26 Weird and Funny Christmas Traditions Around the World

Each year millions of people come together and celebrate Christmas.

After centuries and centuries of yearly celebrations, different traditions have emerged around the world, some of whose origin predates Christianity.

From funny to downright scary, some traditions are quite unique and a lot of fun to learn about.

We have compiled a list of 26 funny Christmas traditions from around the world, some you want to start at home and some that might clearly surprise you. From the poop man in Catalonia to the wine-drinking witch in Italy, these weird Christmas traditions will definitely make some nice conversation starters at the dinner table.

Related – 12 Family Christmas Traditions to Start with your Baby

1 – Hiding of the brooms – Norway

Broom

From Norway, this fun custom is quite unconventional! During Christmas, Norwegians hide their brooms as best as they can to avoid them being stolen by evil witches up to no good.

It’s an extremely old custom that dates back to when people believed in witches and spirits. It was accepted that on Christmas Eve, witches would be looking for brooms to ride on, hence the need to hide them.

This tradition is still to some degree practiced. Finding the most secure spot in the house to hide the brooms is a fun thing to do with kids on Christmas Eve.

2 – Burning of the goat – Sweden

Yule goat Gefle Sweden 2009
Picture by Tony Nordin for Wikimedia

What started as a random act of vandalism years ago has turned into one of the strangest Christmas traditions in Sweden.

Every year since 1966, the Swedish town of Gavle has raised a Yule Goat made of straw to celebrate the start of the Christmas season. In Sweden, the Yule goat symbolizes one of the country’s oldest Christmas traditions. First believed to be an ugly creature frightening children and asking for gifts, it later became a gift bearer.

In Gavle, the tradition has shifted, and the main event is the burning of the Yule goat, or at least the attempts to burn it down. Locals would try to pass security to torch it up. Until now, they succeeded 29 times.

You can watch it live every Christmas on the town’s website.

3 – Bad Santa – Austria

Krampus

As though the fear of not getting any present wasn’t terrible enough, Austrian children who end up on Santa’s naughty list also have to stress over Krampus: a horned, furry monster that grabs mischievous youngsters.

Numerous towns in Austria (and adjoining nations), particularly the towns around Salzburg and Tyrol, observe Krampusnacht on December fifth, when many men dressed as the half-goat devil march through the roads waving sticks and threatening kids who have misbehaved during the year.

4 – KFC fried chicken as a Christmas meal – Japan

KFC Christmas Japan

In most Asian countries, apart from a few Christmas lights and some gift exchanges, Christmas is not a big deal and not really celebrated. However, some weird and funny Christmas traditions have emerged like eating fried chicken on Christmas Eve in Japan

In December 1974, KFC Japan launched its ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ advertisement campaign, presenting fried chicken as the ideal Christmas supper. Since then, the Japanese have become accustomed to getting a KFC fried chicken bucket on Christmas Day. It quickly became a Christmas tradition among families.

5 – Evil Goblins – Greece

Kallikantzaros - Greece

If in Norway witches are believed to come out at Christmas, in Greece, it’s Kallikantzaros, an evil creature send on Earth from its core to cause mayhem and terrorize people during the 12 days of Christmas.

These small, hairy, creatures are believed to enter houses and bring havoc. The Greeks have a bunch of ways to prevent it, like leaving a colander on their doorstep, marking the door with a black cross on Christmas Eve, or burning a large hog for 12 days so they can’t come through the chimney.

6 – Spider web decoration – Ukraine

Christmas spider ornaments ukraine
Picture by Erika Smith on Wikimedia

An old Ukrainian story as it that a helpless widow and her kids once discovered a Christmas tree growing in their yard yet were too poor to decorate it. They put the tree inside their home, and when they woke up on Christmas morning, cobwebs covered the tree. One of the kids opened a window and sunshine gleamed on the web, transforming it into silver and gold.

To celebrate that story, people in Ukraine decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs and ornaments.

7 – Burning of the devil – Guatemala

La quema del Diablo, Guatemala
Picture by Conred Guatemala on Flicker

Every 7th of December a 6 pm sharp, it’s not uncommon to see 3-feet tall devil piñatas burning on the streets of Guatemala City, with the sound of firecrackers resonating in the background, people cheering.

This unusual holiday tradition is associated with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which honors the city’s patron saint.

La quema del diablo dates back to the beginning of colonization when people would light bonfires to celebrate religious occasions and burn figures of the devil.

