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13 Strange, Fun, and Unique Holiday Traditions From Around The World

unique christmas traditions from around the worldWhen my wife and I got married we took Christmas traditions from our respective families and then blended them together to create new rituals for the season.

My wife is Ukranian, so instead of turkey and all the trimmings, we have borscht, homemade cabbage rolls, and perogies as our big Christmas feast.

When we lived in Vancouver, we liked to take a walk along the city’s seawall on Christmas Day to soak in some sun. Now that we live in Calgary, our Christmas Day afternoon walk has turned in to some ice skating at our outdoor community rink.

The past 2 years have seen a new tradition enter our practice as George, our Elf on the Shelf, has added some new magic to the season. My oldest also insists that Santa’s reindeer eat zucchini, so that is what is left on the mantle.

As we head in to the home stretch of the holidays, here’s a list of 13 bizarre, strange, unique, and fun Christmas traditions from around the world that you might want to introduce to your family’s yearly celebrations.

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  • La Befana 1 of 13
    La Befana
    In Italy, Christmas comes around again in January when La Befana (a nice old lady who looks like a bit of a witch) goes around and gives presents and treats to the kids. Just as with Santa, kids will leave a snack out for La Befana who is usually depicted as dirty and covered in soot since she enters through the chimney.

    Image Credit Ele G
  • The Christmas Pickle 2 of 13
    The Christmas Pickle
    A late 19th Century American tradition, it all revolves a Christmas Tree decoration the shape of a pickle. For Christmas morning, a pickle shaped ornament is hidden on a branch and then the children try to find it. The finder receives an extra present from Santa or good luck for the next year.

    The tradition has ties to marketin in the 1890s when glass Christmas decorations were imported from Germany. Woolworths brought in the decorations that featured glass blown vegetables. The Christmas Pickle idea was concocted to sell the product.

    Image Credit iStockPhoto
  • Christmas Log 3 of 13
    Christmas Log
    Yule logs are popular traditions around the world, symbolizing the wood for fire to keep people warms through the winter. In Catalonia, Spain, however, they do their log up a little differently. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Tió de Nadal is placed on a table in the house. The log is dressed up with a face and a blanket, and must be fed everyday. People leave nuts and fruit on the table for the log, and then on Christmas Eve the family beats the log with sticks to make him "poop out" they're treats. Which is why this tradition is translated from Catalonian as "the pooping log." As the family beats the log with sticks, they sing songs asking the log to give them treats. An adult puts a hand under the blanket and reveals a communal present for the whole family.

    Image Credit Wikipedia
  • Krampus 4 of 13
    Krampus
    Christmas gets a dose of Halloween in this Austrian tradition. Never mind a lump of coal for bad boys and girls, St Nicholas has an evil accomplice named Krampus to deal out the punishments. During festive season, it's not uncommon to find people in the streets dressed as the demon frightening the kids. (And you thought the Elf on the Shelf was creepy...)

    Image Credit Der Krampus
  • Finnish Cemeteries 5 of 13
    Finnish Cemeteries
    In Finland, it's appropriate for people to visit a cemetery over Christmas. It's a beautiful sight as hundreds of graveside candles are lit and glow in the snowy woods. Lighting candles at the graves of deceased relatives is a long standing Finnish tradition for those who go to church, and those who don't. "As many as three-quarters of Finnish families visit a cemetery at Christmas, mostly on Christmas Eve, and we even have to make special traffic arrangements to accommodate the crowds," says Risto Lehto, who manages six cemeteries run by the Parish Union of Helsinki. People will visit a local graveyard at Christmas even if no relatives are there, because it is such a beautiful and tranquil setting.

