radishes Oaxaca. Christmas traditions around the world - Mexico

©viveoaxaca.org

 

The radishes are bigger than those you buy in the supermarket. Some of them grow 50 cm and weigh almost 3 kg. The government cultivate tons of them on nearby land to ensure fair competition. Contestants can harvest them from their assigned plots a few days before the festival. They have one day for the harvest, one day for cleaning, two days for carving and one day for placing them on display.

 

Radish carving is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world. The Night of Radishes has turned into a spectacular contest marking the start of Christmas in Oaxaca. This wonderful tradition once tried to attract shoppers at the Christmas market. Today, it is a famous event in Mexico. Artists turn purple vegetables into sculptures, such as the Last Supper or a radish replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta. The creator of the best work wins a 12,000 peso (£500) grand prize.

 

Christmas traditions in Italy

Many people compare La Befana to Santa Claus.

Many people compare La Befana to Santa Claus.

 

One of the most popular Christmas traditions around the world is La Befana. The locals celebrate this national icon in all regions of Italy. According to Italian folklore, La Befana is a kind witch who plays a significant role in the country’s Christmas celebrations. This old kind woman visits homes on the night of January 5th in Italy. She hands out presents wherever she goes, usually candies and small toys for good kids. But for naughty kids, she leaves a lump of coal or an onion.

 

Iceland

fun Christmas traditions around the world: The Christmas tradition of the 13 Yule Lads in Iceland is one of the fun Christmas traditions around the world, dating back centuries. This fun tradition is playful. It also encourages kids to good behaviour by promising rewards if they behave.

Forget Santa or Father Christmas character when in Iceland – 13 Yule Lads visit Icelandic children. 13 Father Christmases take turns and go to see kids on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Each night before Christmas, Icelandic children place their shoes on their windowsill. 13 Yule Lads, trolls that live in the mountains, come to town one by one 13 days before Christmas. Good boys and girls receive a small gift, such as candy, and naughty kids receive a raw or rotting potato.

The Christmas tradition of the 13 Yule Lads in Iceland is one of the fun Christmas traditions around the world, dating back centuries. This fun tradition is playful. It also encourages kids to good behaviour by promising rewards if they behave.

 

Christmas traditions in the UK

Christmas crackers UK

Today, Christmas pudding is a typical Christmas dessert served not only in the UK, but also in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the British colonies.

 

From sending a card and decorating the tree to well-loved Christmas carols, many of the traditions in the UK are very similar to those in different countries. However, some of them are unique.

Traditional Christmas crackers are a big part of the Christmas celebration in Britain. The paper-covered tubes shaped like a large sweet with a paper crown, a small toy, and a riddle add a pop to Christmas dinner. Along with wearing Christmas sweaters and eating mince pies, there is another unusual British tradition. 

Christmas pudding is the traditional end to Christmas dinner in the UK. And, as you can expect, there are many superstitions around it. From stirring the pudding mixture and making a wish while mixing to putting a coin in the pudding for luck to the person who finds it – these little rituals are packed with good cheer.

 

Philippines

Giant Lantern Festival Phillipines

©licas.news (photo by Angie de Silva)

 

Every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the winter festival in the Philippines lights up the sky. The city of San Fernando, the Christmas capital of the Philippines, holds a colourful festival which celebrates the Christmas spirit. 

As the name suggests, the Giant Lantern Festival, focussed on a contest of massive giant lanterns, is full of vibrant colours and materials. Besides, teams from eleven villages building vibrant lanterns are breaking the record in size. 

The Giant Lantern Festival is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world because this festival showcases art and electrical engineering. This famous festival draws the crowds from around the world.

 

Greece

Christmas traditions around the world: Decorating boats with lights is one of the most unusual Christmas traditions in the world. They represent gratitude to the sailors who have devoted their lives to the sea. Sometimes, the families place coins inside the boat – symbolising a household’s wealth.

While many countries decorate Christmas trees, they do things differently in Greece. In Greece, they’ve got a Christmas tradition where they decorate boats of all shapes and sizes.

 

Nobody knows how this old Greek tradition began, but ‘‘Karavakia’’ still thrives today. The locals decorate their boats with twinkling lights on December 6th. They keep the display until January 6th. They placed them near a door or a fireplace illuminating the night, pointing inwards. You can also find them on the main town squares in every Greek city.