8 – Giant Lantern Festival – Philippines

Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
Picture by Ramon Velasquez on Wikimedia

Every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”, the Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held.

The celebration draws in observers from across the globe.

Participants from neighboring towns attempts to create the most intricate and colorful lantern to win the fierce competition. The exhibit is mesmerizing, with some lanterns reaching a 6-meter height.

Initially, the lanterns were pretty small, made of Japanese origami paper, and lit by candles. Today, the lights are produced using an assortment of materials and are enlightened by electric bulbs, using kaleidoscope patterns.

9 – The Yule Lads – Iceland

The Yule Lads, Iceland

Naughty kids beware! The Yule Lads might be coming for you this Christmas.

A funny Christmas tradition from Iceland, kids would leave their best shoes by the window during the 13 days and nights leading up to Christmas in the hope of getting gifts from the Yule Lads.

The 13 tricky troll-like characters come out to play in cold Iceland during Christmas, leaving nice presents to nice kids and things such as rotten potatoes to naughty ones. Each day, households are visited by a different troll, their name indicating more or less what they’re up to.

You will find Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook), Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper), Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker), Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper), Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker), Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer), Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler), Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod), Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper), Giljagaur (Gully Gawk), Stúfur (Stubby), Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer) and Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer).

10 – Catalan Caganer – Spain

El Caganer, Spain
Picture by Antonio Gil on Flicker

Definitely a strange and funny Christmas tradition, meet the Caganer aka the pooper. A regular figure in Catalonian nativity scenes, the caganer is a bare-bottomed man with his pants around his knees as he bends over to poop.

While traditionally depicting a farmer or shepherd, it now ranges from all types of personalities, including celebrities.

It first appeared in the early 18th century but no one really knows what it symbolizes. Some believe it could represent mischief, humility, or good luck.

11 – The Christmas Pickle – Germany

Pickle ornament in Christmas Tree
Picture by Robin Zebrowski on Flicker

No one really knows when or why this weird tradition emerged. On Christmas Eve, Germans would hide a pickle in their Christmas tree, the first child to find it on Christmas morning would get a special gift or the honor to open the first present.

A fun family Christmas tradition you can easily implement at home next Christmas – it’s also a great way to keep eager children busy for a while.

12 – Caroling With a Dead Horse – Wales

Mari Lwyd
Picture on Wikimedia

As legend has it, Mari Lwyd (which translates to grey mare) rises from the dead during the holiday season and goes door-to-door challenging people to a battle of rhyming insults in Welsh. The horse then enters the house for good luck and is given refreshment.

No actual horse is used in the celebration. People would decorate a horse’s skull with colorful reins, bells, and ribbons, then wrap it in a white sheet and place it on a pole where someone gets under to carry it, flanked by a procession of people who are often dressed in traditional costume.

13 – La Befana – Italy

La Befana, Italia
Picture on Wikimedia

On January 5th in Italy, children are visited by La Befana who delivers candies and toys. La Befana is no ordinary witch and requires wine and sausages every year on the eve of the Epiphany. Like Santa, she comes through the chimney but comes in riding her broomstick, leaving presents for good kids and coal to the naughty ones.

According to the legend, the Befana missed an invitation from the Three Wise Men to witness the birth of Christ and was so devastated about missing it that she spends every Christmas time riding around Italy searching for Baby Jesus.

14 – Radish carving – Mexico

Radish Carving, Oaxaca
Picture by Ted McGrath on Flickr

Have you ever heard of the Night of the Radishes? No? Well, each year, in the city of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico, a radish carving competition is held. Participants start preparing months in advance, pumping radishes with chemicals to make them go huge.

A few days before Christmas, the carving starts. Visitors, flocking by the thousands, can witness the carvers’ creativity, with radishes being turned into nativity scenes, strange characters, or incredible monsters.

15 – Inviting the deads -Portugal

Christmas dinner table

During consoda, the traditional Christmas meal in Portugal, it’s common to see extra plates on the dinner table. Families include their dead relative at the table, hoping it will bring good luck to the household.

In some places, people would leave crumbs on the earth as well.

16 – Shoe tossing – Czech Republic

Shoe tossing - Czech Republic

On Christmas Eve, single Czech women stand with their back to the door and toss one of their shoes over their shoulder.

If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means that they’ll be married within the year.

