Everybody considers Christmas as the best time to let go and have fun, but not everybody celebrates it by hanging lanterns, singing carols, and exchanging gifts. You see, there are 195 countries in the world, and that’s more than a hundred different ways of greeting the holiday season. Some, however, have a rather strange way of doing it.
7 Strange Christmas Traditions Still Observed Today
At the end of every December, we gather around and spend whole nights chattering over sumptuous foods and jolly music. But for these countries, it’s more than that—even nothing like that. Here are seven of the most strange Christmas traditions from around the world still practiced today.
1. In Spain, people make defecating figurines
An odd Christmas tradition has continually lived in Catalonia, Spain, for centuries. Weeks leading up to Christmas, El Caganer (The Crapper) starts to appear. These are ceramic figurines depicting a Catalan peasant wearing a native red cap, with trousers down, flaunting a naked backside—and defecating.
The exact origin of the strange figurine is unknown; what is known is that they have been around since the eighteenth century. The Caganers, as explained by the villagers, are fertilizing the earth, which symbolically means bringing health and peace of mind. Placing the figurine in the nativity scene is believed to bring good luck and joy, while not doing so brings tribulation.
2. In Venezuela, mass-goers roller-skate their way to church
Of all the holidays, Christmas is the most exciting and fun in Caracas, Venezuela. Just when you thought Christmas couldn’t get any merrier, the mass-goers of Caracas make it more exciting by roller-skating their way to church. Even the government supports the tradition and orders the streets to be closed by 8:00 a.m. on December 16 to December 24 to make sure people could skate together in safety.
3. In Japan, eating KFC is how you celebrate the winter holidays
We all get a table filled with food on Christmas, but for the Japanese, it has to be KFC.
Another one of the most strange Christmas traditions, Japan’s KFC holiday started in the 1970s when Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in Japan, dreamt of a “party barrel” to be retailed on Christmas. Okawara began marketing his Party Barrel, which consisted of fried chicken, as a fine substitute for the traditional Christmas turkey.
Came 1974, KFC launched the Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii or Kentucky for Christmas. The concept became a national phenomenon, and since then, the Japanese have made it a tradition to celebrate the yuletide with some KFC.
4. In Norway, people hide their brooms
Most, if not all, consider Christmas as a celebration of love, happiness, and togetherness. For Norwegians, however, it’s far from that.
People in Norway believe that on Christmas eve, wicked and mischievous spirits fly the skies. They think brooms are these creatures’ mode of transportation, so they hide all of their brooms before going to sleep to prevent it from getting stolen by the evil witches.
5. In Austria, a scary-looking creature roams around looking for badly behaved kids
Salzburg, Austria, has one of the world’s most eerie and strange Christmas traditions, people often mistake it for a Halloween thing.
Austrians have a different twist on Santa Claus. Instead of the white-bearded man wearing a red suit, they have Krampus, a “half-goat, half-demon” figure out of a European folklore that roams around on Christmas looking for misbehaved kids. It is believed that the mythical creature visits houses the night of December 5, tagging along St. Nicholas. While St. Nick puts candies in the shoes of behaved kids, Krampus punishes the naughty ones.
So if you happen to be spending the holiday season in Austria, you can expect to see villagers dressing up like Krampus, complete with a seemingly mutilated face, bloody red eyes, and nasty fang, and chasing around giggling children.
6. In Germany, pickles are hung on Christmas trees
Hanging pickles on Christmas trees would normally come off as one of the most strange Christmas traditions in some parts of the world—but not in Germany.
During the 1880s, Woolworth stores began selling glass ornaments in the shape of fruits and vegetables that were imported from Germany, and for some reason, pickles were in abundance. And since then, people just started using them as decors. As to why, it’s unclear. It could be the color or people just really think it looks good when hung on Christmas trees, who knows.
Parents hang the pickle last after all the decorations were put, and the glass pickle must be hidden deep in the branches of the tree. The first kid to find the Christmas pickle receives a gift from their parents. If an adult finds it, they will get good luck throughout the year.
7. In Sweden, people erect a giant straw goat
Goats—or Yule goats, to be specific—were supposed to help deliver gifts during the holiday season, and Santa was believed to ride a goat instead of his sleigh. So every year, a town in Sweden welcomes the Christmas season by erecting a giant straw statue of a goat. Then they wait, sometimes even bet, to see whether the goal will stand until Christmas day.
The strangest part of this tradition is that no matter how hard local officials try to protect the straw goat, someone earnestly tries to burn it, especially in the city of Gävle. Cameras are put up, fences are raised, and the gigantic straw goat itself is sprayed with water and flameproof chemicals, but still, the statue never makes it to Christmas in one piece. And although it’s frustrating to build something only for it to be burnt down, looks like Sweden will never give this tradition up.
These strange Christmas traditions are not everything there is, but if we were to list all of them, it would take us at least five Christmases. But regardless of how these countries celebrate the holiday, it’s important for everyone who acknowledges this occasion to remember what Christmas is all about: spreading joy and love—although we don’t really have to wait for December 25 every year just to do that, do we?