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10 Unusual Christmas Traditions From Around the World

By - Posted on 19 March 2010

Christmas is celebrated (and not celebrated) in countless ways around the globe. Some decorate trees, hang mistletoe and drink egg nog while others go out to the movies and eat Chinese food. Then there are those that display pooping figurines, hide all the brooms in the house or roller skate to mass. Read on for some of the world's strangest and most interesting Christmas traditions.


Krampus Night, Austria
Photo of Krampus, Austria © annia316

If you thought that being on Santa’s naughty list was the scariest thing to happen around Christmas, you’ve never heard of Krampus Night. Krampus is Santa’s evil twin whose job is to beat and punish all the children who have misbehaved. On December 5th men dress up in some of the scariest devil-like costumes you can imagine and drunkenly run around towns hitting people with sticks and switches. The Krampus legend originates in the Germanic alpine regions and is widespread throughout Hungary, Bavaria, Slovenia and is especially popular in Austria.

Spain, Portugal and Italy

Celebrity El Caganer, Spanish Christmas Figurine
Photo of Celebrity Caganer © daniel.julia
El Caganer, Spain
Photo of Caganer © Mtiedemann

A traditional Christmas tradition in parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, is to set up a model village of Bethlehem. Along with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, a Caganer, or “Shitter” in English, is placed in the scene. The Caganer is a figurine, traditionally of a man, in the act of defecating, pants around his knees bending over with pile of feces at his heels. He is usually placed in a corner, perhaps because he needs privacy. The Caganer has been around for a few hundred years and in recent times it has evolved from a traditionally dressed man taking care of business to figurines of celebrities, nuns, politicians and Santa Claus.

Czech Republic

On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women practice a traditional fortune telling method to predict their relationship status for the upcoming year. If you’d like to give this a try, here’s how to do it: Stand with your back to your door and toss one of your shoes over your shoulder. If it lands with the toe facing the door it means that you will get married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, you’re in for another year of unmarried status.


Caga Tio, Catalonia, Spain
Photo of Caga Tio, Catalonia Spain © Toniher

Caga Tió, the pooping log, is a bizarre and widespread Christmas tradition in Catalonia. It starts with a hollowed out log, which is propped up on four little leg-like sticks and then painted to have a face. Every night, beginning December 8th, Caga Tió is “fed” and covered with a blanket (so that he doesn’t catch a cold). On Christmas Eve or Christmas day Caga Tió is put in the fireplace, beaten with a stick and ordered to “poop”. He is encouraged, along with the beating, by singing songs with catchy lyrics such as:

caga tió (poop log)
caga torró (poop turrón)
avellanes i mató (hazelnuts and cottage cheese)
si no cagues bé (if you don’t poop well)
et daré un cop de bastó. (I’ll hit you with a stick.)
caga tió!" (poop log!)

When he is done pooping candies, nuts and such, Caga Tió will then give one last push to reveal an onion, a head of garlic or a salt herring.


Norway Christmas Broom
Photo of Broom © Esc861

Norwegian legend says that on Christmas Eve witches and evil spirits come out looking for brooms to ride on (a bad omen). To thwart the witches, all brooms in the house are hidden and men go outside and fire a shotgun to scare the bad spirits away.


Japan KFC Christmas Tradition
Photo of Christmas KFC in Japan © ozchin

For many Japanese, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is so popular and well marketed that reservations may have to be made to eat at a KFC on Christmas in Japan.


In Caracas, Venezuela, church-goers attend an early morning mass between December 16th and December 24th. Not so strange for a mostly Catholic population. What is unusual about this practice is how everyone gets to church: on roller skates. The streets are blocked off to vehicular traffic until 8 am and children, the night before, tie one end of a piece of string to their big toes and hang the other end out the window. As roller skaters go by the next morning, they give a tug to all the strings hanging out the windows.


Christmas Tree, Ukraine
Photo of Christmas Tree, Ukraine © DDima

In Ukraine, Christmas trees are decorated with all the typical kinds of ornaments and one not so typical. An artificial spider and web are hidden in the tree and good luck is given to the one who finds it. A Ukrainian folk tale says that a poor widowed mother could not afford decorations for her family’s Christmas tree. One Christmas morning she awoke to find a spider had beautifully decorated the tree with its web, making for a very happy Christmas. (Can you find the spider web hidden on this Christmas tree?)

Great Britain

Christmas Pudding, Great Britain
Photo of Christmas Pudding, Great Britain © jon.roberts

If you would like your Christmas wish to come true in Great Britain, all you have to do is take a turn stirring the Christmas pudding. Traditional Christmas pudding is made of dried fruit and nuts, similar to fruitcake. It is often doused in brandy and flambéed in a dimly lit room for a dramatic effect.

La Font de la Figuera

Spain seems to have quite a few unusual Christmas traditions. Here is a New Year's Eve's one for you: In Spain it is customary to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. The small town on La Font de la Figuera has taken this tradition one step further - a New Year’s Eve run wearing just red underwear. People of all ages participate in this event.

Traditionally, a sixpence is baked into the pudding.

We always baked a number of Threepences in our pudding when I was growing up.

Traditional Christmas Pudding also had money added to the pudding before it is cooked, with the luck diner keeping it. In practice, you could be less lucky if you broke a tooth on the coin!

I have to say that I, and other Norwegians I have asked, have never heard of the tradition about the brooms and the witches, even though I am 100% Norwegian

Why is Christmas pudding unusual? It's just a food and I've been to places in America where they have it too.

there is no such tradition in ukraine as we can see here, we don´t look for the spider...i´m realy, sorry, but u are very wrong in your description of traditions of my country.

An unusual New Year´s Eve

The first New Year's Eve in Spain comes in mid-December (usually the second Thursday before Christmas). It is the Noche Vieja Universitaria (University New Year), which takes place in Salamanca.

The University New Year is for students of the famous university in Salamanca who will be unable to celebrate the normal New Year with their friends because of family commitments. The students pretend it is not mid-December and go through all the usual New Year's Eve traditions, including the famous grape-eating!

so gross

A bit of background would be helpful. What, in the name of all that's holy, is the apparent fascination with holiday feces? I can't seem to make the connection.

I'm from Ukraine and I've never seen any spiders on Christmas trees. Ever. Considering Ronny's comment it seems that some "traditions" are made up, or at least they are not very common. :)


When you talk about other peoples' traditions, do your research! To me, our customs are very important and reading something like this where someone displays them as "strange" or awkward and at the same time get's everything wrong there is about that, is nearly offensive.

According to these comments you seemed to have gotten quite a lot wrong about some of these customs and, let me tell you, it's the same with the Krampus.

- It is celebrated throughout November until January and the main day of the Krampus is December 5th NOT December 6th
- The Krampus is not "Santa's evil Twin". I keep reading this all over the internet. Who came up with this BS? Santa is not part of any Austrian Christmas tradition. Since the 1400s the Krampus is part of the St. Nikolaus play which is Catholic tradition to test childrens' knowledge and faith. Before that people used Krampus-like Masks in various winter customs. All of them were meant to dispel evil spirits. Their origin even outdates recorded history so it may very well be one of mankind's oldest traditions that is actively celebrated to this day.
- Getting drunk and hitting people is not part of this custom. However it is violent and frightening. A blow with the birch is considered a sign good luck. Some years ago this tradition became that violent in some villages that it had to be tamed and so it is more of a parade thing these days. As far as I know in the last 10 years no one was killed anymore.


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