If it lands with the heel facing the door, they’ll have to try again next year and hope for better luck (or not).

17 – Skating to Chruch – Caracas, Venezuela

Every year, on Christmas morning, the city of Caracas in Venezuela turns into a skating rink. It has become so common for people to go to morning mass roller skating, that most of the city’s streets are shut down to traffic.

It is also pretty usual to see lace hanging out from windows the night before. Children tie it to their toe and early skaters tug on it to let them know it’s time to wake up.

18 – Russians go wild during Christmastide

Man jumping into a lake in winter

From replacing Santa Claus with Father Frost to a Christmas Eve dinner without meat, when it comes to strange Christmas traditions around the world, Russia has plenty. At the top of the list, you’ll find the fun way the country celebrates Christmastide, aka ‘the most unholy time of year’, or ‘Svyatki’ in Russian.

The celebration runs from the Orthodox Christmas Eve on the 7th of January to the Epiphany on the 19th of January. 

The pagan tradition includes feasting, Russian Christmas music, fortune telling, theatre, local pranks, and… taking a plunge into freezing lakes and rivers!

19 – Nisse – Danmark

Nisse

Nordic folk tales all have a different version of Nisse varying from one country to another, but the Danish claim the origin of Nisse.

Nisse is a hungry gnome who will bring good luck if fed and mayhem if not. Danish families usually leave him sweet rice porridge (risengrød) on Christmas Eve to appease him.

Nisse often replaces Santa Claus. Like Santa, no one ever sees him but rather than one man bringing gifts to everyone, there is one Nisse by family.

20 – Yule Cat – Iceland

Yule cat Iceland

The Yule Cat aka the Jólakötturinn is not your average Christmas kitten and will devour anyone not wearing new clothes on Christmas Eve.

Its origin was traced back to the 19th century when people would receive new clothes before Christmas from their employers to motivate them to work harder. It is also believed to be a way to encourage farmers to finish steering their sheep before Christmas.

To this day, most Icelanders still wear new clothes on Christmas Eve.

21 – Beer for Santa – Ireland

Beer

If in the US people leave milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, in Ireland, he’s treated to a pint of Guinness and some mince pie.

22 – Mummers in disguise – Latvia

Christmas mummers, Latvia
Picture on Pinterest

In Latvia around Christmas, people dress up as animals or as macabre characters that symbolize death and go door to door to drive evil spirits away by singing traditional songs – a fun version of Christmas carols. Families invite them into their house and serve them refreshments.

Mummers have to hide their faces and voices so no one recognizes them, and if they are recognized they have to remove their masks.

23 – The Family Sauna Bath – Estonia

Sauna

In Estonia, for Christmas, it’s traditional for families to head to the sauna for some quality time together.

It is believed to cleanse bad blood between relatives and remove evil spirits from the family.

The whole family is included, even extended relatives, and there’s nothing like sweating together to bring everyone closer, at least in Estonia.

24 – Eating Caterpillars – South Africa

Bamboo worms on plate
Picture on Wikimedia

What’s Christmas without tasty food and delicious meals? While you might be accustomed to Turkey and cookies, South African couldn’t go without caterpillars for Christmas. And not any caterpillars, only the ones of the Emperor Moth will do!

Considered a delicacy across the country, South Africa holds festivals each year around Christmas where they serve fried caterpillars and everyone can get a taste of this special Christmas treat. It’s so popular that the country often runs out of caterpillars before Christmas!

25 – Day of the Little Candles – Colombia

Día de las Velitas, Colombia
Picture on Wikimedia

On Little Candles’ Day or Día de las Velitas, Colombians place candles and paper lanterns outside their house to mark the beginning of the Christmas season in honor of the Virgin Mary.

The tradition has grown across the country, and most cities and towns are lit up with elaborate displays. The town of Quimbaya is famous for its arrangements, where neighborhoods compete to see who can set up the most beautiful one.

26 – Loksa Throwing – Slovakia

Last but not least funny Christmas tradition around the world, we’re finishing this list with Slovakia where food fights are allowed on Christmas Eve!

Not exactly a food fight, but still, the weird tradition involves throwing food at the ceiling. The head of the family, at the start of the Christmas Eve dinner, would throw some loksa (a potato dough pancake) to the ceiling for good luck. It is believed that the more of it sticks to the ceiling, the better the crop will do.

Related – New Christmas Traditions for Empty Nesters to Start this Year

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