Different countries and cultures celebrate different holidays all over the globe. These weird celebrations around the world are enjoyed by many, with a number of people traveling far and wide to embrace them. Instead of sipping on eggnog around the fire or hanging stockings on the mantle, millions of people across the globe will participate in their own holidays.
Some have similarities to Christmas and occur on comparable dates, while other celebrations are different entirely. Here we’ve listed some of the weird and wonderful traditions that people in different cultures partake in…
1. La Befana – Italy
Santa Claus is not the center of attention in Italy come Christmas Eve. An interesting looking, yet kind, old witch known as Befana (which translates to the giver of gifts’) oversees giving gifts. On 5 January, the eve of Epiphany, parents leave out a plate of broccoli with a side of spiced sausage and a glass of wine for Befana.
Tradition states the good witch flies around on her broom and enters houses through a chimney to deliver gifts such as candy, clothing, and toys to good children.
2. KFC Dinner – Japan
Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Japan, but Kentucky Fried Chicken most definitely is! The Japanese enjoy huge plates of this tasty treat on 25 December instead of a homemade Christmas dinner.
The Colonel’s unique recipe is so popular that the chain suggests customers place their orders at least two months prior to Christmas Day! Having arrived in the country in 1970, the KFC tradition is said to originate from 1974, when chicken and a bottle of wine was offered as a Christmas special!
It has even been reported that a third of KFC Japan’s annual sales take place between 23 and 25 December!
3. El Caganer – Spain
Instead of Santa Claus, reindeers and elves, el Caganer is the most celebrated holiday figurine in Spain. The exact legend of how this tradition began is unknown, but legend has it that farmers would be punished with bad fortune and a poor crop harvest if it wasn’t part of their nativity.
Today, the tradition is still going strong with Christmas markets selling old school caganers alongside new versions that show famous faces such as rock stars, footballers, and Barack Obama.
4. Carols with dead horses – Wales
There isn’t a set date for this weird tradition, although it usually takes place on any day between Christmas and late January. The celebration of Mari Lwyd is supposed to bring good fortune. One person dresses as a horse with an actual horse skull and is often accompanied by a group of people.
This energetic group will visit various homes singing carols in exchange for food and drinks.
5. Spider Web Tree – Ukraine
Christmas trees in Ukraine are often embellished with spider webs! Folklore states this holiday began when a poor family grew a Christmas tree from a pinecone. Although eager to decorate the tree, they didn’t have enough money to do so.
When they woke on Christmas morning, they discovered spiders had spun webs around the tree’s branches creating a sparkling display. Today, Ukrainians adorn their trees with spider webs to welcome good luck into the New Year.
6. Krampus – Austria, Germany, and Hungary
Bad children in the United Kingdom are often rewarded with a lump of coal, but bad children in Germany get a visit from Krampus. This beast-like creature is renowned for punishing those who haven’t behaved throughout the year.
7. Night of the radishes – Mexico
In Oaxaca, Mexico, it’s normal to rejoice the holidays with radishes! On 23 December each and every year, the Mexican state of Oaxaca presents an astounding display of carved vegetables. The radishes are grown solely to welcome this event and remain on display through Christmas Day.
8. The Yule Cat – Iceland
This is one extremely scary cat! The Yule Cat (known as Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur) is an oversized, angry cat from Icelandic folklore. It hides in the shadows during the Christmas months, devouring people who have not been gifted new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve – all aimed at kids in a bid to encourage good behavior!
9. Roller skating to mass – Venezuela
Why walk to mass when you can arrive on skates? It is a tradition for residents in Caracas, Venezuela, to roller-skate or blade to mass in an array of neighborhoods. They even close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Following Mass, everyone enjoys traditional snacks of tostadas and coffee.
10. The Christmas Log – Catalonia, Spain
Known as Tió de Nadal (which translates to Christmas Log), this tradition surrounds a log with legs, a face, and a little red hat. The tradition comes from ancient Catalan mythology and is popular in Catalan homes at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December every year.