Whether it’s leaving a treat for Santa and his reindeer or simply decorating the tree, Christmas has many traditions. And no two families Christmas’s are quite the same. So, what kind of bizarre Christmas celebrations are there in countries around the globe?
Our modern Christmas is a product of hundreds of years of both secular and religious traditions. In fact, more than 2 billion people celebrate Christmas globally each year. With Christmas Eve only a week away, the people at Love Home Swap have put together an infographic of the 35 most bizarre Christmas traditions around the globe. Take a look:
35 bizarre Christmas traditions
This festive South African delicacy is not for the faint-hearted—on Christmas Day, locals tuck into the deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth.
Children are told the story of Danny, a young boy who angered his grandmother by eating the cookies that had been left for Santa. In her rage she killed him, and is said to haunt homes at Christmas.
Austrian children live in fear of Krampus—a Christmas devil who’s said to beat naughty children with branches.
Catalonians include the figure of the Caganer in their nativity scenes—a small figure of a defecating man.
They also have the Tió de Nadal, otherwise known as the pooping log. This bizarre Christmas item is decorated with a face and a blanket, on Christmas Eve the log is placed halfway into a fire and beaten with sticks.
There’s no cleaning on Christmas Eve in Norway; all brooms are safely hidden away—in case they’re stolen by witches and evil spirits.
Advertising can be incredibly powerful. Thanks to a campaign in 1974, many Japanese families eat at KFC on Christmas Eve.
White Christmas cards are also sent to friends and family. Red cards, however, are to be avoided—this is traditionally the colour of funeral announcements.
Venezuelans attend Mass in the run-up to Christmas. However, Caracas residents have developed a strange tradition—journeying to Mass on roller skates.
Greenland has some unusual Christmas recipes. Mattak is raw whale skin, served with blubber. Kiviak is 500 dead auk birds, stuffed into a seal skin, and left to ferment for 7 months.
Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve—the first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.
Children also leave a shoe outside the house on December 5th, which is then filled with sweets overnight. Naughty children awake to find a tree branch in the shoe instead.
Rather than using the traditional conifer, New Zealanders decorate Pōhutukawa trees.
Consoda is a traditional Christmas morning feast in Portugal. This is a time for remembering the dead, and families lay places for the souls of their late loved ones.
Foregoing tinsel and baubles, they instead decorate their trees with an artificial spider and web.
In this bizarre Christmas tradition, unmarried women stand by a door and throw shoes over their shoulder. If the toe is pointed towards the door when it lands, they will get married within the next year.
On Christmas Eve, Estonian families traditionally head to the sauna together.
Mari Lwyd is performed in some Welsh villages on Christmas Eve. A villager is chosen to parade through the streets, bearing the skull of a mare on the end of a stick.
The Yule Cat is said to stalk the Icelandic hills. Those who don’t receive new clothes before Christmas Eve are said to be devoured by this mythical beast.
Icelandic children leave shoes on their bedroom windowsills during the 12 days of Christmas. Each night, it’s filled with sweets or gifts, ready to be enjoyed in the morning
In 1966, authorities in Gävle have installed a straw Swedish Yule Goat. However, almost every other year, vandals have succeeded in burning it down.
Another bizarre Christmas tradition involves festive rice pudding. A peeled almond is hidden in the dessert, and the person who finds will supposedly be married within a year.
An age-old tradition dictates that each member of the family must stir the Christmas pudding mix in a clockwise direction before it’s cooked, making a wish as they do.
Rather than Santa Clause, children await the arrival of Befana, a friendly witch who delivers sweets and toys on the 5th of January.
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. People wear white clothes, and the men play ganna—a fast-paced game with sticks and wooden balls.
In Latvia, a group of mummers, dressed in a variety of costumes, travel from house to house. Each household must give them a treat in exchange for a blessing.
Guatemalans sweep out their house before Christmas. Each neighbourhood will then create a large pile of dirt, before placing an effigy of the devil on top and burning it.
Every December, the city of Remedios plays host to the Parrandas festival. The city divides into two halves, each building a themed sculpture from lightbulbs, in preparation for Christmas Eve.
This bizarre Christmas tradition is a noisy one. Wearing the national costume of lederhosen, Bravarian Highlanders fire mortars into the air.
The Kallikantzaroi, a race of evil goblins, lurk underground according to Greek legend. During the 12 days of Christmas they supposedly surface, wreaking havoc.
In Slovakia, the most senior man of the house takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling—the more that sticks, the better.
Canada Post recognizes the address Santa Clause, North Pole, Canada HOH OHO. Any letters received received bearing this address are both opened and replied to.
Finnish people traditionally mark Christmas with a touching tribute to the dead. Families light candles at the graves of departed loved ones, making Finnish graveyards beautiful sight.
Santa Clause traditionally leaves presents in a child’s stalking on Christmas Eve. Not a bizarre Christmas tradition. However, naughty children may wake to find a lump of coal in their stalking.
Americans have created a boozy Christmas tradition called The Running of the Santas. Each event sees scores of people—dressed as Santa—taking part in a large bar crawl.
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Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.