Although Christmas only comes but once a year, I’ve researched the most unusual Christmas traditions and customs performed by country out of curiosity as to how the rest of the world celebrates besides here in the United States. I really enjoyed learning about these county’s traditions. I think it makes that world a little smaller when you reach out and learn about your neighbor. I hope you will enjoy these as much as I enjoyed compiling them!
Venezuelans attend Mass prior to Christmas Day. However, Caracas residents have developed a strange tradition – travelling to Mass on roller skates.
There’s no cleaning on Christmas Eve in Norway. All brooms are safely hidden away in case they are stolen by witches and spirits.
Advertising can be incredibly persuasive. Thanks to an ad campaign in 1974, many Japanese families eat at KFC on Christmas Eve.
Austrian children live in fear of Krampus who is a Christmas devil who is said to beat naughty children with branches.
Rather than using the traditional conifer, New Zealanders decorate Pohutukawa trees at Christmas.
Consoda is a traditional Christmas morning feast in Portugal. This is a time for remembering those who have passed on. Families lay places for the souls of their late loved ones.
German children leave a shoe outside their house on December 5th which is then filled with sweets overnight. Naughty children awake to find a tree branch instead.
Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.
Ukrainians forego tinsel and ornaments, instead decorating their Christmas trees with an artificial spider and web.
In the Czech Republic, unmarried women stand by a door and throw a throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the toe is pointing toward the door when it lands, they will get married within the year.
On Christmas Eve, Estonian families traditionally head to the sauna together.
The Yule Cat is said to stalk the Icelandic hills. Those who don’t receive new clothes before Christmas Eve are said to be devoured by this mythical beast.
Iceland’s children leave a shoe on their bedroom windowsills during the 12 days of Christmas. Each night, it’s filled with sweets or gifts, ready to be enjoyed in the morning.
Since 1966, authorities in Gavle have installed a straw Swedish Yule Goat. However, almost every other year, vandals have succeeded in burning it down.
Another Swedish tradition involves festive rice pudding. A peeled almond is hidden in the dessert and the person who finds it will, supposedly, be married within a year.
An age-old tradition dictates that each member of the family must stir the Christmas pudding mix in a clockwise direction before it is cooked, making a wish as they do so.
Rather than Santa Claus, Italian children await the arrival of Befana, a friendly witch who delivers sweets and toys on January 5th.
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. People wear white clothes and the men play ganna which is a fact-paced game with sticks and wooden balls.
In Latvia, a group of “mummers”, dressed in a variety of costumes, travel from house to house. Each household must give them a treat in return for a blessing.
Guatemalans sweep out their houses before Christmas. Each neighborhood will then create a huge pile of dirt, before placing an effigy of the devil on top and burning it.
Every December, Cuban city Remedios plays host to the Parrandas festival. The city divides into two halves, each building a themed sculpture from light bulbs, in preparation for Christmas Eve.
The kallikantzaroi, a race of evil goblins, lurk underground according to Greek legend. During the 12 days of Christmas they supposedly surface, wreaking havoc.
In Slovakia, the more senior man of the house takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling – the more that sticks, the better.
Canada Post recognizes the address Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOHOHO. Any letters received bearing this address are both opened and replied to.
Finnish people traditionally mark Christmas with a touching tribute to the deceased. Families light candles at the graves of their departed loved ones, creating a glowing sight at Finland’s cemeteries.