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December 2018

World’s Strangest Christmas Traditions

Non-traditional Christmas celebrations from around the world

We’re all familiar with the more traditional Christmas celebrations, from the lighting of great pine trees to illuminated markets serving savory sweets. But the world offers much more than the familiar fare; some Christmas traditions can be downright strange to our perceptions. But just because they’re new to many of us doesn’t mean they aren’t established festivities for others. These important traditions add wonderful variation to the standard celebration of the holidays.

Austria - The Krampus

In Vienna, you’ll find a frightening figure marching down the street. This is the Krampus, the ghoul who searches for bad children; very much the anti-Santa. If you’re a fan of scary Halloween masks and long for them in December, this celebration and parade may be for you. So popular is the idea of the Krampus that a film was made about it in 2015, one grossing $61.5 million worldwide.

Catalonia - Caganer

In the Catalonia region of Spain, a strange Christmas statue joins the traditional Christmas nativity scene. This is the Caganer, a figure who’s seen pants down, defecating, and is rightly placed in the corner. No one’s sure how this tradition came to be exactly, and perhaps just as strange is its persistence today.

Japan - Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC is huge in Japan, particular during Christmas, when crowds flock to the American fried chicken chain. The eatery is even suitable for a romantic night out between couples. So if you should find yourself in Japan in December, make a reservation with a loved one and enjoy a bucket of fried extra crispy holiday magic.

Scandinavia - The Yule Goat

Imagine celebrating Christmas by burning a giant straw goat. This is one of the celebrations in Scandinavia, one with Norse roots. The goats come in forms from tiny tree ornaments to great effigies built for the town to enjoy and then perhaps subsequently burn. Some say the goat represented pagan icons, but today it’s a fun celebration for all.

Iceland - The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat of Iceland is a different creature than the Yule Goat of Scandinavia. Rightfully so, the land of elves and magic features a giant cat that travels the countryside and threatens to eat unproductive workers. The alternative is getting a nice new set of clothing, so naturally most opt to be good workers and thus nicely dressed. How is that for labour laws?

Ukraine - Christmas webs

A peculiar form of decoration is popular during Christmas in Ukraine: spider webs. As the story goes, a poor widow was not able to acquire a tree for her children. The spiders, in their arachnid generosity, decorated her house with their webs. Makes one think twice before reaching for that rolled-up newspaper.

United States - The Yule Log

A convenient twist for a country increasingly without fireplaces is the Yule Log. Set the Christmas mood on your television with a crackling fireplace that lasts for hours. Now getting the fire burning is even easier with the numerous streaming sites available online. The original Yule Log was first broadcast in 1966 and lasted for a duration of 24 hours. Now that’s dedication.

Central America, Spain, Italy - Red Underwear

Red is the colour of good luck, so one supposes it could make sense to wear a pair of red underpants to bring Christmas fortune. It also might not be surprising that said red bearers might want to show off their skivvies, dancing in the streets even on the coldest of December nights. Wearing red underwear is a popular tradition in Central America, Spain and Italy, where celebrations are known to be “brief”.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!

Source of image: eyetronic/