Unusual Christmas Traditions from around the World

Spain Caganer

Christmas is a time associated with good will, family get togethers and a sharing of gifts and love.  It’s become a time honoured tradition celebrated in very different and diverse cultures around the world.

Because of the diversity, this time of the year is marked and celebrated in different ways.  We wondered, searched and had a little look into some of those differences and here are our findings…“Unusual Christmas Traditions from around the world”.  How many can you say you knew about?


Spain Caganer

The nativity scene is set up in most Spanish homes during Christmas, but in Catalonia, it is tradition to hide a small figurine of a person squatting to poop! Holy sh*t indeed!! The “Caganer” or defecator, is supposed to bring good luck, symbolizing fertilization of the ground and reminding us that all are equal. In more recent years, many famous people have been depicted.


Catalunia- Tio Nadal

Tio Nadal is a hollowed out log with a painted face, that is kept warm with a blanket until Christmas. It is filled with candy, fruit, nuts, garlic and sardines. On Christmas day, poor Caga Tio is beaten with sticks, sometimes while being sung to, to make him poop out the presents and then he is fed to the fire.



Considered a delicacy and only eaten at Christmas or for very special occasions, Kiviak is a very common Christmas lunch which is prepared by stuffing a seal skin full of intact birds called Auk and burying the whole thing to let it ferment for 7mths. The other popular dish is Mattak  raw whale skin served with blubber.


Wales - Mari Lwyd

During Christmas festivities, the Mari Lwyd, or “Grey Mare” comes out to snap at and scare passers by. Puppeteers cover themselves with a sheet and carry the decorated horse’s skull on a pole, visiting houses and singing requests to be let in. The inhabitants try to make excuses but if the Grey Mare is persistent, they allow her and her helpers in and must serve them ale and food.


Slovakia - Lokse

The most senior male member of the household throws traditional lokse pudding at the ceiling after the main meal. It is believed that the more that can be made stick to the ceiling, the better the coming year’s harvest will be.


Austria - Krampus

The Austrians have a very unusual and effective means of teaching respect and good behavior to their children. They are told that if they dare to be naughty, Krampus, a terrifying demon who accompanies St. Nicholas, will throw them in a sack and drag them to hell…and that´s if they are lucky. If Perchta, Krampus’ sidekick gets them, she will rip them open and stuff their bellies with straw.


South Africa - Emperor Moth - Christmas traditions

Another strange-but-true delicacy we will be steering clear of this Christmas, is a plate of deep fried emperor moth caterpillars, often served for Christmas dinner in South Africa.


Cuba - Christmas traditions around the world

Every year on Christmas Eve, the city of Remedios comes alive with “Parrandas”, a religious carnival that in the 18th century, when a priest sent altar boys into the street banging on pots and pans to keep people awake for midnight mass. Now it is a huge street festival, complete with colourful floats and all night dancing and partying in the streets.


Japan - KFC - Christmas

An extremely successful marketing campaign back in 1974 convinced most Japanese that a bucket of KFC was the perfect traditional Christmas dinner. Somehow it actually caught on and now buckets often have to be ordered months in advance.


Venezuela - skating to church

On Christmas morning, many streets are closed to allow thousands of people to get to early morning mass…on roller skates. Children often tie a string to their foot and hang it out the window so skaters will pull on the strings as they pass, so the children will wake up to enjoy the spectacle.


Norway brooms at Christmas

Norwegian women stop sweeping their floors around Christmas eve and hide all their brooms out of sight. Folklore has it that evil spirits and witches come out that night and the womenfolk do not want to be found guilty of providing them with transport for the night.


Portugal - Christmas for the dead

Remembering the dead is a very important part of Portugese Christmas tradition. An early meal called “consoada” is prepared. Places are set at the table for family members who have passed away and a full meal served to their empty space. This was meant to bring prosperity for the New Year.


Ukrain spider christmas tree

According to legend, a woman was too poor to decorate her home for Christmas. A spider in her house saw this and spun a beautiful web over her tree on Christmas Eve. To honour and celebrate this, people decorate their trees with an artificial spider and web instead of the usual baubles and tinsel.


Czech Republic - shoe throwing


UK- stirring poudding

Each member of the family must stir the Christmas pudding clockwise and make a wish before it is cooked.


CANADA - Santa letters

Canada Post honours all post that is sent to Santa’s address during the festive season and makes sure all the letters that children send to St. Nick are replied to.

Guatemala -13 Baktun devil burning

“La Quema del Diablo” celebration in La Antigua Guatemala sees hundreds of people coming out onto the streets to burn effigies of the devil, which are placed on top of the sweepings of the floors of the family home. It is believed to be effective in geting rid of all negativity, bad vibes and evil spirits before the religious celebrations begin on the 8th of December.



Every year since 1966, the authorities in Gavle install a huge straw goat to herald the holiday season. A secondary unofficial tradition developed, where vandals try to burn it down each year. The goat has only survived approximately 10 out of nearly 50 years so far! And only 4 people have ever been caught and prosecuted.

OAXACA (Mexico):

Mexico - radish belen

Initially started by a town mayor who wanted to attract natives to the shops of the town in 1897, the “night of the radishes” is an impressive display of nativity scenes and other events and characters in Mexican folklore, made entirely from specially grown radishes. Some of these roots reach up to 3kg and 50cm long. The coveted prize of over €1000 attracts many artists from all over the country and the tradition has become a 3 day festival.



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