Christmas is coming! Soon all our stores, our neighbourhoods, and spirits will be inundated with decorations and joy. While the Christmas spirit of togetherness is universal, not all other traditions are. For many people, it may be an obvious yearly occurrence to leave milk for Santa and treats for his reindeer, but that certainly sounds strange to other countries. Shoot, Santa isn’t even the person who brings presents in some places!

Along with our globetrotting friends at AllTheRooms, we’ve compiled a list of special, and maybe strange, celebrations for the holiday season from around the world.

Japan

Does the Colonel look a little like Santa? Well, to the people of Japan both are symbols of the Christmas holiday. After a hugely successful marketing campaign in the 70s, KFC has become a traditional Christmas meal in Japan.

Colombia

Christmas in Colombia lasts way longer than just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For many cities across the country, the entire month of December is a passionate party-like celebration. On Dia de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles), Colombians will make and display candles inside of paper lanterns to honor the Virgin Mary.

Austria

Did everyone know that jolly ole Saint Nick has an evil partner in crime? Well in Austria he does. The Krampus is a demon-looking character that accompanies St. Nicolas on his Christmas journey but instead of bringing presents, he kidnaps naughty children and takes them away in his sack. The first week of December sees men in the Austrian communities dress up as The Krampus and scare children.

Speaking of Krampus, Check out our list of Scary Christmas Movies.

Philippines

The Saturday before Christmas Eve, in the Christmas Capital of the Philippines, San Fernando, local villages compete in a lantern building competition. The intricate and beautiful displays can be nearly 20 feet in size and now attract spectators from around the globe.

Sweden

Every year since 1966, at the beginning of Advent, the Swedish town of Galve constructs a Yule Goat, a large goat effigy made of straw. Sounds nice right? Well, since the year of its inception, there has been another tradition where groups of people try to burn the goat to the ground. Despite efforts against it, the goat has been damaged for 37 years, although it did survive 2017.

Iceland

For the thirteen days prior to Christmas, Iceland welcomes the emergence of 13 mischievous troll characters known as ‘The Yule Lads’. These odd fellows leave gifts in children’s shoes; unless they are naughty, then they hand out rotting potatoes. With names like Stufur (Stubby), Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker), Bjugnakraekir (Sausage-Swiper), and Gluggagaegir (Window-Peeper) these are not the usual innocent elf characters known in many countries’ Christmas lore.

Norway

Hide your brooms — it’s Christmas! Yup, that is the tradition in Norway. According to Norwegian legend, Christmas Eve is the night for witches to hatch some tomfoolery. So, of course, to get around the skies, the witches steal any brooms they can get their hands on.

Venezuela

In the capital Caracas, it’s common practice for huge crowds of people to get to Christmas Mass via…roller-skates. This fun, active tradition has become so popular that many streets are closed for the hoards of bladers to safely skate from their homes to church.

Germany

In German Christmas tree-decorating traditions, parents hide a pickle ornament in the tree and the first child to find it gets a special present. Sounds like a year of ill feelings for competitive siblings but fun nonetheless! While embraced most widely in Germany, some argue the practice originated in Spain.

South Africa

Christmas Markets around the world from Cambria, California to Strasbourg, France may serve up delicious seasonal treats like mulled wine and gingerbread cookies, but things are done a bit differently in South Africa. Many people in the country look forward to feasting on a plate of fried caterpillars. Specifically, caterpillars of the Pine Tree Emperor Moth are served with sides, spices, or edible decorations that make them seem a little more festive and a little less creepy.

About the Guest Author
Zack is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for salsa music and a passion for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature, or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.