What once was solely a Christian Holiday has been embraced by cultures from across the world. Today, the Christmas season is celebrated all over the world with each culture adding in their unique traditions and customs along the way. Santa Claus, gifts, and decorated trees are still the most popular holiday traditions, but below you will find some very different takes on how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.
Austria: Scary Santa
Naughty children in Austria must beware of the ghoulish half-goat, half-man creature called “Krampus.” The evil counterpart of St. Nicholas, roams the streets in the weeks leading up to Christmas hunting down badly-behaved children where he will either beat the child with sticks or stuff him in his sack to take down to Hell. For a closer look at these demons, be sure to check out the Krampus parade held in Vienna each year.
Caracas: Frolicking Rollers
Every year on Christmas morning, the citizens of Caracas in Venezuela roller skate to church for the Christmas Mass. This tradition has become so popular that many city streets are closed down to ensure people can skate to church in safety.
Iceland: Scary Christmas Cat
Beware of the Yule Cat, a large ferocious kitty who wanders the streets across Iceland looking for anyone who hasn’t’ received new clothes for Christmas upon which they will be immediately devoured. This story originates from the old custom of field workers and kids who receive a new set of clothes on Christmas as a reward for doing their chores. Today, it is common for everybody in Iceland to get new clothing for Christmas to avoid a run-in with the big scary cat.
Ukraine: Spider Webs in the Tree
Ukrainians decorate their trees with lifelike replicas of spider webs which are known as symbols of good luck and fortune. This tradition is based on an old legend of a widow and her children who were too poor to decorate their Christmas tree. Hearing the cries of the children, the spiders in the home decided to spin elaborate and decorative webs all over the tree. When the children awoke the next morning, they were overjoyed to see what the spiders had done, and when the morning sun hit the strings of the web, they turned to silver and gold.
Japan: KFC Christmas
In 1974, KFC ran a successful holiday campaign in Japan promoting Kentucky for Christmas! (“Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!”) It became so popular that today it is a national tradition to have a bucket of the Colonel’s best-fried chicken for dinner on Christmas. Orders for this delectable meal must be placed months in advance.
Germany: Christmas Pickle
The origin of this tradition is unknown, but across Germany on Christmas Eve, a sparkly glass pickle ornament is hidden deep within the tree’s branches. On Christmas morning, the first kid to find the pickle gets the honor of opening the first present.
Netherlands: Carrots in the Shoes
A few days before December 5th, Dutch children will place their shoes by the fire or by a window and fill it with carrots and hay for Sinterklaas’s horses. In return, they hope to find small gifts and treats in their shoes when they wake up in the morning.
Italy: A Witchy Holiday
Rather than December 25th, the bigger celebration in Italy comes on the eve of the Epiphany holiday, which is on January 6th. According to legend, a witch named Belfana decided to not visit the baby Jesus and present him with a gift. Soon after, she regretted her decision and went to visit baby Jesus but was unable to find him. So, instead, Belfana decided to give gifts to all the other children. Riding a broom, she flies down the chimney and leaves treats and gifts for those who leave food and wine out for her.
Norway: Another Witchy Holiday
According to folklore, Christmas Eve in Norway is a day when mischievous evil spirits and witches come down to earth to wreak havoc. To prevent the witches from flying around in the Christmas sky, all the residents will hide their brooms and mops to deter the witches from their primary mode of travel.
Catalonia: Christmas Log
One of the more unusual Christmas traditions comes from Catalonia, Spain where children are given a real wooden log with four legs, a painted face, and a Santa Hat. This is Tio de Nadal, aka the Christmas log which is to be taken care of by a child from December 8th up to Christmas Eve. The log must be fed and kept warm under a blanket during this time. On the eve of Christmas, things take a weird turn….Children will sing songs to their log while beating it with a stick commanding it to p**p out gifts for them. Once the log does this, it is no longer considered useful and is tossed into the fireplace.
Well, not that you know how other cultures celebrate Christmas, you’ll probably view your own traditions in a new light. Either way, something that goes with every holiday in every country of the world are beautiful seasonal flowers. Spruce up your home this holiday season or send the perfect gift to someone with flowers.