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7 Unusual Christmas Traditions Around the World

By Elizabeth Ie

Okay, so the Christmas tree is decorated, the cookies baked, the Grinch already watched and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” is on its millionth loop .…Anything else?

Well…there’s the 4-hour family meal, the well-anticipated opening of presents (Half of which we already know we’re getting), and maybe a day out at the beach?


I think it’s safe to say that as lovable as our Aussie Christmas traditions are, they can be slightly bland.

Seriously, when you do your research and discover that whole towns roller-skate to Christmas Mass, nothing else can compare.

And so, without further ado, I present to you 7 unusual Christmas traditions around the world:

1. Austria: The Bad Santa

Think the notorious Boogeyman but make it Christmas. Yep, I know..what a mix.

Being dubbed as the evil accomplice of Saint Nicholas, the ‘Krampus’ is a demonic, beast-like creature who supposedly prowls around neighbourhood streets in search of naughty children year after year. Perhaps it is simply an old alpine folklore tale used to frighten kids into good behaviour, but we may never really know. And yet, the tradition still carries on today. During every first week of December, young men across the nation customarily dress up as the Krampus, terrifying both adults and children alike with their scarily realistic costumes and clattering of bells. Yikes, the poor children of Austria.

2. Ukraine: A Cobweb Christmas

Okay, hear me out, but if you’re scared of spiders, maybe this tradition isn’t for you.

Wedged into their annual Christmas habits, Ukrainians often use cobwebs as ornaments of decoration (fake of course) as opposed to the traditional baubles and tinsel. These can be spotted adorning Christmas trees and houses all around. Extra points if the webs are glistening with dew. Its origins circle back to an old Eastern European folktale about a poor widow who couldn’t afford the conventional ornaments to decorate her children’s Christmas tree. The spiders around the home took pity on her, and in response, went to work spinning beautiful silk webs around the tree. As morning came, the sunlight transformed the silk into strings of gold and silver, hence the origination of tinsel. Upon this sight, the widow and her children were overjoyed and blessed to never live in poverty again. Thus, spider webs are now seen as lucky in Ukrainian culture, and I’ll be honest, this decor idea is growing on me!

3. Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas

Hang on a minute! Did someone say KFC?! … It’s an unexpected combo, but in Japan, it’s become a nationwide tradition. Given that Christmas is not a public holiday, and therefore isn’t a big celebration, citizens have found a unique way to mark the occasion. It dates back to 1974 when KFC released a festive marketing campaign with the slogan: “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!). This quickly spread like wildfire, eventually giving way to this interesting custom. The local Japanese now flock to their nearest KFCs every Christmas Eve for a special meal with family. However, keep in mind that, the cost is quite pricey, and orders need to be placed months in advance! Just look at that line!

4. Caracas, Venezuela: Roller-Skating to Mass:

Ahh yes, the one we’ve all been waiting for. If you plan to live in Venezuela, make sure to polish up those skating skills, because you will be needing them. As the country’s capital, citizens of Caracas annually flock to Mass in their roller skates on Christmas morning, a tradition so well established that most of the city’s streets close from 8am Christmas Day to clear out the traffic. This ensures the safety of those congregations skating into their pews.

5. South Africa: Fried Caterpillars:

This will indefinitely appeal to some, but also disgust others. What can I say? It’s not a list of unusual traditions if there isn’t something edible involved. For children in South Africa, it’s not the pies and steaks they’ll be looking forward to, but their festive fried caterpillars. Keep in mind though, they aren’t just any type you’ll find in the garden but must be of the Pine Tree Emperor Moth-Caterpillar breed. Eating these are considered a symbol of good luck for the coming year.

6. Sweden: The Donald Duck Obsession:

It’s quirky, but probably the most festive and united a country can get. Every Christmas, Swedish families tune in at 3pm sharp like clockwork, gathering around the television to watch Donald Duck’s special Christmas message. More than 40% of the country’s population takes part in this. Initially deriving from the 1960s, only two Swedish Television channels were running, one of which played Disney Cartoons around this festive season. And yet, this little ritual continues to this very day, becoming the epitome of one’s Christmas planning. Gee, I’d love to watch a Christmas special whilst sipping on some Hot Cocoa, wouldn’t you?

7. Italy: Befana the Witch

Italian Christmas isn’t as traditional as you would think. While it completely depends on the region, Christmas celebrations usually commence around early December and end on the day of Epiphany, the 6th of January. It is on this Epiphany Eve (5th of January), however, when all the action takes place. Forget Santa or Father Christmas and enter Befana the Witch. According to folklore, Belfana is an old woman who visits all the children of Italy, filling their stockings with candy and leaving them presents if they’ve been good. Sound familiar? Well, just like our Santa, Belfana enters through the chimney and receives treats from families, like wine and other local delicacies.

Just imagine all that mouth-watering food…

In short, Christmas doesn’t look the same for everyone around the globe. Some traditions we might want to pick up, but others? Maybe not (ahem, the demonic ‘Krampus’) But no matter how you celebrate this festive season, just remember that it’s the people we do these things with that make this time truly special.

And so, as a reward for making it to the end of this article, let me finish with this awful Christmas joke:

What happens if you eat Christmas decorations?


You get tinsel-it-is!!



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