Decorating boats with lights is one of the most unusual Christmas traditions in the world. Even though the locals decorate the Christmas trees, the Christmas boats remain the most popular symbol of the holiday season in Greece. They represent gratitude to the sailors who have devoted their lives to the sea. Sometimes, the families place coins inside the boat – symbolising a household’s wealth.

 

Christmas traditions in Slovakia

unique Christmas traditions around the world: Fasting the whole day on Christmas Eve is one of the unique Christmas traditions around the world. According to tradition in Slovakia, if you fast the whole day until dinner, you will see a little golden pig in the evening. And it will bring you good luck!

According to tradition, if you fast the whole day until dinner, you will see a little golden pig in the evening. And it will bring you good luck!

 

If you spend Christmas in Slovakia, you will be surprised by how many unique Christmas traditions this small country has. With no Santa Clausno turkey and the TV on all day on Christmas EveSlovaks celebrate Christmas differently. Even though 24th December is a working day for many Slovaks, it’s the most important day for them. TV channels show famous fairytales from the morning. Therefore, it is a tradition to leave the TV turned on – in the background the whole day. 

St Nicholas

In Slovakia, Hungary and also in Czechia, there is also a tradition where children lay out their shoes at night on the night of December 6th. St. Nicholas brings them small treats. Kids find them in shoes or small bags.

 

ONE OF THE WEIRDEST CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD COMES FROM SLOVAKIA

The Slovaks also traditionally buy carp from big tanks in front of shops before Christmas. The strange part about it? They buy them alive a few days before Christmas Eve and keep them as pets until it is time for the feast. Yes, you have heard right! This is one of the weirdest and most unique Christmas traditions around the world!

 

In Slovakia, Christmas Eve is a day of fasting followed by a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Many families wait until the first star appears in the sky. Then, they sit down to have a feast. Slovaks have a traditional meat-free supper, usually a carp. Besides, the Slovaks also have various fortune-telling superstitions, such as no one should get up from the Christmas table before they finish dinner because it brings bad luck and death to the family. We do put money under the tablecloth to have a prosperous next year. We also put an extra plate for an unexpected guest who might appear during the dinner. We also believe that the spirit of a person who passed away could dine with the family. As you can tell, we are quite superstitious during Christmas.

NO SANTA

Besides, you will not find children searching for Santa. It’s because Baby Jesus brings presents during Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the twinkling treeWhen kids hear the bell, it is a sign that Little Jesus delivered gifts, and it is time to open them. At midnight, many families attend the Midnight Mass. The next couple of days are traditionally spent with their relatives, even if long-distance travel is necessary.

 

Switzerland

fun Christmas traditions around the world: Candle dipping is another beautiful Christmas tradition in Switzerland. This popular festive activity brings families and friends together. That is why candle dipping is one of the fun Christmas traditions around the world.

Candle dipping in Switzerland/wonderful Christmas traditions around the world

 

You might not be surprised to hear that the Swiss are exceptional – when it comes to Christmas. The cities are full of Christmas decorations, and the locals bake Swiss cookies and decorate their Christmas trees. But they also have unusual Christmas traditions.

Even though Christmas markets begin in November, Christmas officially starts on St. Nicholas Day on the 6th of December. This is when the Swiss Samichlaus brings bags with mandarins, nuts and chocolates for everyone.

Candle dipping is another beautiful Christmas tradition in Switzerland. This popular festive activity brings families and friends together. The Swiss make their own candles in small tents, which are set up for this event. They even nicely decorate their windows – which they use to count the days to Christmas Eve. This tradition is common in villages and smaller towns where they select 24 families, schools and businesses. Every night, one of them reveals the festive decorations on the allocated day.

 

fun Christmas traditions around the world: Other fun Christmas traditions around the world are making a traditional advent wreath and creating Christmas calendars to count the days until Christmas Eve.

Christmas advent calendars are a fun way to count down the days until Christmas Eve.

 

Another popular Christmas tradition in Switzerland is making a traditional advent wreath. The Swiss people even create their Christmas calendar to count the days until Christmas Eve. The advent calendar has 24 boxes or openings – one gift opened every day from the first of December.

 

Now you know what are the weird and the most wonderful Christmas traditions around the world!

What is your favourite Christmas tradition? No matter how you choose to celebrate this festive season, Christmas traditions and rituals surely add a little bit of magic to our lives. We hope that we’ve inspired you to add different customs to make your Christmas even more special!

Unusual and unique Christmas traditions around the world (the United Kingdom, Japan, Guatemala, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and otheres.

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Last updated: 17/11/2023


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