Why do Swedes think a giant straw goat is a symbol of Christmas?
Why are roads open only for roller skaters a week before Christmas Day in Venezuela?
What are people hiding in Norway as a holiday tradition to keep safe from evil spirits?
In today’s article, we’ll be giving you the answers to these and many other questions you might have about weirdest Christmas traditions around the world.
And if you’re interested in checking what you know about the Christmas holiday season, be sure to take our quiz. You can count on some sweet little Christmas gift if you give at least 7 correct answers!
Make yourself some cinnamon hot chocolate, and let’s learn about some unusual Christmas customs!
Table of Contents:
Christmas: How Much Do We All Have in Common?
Though Christmas has roots in ancient pagan celebrations, the religious holiday we know today emerged in late 4th-century Roman Christendom.
Under the rule of Emperor Constantine, the first Christmas was celebrated on December 25 as a holiday to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Despite its Christianity roots, however, Christmas customs are quite universal as this is the time for families in all cultures to celebrate together.
Let’s see what we have in common when it comes to Christmas.
Christmas time celebrations
This holiday is quite universally a time for the entire family to exchange gifts and eat Christmas dinner. It is also a time for celebrations with friends and parties.
Christmas Eve & Christmas morning
Regardless of religious beliefs, Christmas is considered a holiday commemorating the birth of the baby Jesus. For this occasion, in most European countries both Christmas Eve and morning are celebrated.
In most countries around the world, it is celebrated on December 25, although in the Orthodox rite this date ranks as January 6. The difference is due to the fact that in this case, Orthodox Christians adhere to the Julian calendar, which is “late” by 13 days. Still, no matter the date, Christmas is quite commonly considered a national holiday.
But while the core of this holiday is almost the same for everyone, there are some wonderful Christmas customs that stand out among the others.
Sometimes in a very peculiar way! So, let’s see which Christmas tradition is the most peculiar.
Krampus: The Evil Partner of Santa Claus
Krampus is a character from Austrian folklore, originally depicted as a demon who punishes children during the Christmas season.
This tradition is also known by the name “Krampusnacht”, which is German for “Night of Krampus”.
The Krampus character originated in pre-Christian Alpine folklore and was later adopted by Bavarian miners, who in turn took him to other parts of Central Europe.
In the Alpine folklore, Krampus would punish children during the winter solstice season by beating them with birch twigs and carrying them off to his lair deep inside a mountain.
Krampus is depicted as a horned, humanoid creature with demonic wings, cloven hooves, goat-like horns, and a long tongue lolling out of his open mouth.
It is believed that Krampus was created to scare children into behaving well during advent time. In the end, Krampus was supposed to abduct the naughty ones.
Luckily, nowadays, this custom has softened. Now it’s mainly a form of dressing up during the Christmas season.
Nothing Says a Christmas Tradition More than KFC!
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is one of the few Japan’s Christmas traditions. It has been a part of the country’s Christmas tradition for many years, with KFC’s “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!” (Kentucky For Christmas!) campaign starting way back in 1974.
There are some special items that can only be ordered during this time, such as the limited-edition KFC Original Chicken Sandwich and the Original Recipe Chicken Burger.
The idea of ordering KFC for Christmas comes from the post-war period in Japan. When the economy of the time began to develop, this progress was equated with the “goodies” of the West.
Japan got very much inspired by American inventions and their pop culture. This also applied to fast food from KFC.
And so, the brand decided to make a clever marketing campaign. Christmas was also considered “an American invention”, so when the KFC advertising came on, it seemed natural to pair those things together.
Ever since, the Japanese have fried chicken for Christmas dinner. Interestingly, they don’t necessarily celebrate the other Christmas customs besides that and offering gifts.
So the Japanese are unique in being able to wish, for instance, Have a very KFC Christmas!
Yule Goat: Better Than a Christmas Tree?
Though Christmas customs and celebrations vary around the world, many of them have a common root in pagan winter festivals.
One such festival was Yule, which was celebrated by the historical Germanic peoples. Yule occurred around the winter solstice and was a time to celebrate the god of the fertile sun and the harvest.
As the goat is the symbol of fertility in Scandinavian mythology, it was incorporated into this time’s traditions. The Yule goat was originally an animal that was sacrificed during the winter solstice festivities.