    Image Credit TCD
  • The Yule Goat 6 of 13
    The Yule Goat
    In Sweden, the Yule Goat is one of the oldest Christmas Traditions. The goat has a connection to Thor as it was said he rode through the sky with a herd of goats pulling him. "The Yule Goat was originally said to be an ugly creature that frightened children, and demanded gifts at Christmas. In Scandinavia, people thought of the Yule Goat as an invisible creature that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right. During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts." Since 1966, the town of Gävle, has had large straw goats built in the town square where they are often burned down. California has Burning Man, Sweden has Burning Goat. More often than not, on many Scandinavian Christmas trees, you will find a straw or wooden goat ornament.

    Image Credit Wikipedia
  • Yuletide Lads and the Christmas Cat 7 of 13
    Yuletide Lads and the Christmas Cat
    Icelanders believe in elves, trolls, and fairies. Little holes in the lava fields are said to contain their homes, and many Icelanders will confess to having met one or three in their lifetime. Christmas in Iceland involves a visit from the Yuletide Lads over 13 days between Christmas and Epiphany. Over the 13 nights, children place a shoe in their bedroom window. Each night a different Yuletide lad visits, leaving sweets or gifts. It's fun because each Yuletide Lad has a different personality leading to different activities and adventures each night.

    There is also a Christmas Cat that wanders Iceland over Christmas eating anyone who doesn't buy and wear a new piece of clothing on Christmas Eve!

    Image Credit Iceland.is
  • Caganer 8 of 13
    Caganer
    There is something about doing a number 2 that is popular with the Mediterranean countries. In addition to Tió de Nadal, residents of the region like to place an extra figurine in their nativity scenes. The Caganer is usually hidden off in a corner of the nativity scene and features an older man with pants around his ankles doing his business. The tradition is said to symbolize "fertilizing the earth." Children find the Caganer funny, and even the Catholic Church allows the character in its Nativities. The Caganer is a popular souvenir from the region made to look like the Pope, Messi, even Superman.

    In 2005, Barcelona's city council commissioned a nativity scene which did not include a Caganer. What was perceived as an attack against Catalonian tradition, was explained as violating a law banning public defecation and urination. The council said the Caganer was now setting a bad example, but after much criticism and a media campaign, the 2006 nativity restored the Caganer.

    Image Credit Spain Holiday
  • KFC 9 of 13
    KFC
    In Japan there are very few Christians, and Christmas is not a holiday. Still, the population has been sucked in by commercial marketing to celebrate the arrival of Santa Kuroshu. The Japanese celebrate Christmas Eve by eating a 'Christmas Cake' which the father of the family purchases on his way home from work.

    In recent years, thanks to KFC, the Christmas Chicken Dinner has become quite popular. Many Japanese even make reservations for their "Christmas Chicken" ahead of time. People line up at their outlets to pick up their orders. It's worked so well, most Japanese now believe that Westerners celebrate Christmas with a chicken dinner.

    Image Credit ozchin
  • Norwegian Brooms 10 of 13
    Norwegian Brooms
    You won't find any brooms lying about over Christmas in Norway. Norwegians believe that Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. Witches like to ride brooms, so they hide all the brooms before heading to bed.

    Image Credit Wayne Wilkinson
  • Cosoada 11 of 13
    Cosoada
    In Portugal, the Christmas feast is called consoada or "reunion of the families." Sometimes people will set an extra place at the dining table for relatives who have died. The offering of respect is said to bring forth a prosperous new year.

    Image Credit Dinner Series
  • Mari Lwyd 12 of 13
    Mari Lwyd
    In Wales an ancient tradition would see a villager is selected each Christmas to perform Mari Lwyd. They parade around the streets with a mare's skull fastened to the end of a wooden pole, while villagers sing. The tradition was dismissed as an act of drunken paganism for a while and some folklore groups are trying to revive it.

    Image Credit Wikipedia
  • Santa’s Web 13 of 13
    Santa's Web
    If you thought the pickle was an odd ornament, have a peek at a Ukranian Christmas tree. You'll find the usual assortment of ornaments along with .. spider webs. There's an old tale of a poor woman who had a tree but could not afford ornaments to decorate it. In the morning she woke up to find a spider and woven a web that sparkled in the sun.

    Image Credit Wildcat Dunny

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