18 Strange Christmas Customs from Around the World

It’s still November but we’re all dreaming of that long Christmas vacation in December, and all the Christmas foods, Christmas parties and Christmas bonuses that come with it. But did you know that your usual Christmas customs and rituals are not all so “usual”?

Countries from all over the world have their own quirky, unique and strange customs and we’re going to show you some of them now. Ready?

Santa Claus on a Surfboard (Australia)

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In Australia, due to temperatures hiking up to the 40s (celcius) during December, Santa is often found on a surf board. Since it’s summer, most Australians spend their day at the beach. These beaches attract thousands of people on holidays. Some of the Santas may even be riding in surf lifesaving boats.

Krampus to frighten children (Austria)


In Austria, Krampus, a devil-demon creature, roams the streets and tries to scare children away. Although this scary guy equipped with cowbells and rods is tasked to scare children, he is said to be the helper of St. Nicholas. This Christmas tradition scares both adults and children alike.

Banana tree for a Christmas tree (India)

xmas-bananaImage Credit: WagonMaker

Most of us are used to pine trees during Christmas and store bought Christmas trees with lavish and glittery decor. In India, families would instead decorate a Banana or Mango tree. These trees will be hung with bells, glittery balls and stars. Some even go a step further by decorating their houses with mango tree leaves.

Shoe toss as Marriage omen (Czech Rep)


In Czech Republic, women who are single partake in this unique tradition to get hitched! During Christmas day, women will stand with their back to the door and they will throw their shoes over their shoulders. It’s supposedly a good omen if the shoe lands pointing towards the door. This mean that the thrower will be getting married soon!

You can try this, but the tradition doesn’t specify how long your wait will be before you land the guy of your dreams.

KFC for Christmas dinner (Japan)


All around the world there are Christmas foods that are a must on the table. It might be a turkey for some, a roast for some or a variety of baked goods. Japan begs to differ. In Japan, Christmas Eve dinner is celebrated with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Four decades ago, KFC launched a “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign after observing that Turkey seemed not to be a big cultural thing in Japan. This led to the current tradition which now gives KFC their highest sales in Japan. Crazy fact: it’s so popular that people reserve their KFC order a month before Christmas Eve.

Grave lighting (Finland)

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Christmas for the Finnish is a day to visit loved ones who have passed away. This tradition goes a long way back to when families and relatives visited cemeteries to light candles in memory of the dead every Christmas season. Those who have families buried elsewhere would still visit a cemetery and place candles.

Families also leave food on the table after their feast as a kind of offering and they sleep on the floor in case loved ones visit and need a good night’s sleep.

Shoes in fireplace instead of socks (France)


Instead of the usual socks, French kids leave their shoes by the fireplace for Pere Noel to fill with gifts. Pere Noel is France’s equivalent of Santa. Pere Noel is also expected to hang toys in the tree together with the fruits and nuts he brings.

Letters to Father Christmas in the back of fireplace (Great Britain)


Some kids in Great Britain write their letters and throw them in the back of the fireplace. These letters will fly up the chimney and hopefully all the way to the North Pole! But if the letter happens to get caught by fire before it flies up, the child must write a new one and throw it in the fireplace again.

Spider web as Christmas tree decor (Ukraine)

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In lieu of bells, stars and Christmas balls, Ukrainians use artificial spider webs to decorate their trees. This tradition came from a legend of a poor widow who didn’t have the money to decorate her Christmas tree. But on Christmas morning, the widow and her family woke up and found that their tree was decorated with spider webs which turned silver and gold when hit by the light. Seeing this web during Christmas will bring every family some good luck.

13 Yule lads replace Santa (Iceland)

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Iceland replaces one Santa with 13 Yule lads. They come to town two weeks before Christmas and leave after Christmas day. During this time, kids leave their shoes in the window sills in the hope that the Yule lads will fill them with gifts the next day.

Plate breaking (Oaxaca, Mexico)


In Oaxaca, Mexico, people carry on their tradition of re-enacting Mary and Josephs search for shelter. After the re-enactment, the people will break ceramic plates near their cathedral. This breaking of plates signifies the nearing end of the year.

Roads close and people roller-skate to church (Venezuela)

rollerskating-23931_1280In Caracas, Venezuela, people close their streets to cars during Christmas morning. They will then don their roller blades and make their way to the church. While in blades, people will shoot off fireworks while proclaiming “Jesus is born!”

Pickle on the Christmas Tree (US)


This tradition is said to originate from Germany but is not proven. An ornamental pickle is usually placed in the tree and hidden. On the morning of Christmas day, children are asked to look for it. Those who will find it will have good fortune the following year.

Friendly Witch instead of Santa (Italy)


In Italy, the good witch Befana replaces Santa Claus. This custom has come a long way and descends from several legends. Befana inspires many traditions and celebrations in Italian communities.

Letter reply from Santa (Canada)


Did you know that if you ever send a letter to Santa at this address…


… You will get a reply? This is located in Canada wherein postal codes are alphanumeric. Post office volunteers help reply to millions of letters every day. These letters come in from around the world in different languages, including Braille.

Mummy knockers (Latvia)


During Christmas in Latvia, people dressed in Mummy costumes travel and knock on the doors of every household. Each household will give these mummies a treat in return for the blessing.

Yule Goat (Sweden)

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In 1966, authorities set up a Swedish Yule Goat. Every year, this is set up and later burned. It has become a tradition for vandals to burn the goat down. Every Christmas eve, the goat is turned to ashes and never gets to see Christmas morning.

Dead birds for Christmas (Greenland)

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The usual turkey, chicken and pastries have no place in Greenland’s unique tradition. Instead, their recipe is composed of some very unusual foods. Mattak is a raw whale skin that is served with blubber. Another is a Kiviak, composed of dead auk birds that are stuffed inside a seal skin. These birds will be left to ferment inside the seal skin for 7 months and becomes a delicacy during Christmas.

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Here’s to a strange Christmas! These traditions have been practiced for years and some are thought to bring luck to the people who practice them (Surfing Santa and KFC probably not included). Now, are you adventurous enough to try some of these a month from now? Good luck!



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