Luckily, the tradition has evolved over time, and the Yule goat is now usually made out of straw, adorned with ribbons and bells.
There is also an undeniable connection between this tradition and the Icelandic Yule Cat. Also, there is an etymology link with Scandinavian Santa Claus: Father Christmas. He’s called Jultomten in Sweden, Jólasveinn in Iceland, and Norwegian families are visited by Julenissen.
If you wish to see the Yule goat with your own eyes, you may want to visit a Swedish town named Gävle, which is known for the biggest hay sculpture of this animal.
The Christmas pickle is one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Germany. It has its roots in the 1800s or even before that. It is said that the tradition began when a woman named Maria Leiper received a pickle from her friend as a Christmas present. The pickle was preserved in salt and sugar, so it would last for the whole Christmas time.
Maria Leiper’s family enjoyed the taste of this pickle so much, they started to preserve their own pickles to give as gifts at Christmas time. This became an annual custom for them, and then other families in the region followed suit. The tradition of giving preserved food as gifts at Christmas has been documented since 1839, but it is likely that it existed before then too.
The tradition evolved and people started decorating Christmas trees with a cucumber ornament. Later, it was widespread in America in the 1890s. It is believed that this was a marketing effort to popularize glass ornaments for Christmas trees.
So, don’t be surprised when you see some pickles on the Christmas tree next to chains, baubles and spider webs!
Roller Skate Your Way Into Christmas Eve!
In Venezuela, roller skates are obligatory equipment for Christmas Day!
In this Christmas tradition, families gather in the streets to skate and sing Christmas carols.
This tradition is thought to have started in the 1950s, when the country was experiencing a roller skating craze. Roller skating is still popular to these days, and Christmas is the perfect time to enjoy it.
Quite interestingly, so many people roller skate to the Sunday Mass one week before Christmas, that the government officially closes the roads to regular traffic.
Hide Your Broomstick From the Witches
Norway is a country with a rich tradition of Christmas celebrations. One of the most famous is the custom of hiding brooms.
This tradition is more than 400 years old. It all started when Christian IV, the king of Denmark-Norway, ordered all witches to leave the country before Christmas.
Although the edict was true, many folklore fairy tales arose around it. So they say that the witches were offended by this order, and they turned the king’s castle into an ice palace, blocking the entrance with large blocks of ice that couldn’t be melted with fire or water.
The king discovered what had happened and was able to melt the ice using hot water from a magic well nearby. Then he hid all brooms in Norway before Christmas, so the witches couldn’t use them for their evil deeds.
This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation. Now, it’s still meant as a humorous attempt to prevent witches from using brooms for their evil deeds during the Christmas season.
La Befana Witch: A Good One This Time
La Befana is one of many Christmas traditions in Italy, celebrated on the Epiphany, January the 6th.
To be more precise, la Befana is a witch who comes to children’s houses that day and brings gifts for those who have been good throughout the year.
The Christmas story of la Befana was first recorded in 1634 by Italian writer Carlo Collodi, best known as the author of Pinocchio.
The legend says that la Befana was either a witch or a poor widow. She set off with the Three Wise Men to bring Baby Jesus a gift. And she still fulfills this mission until this day every festive season.
She comes to every child’s house around the world and leaves sweet goodies (or some coal, for the naughty ones!). It appears that Christmas traditions in Italy are not that different from the other ones around the world!
Unusual Christmas Traditions From Around the World
There are some quite popular Christmas traditions around the world, such as dancing around the Christmas trees, sending Christmas cards, gift-giving on Christmas morning, or eating rice pudding.
But there’s no doubt, that the unusual ones are much more fun. Today, we mentioned some of the strangest Christmas traditions, and we hope you’ve learned something new before this year’s festive season!
Or perhaps you knew them all? We encourage you to learn more about wonderful Christmas traditions around the world on your own. You can discover a lot of interesting facts, and you can discover many funny Christmas traditions you have never heard before!
Speaking of gaining knowledge, it’s time for you to check what you know about the Christmas holiday season. Take our quiz with this link below.
Psst… If you give at least 7 correct answers, you’re in for your own little gift under the Christmas tree!
Merry Christmas to you all!