Weirdest Christmas Traditions. Photo: KnowInsiders
Weirdest Christmas Traditions. Photo: KnowInsiders

Christmas is here and with it comes a number of annual traditions. From decorating the tree and eating turkey to caroling and writing letters to Santa Claus up at the North Pole. Of course each family has their own personal traditions too. These may include opening one gift the day before Christmas to attending Midnight Mass at Church on Christmas Eve and watching the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

However, these are all common North American traditions. Much of the world outside the U.S. and Canada celebrate Christmas in a very different way. And many of the traditions taking place in foreign lands are both exotic and downright weird.

List of 10 Weirdest Christmas Traditions Around The World

1. Austria: Facing your Christmas demons

2. Catalonia: Displaying a Pooping Man in the Nativity Scene

3. Ukraine: A Cobweb Christmas

4. Iceland: The Yule Cat

5. Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas

6. Estonian Tradition: The Family Sauna Bath

7. New Zealand: A Different Christmas Tree

8. Czech Republic: A pair of matchmakers

9. South Africa: Fried Caterpillars

10. Italy: The Christmas Witch

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Which Are The 10 Weirdest Christmas Traditions In The World?

1. Austria: Facing your Christmas demons

Photo: The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

In Austria, St Nicholas has an evil counterpart called Krampus. He is the bad cop to St Nick’s good cop, a demon-like creature with one task: to punish bad children before Christmas.

Men dressed in devil costumes roam the streets, carrying chains and a basket for abducting especially bad children and hauling them to hell.

It's certainly one way to keep the kids off the streets.

2. Catalonia: Displaying a Pooping Man in the Nativity Scene

Photo: People | HowStuffWorks
Photo: People | HowStuffWorks

Meet Caganer, a Catalonian tradition with a bowel movement problem! The peasant is often depicted wearing a traditional Catalonian barrantina hat, and well, relieving himself outdoors.

While nativity scenes in the U.S. tend to stick to the traditional stable, manger, and baby Jesus, European scenes often display an entire pastoral landscape. What would a model of Bethlehem be without a man defecating on the ground?

Caganer, who's name literally means "the crapper" or "the sh*tter," has been brightening up holiday festivities since the 18th century.

3. Ukraine: A Cobweb Christmas

Photo: Pulse Nigeria
Photo: Pulse Nigeria

One of Ukraine's favourite festive traditions is not one for those with a fear of creepy crawlies! Where we would have baubles, tinsel and stars, Ukrainians use decorations that mimic the natural formation of spiders' webs shimmering with dew.

The tradition goes back to a folktale about a poor widow who could not afford to decorate a tree for her children. Legend has it that spiders in the house took pity on the family, and spun beautiful webs all over the tree, which the children awoke to find on Christmas morning. Spiders' webs are also considered to be lucky in Ukrainian culture.

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4. Iceland: The Yule Cat

Photo: By Night
Photo: By Night

Animals are a big part of a lot of the mythology and traditions of many countries. In Iceland, there's a special Christmas tradition that involves a very special cat that roams the streets one time per year.

But this cat isn't the cute, friendly, four-legged friend that we might imagine roaming the streets of Iceland. According to myths and legends, the Yule Cat is a ferocious creature that wanders around during the winter time and eats anyone who hasn't gotten new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve.

5. Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas

Photo: Culture Trip
Photo: Culture Trip

Many families have a tradition of getting together on holidays like Christmas to enjoy a meal together. Whether it's turkey, ham, or a secret family recipe, enjoying dinner together is a huge part of the holidays for many families. This is also true in Japan! Even though Christmas is celebrated a lot differently and has only started to be celebrated in the past few decades, it's still popular for a lot of people.

So, what's the special meal that people eat during Christmas in Japan? KFC! In the 1970s, KFC in Japan started advertising a special campaign during the winter called Kentucky for Christmas. During Christmas, KFC sells a special range of family dinners meant to help people celebrate the holiday together.

6. Estonian Tradition: The Family Sauna Bath

Photo: Adobe Stock
Photo: Adobe Stock

Rather than gather around the Christmas tree in the living room to open presents, families in Estonia get naked together and head for the family sauna where they engage in a ‘cleansing’ sweat together. This is said to help purify bad blood and remove evil spirits from the family home. These Christmas saunas often involve the extended family too, made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And while people can take saunas with each other anytime of the year, the sauna at Christmas is particularly special.

Nothing like getting into the buff with your grandparents in a sauna. I guess the family that sweats together stays together. In Estonia, anyway.

7. New Zealand: A Different Christmas Tree

Photo: Gardening Know How
Photo: Gardening Know How

For many countries, the pine tree is the traditional Christmas tree. Whether you have a real or fake one, they sit in our living rooms, get decorated, and have gifts placed under them. But in New Zealand, they have a completely different type of Christmas tree.

In New Zealand, the Pohutukawa tree blooms with bright red flowers during December and January. This is actually summer in that part of the world, but Christmas is celebrated during the same time. This tree has important roots in Maori mythology and its bright red blooms and green leaves are a symbol of Christmas across New Zealand.

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8. Czech Republic: A pair of matchmakers

Photo: Wanderlust Travel Magazine
Photo: Wanderlust Travel Magazine

On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women stand with their back to the door and toss one of their shoes over their shoulder.

If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means that they’ll be married within the year.

If it lands with the heel facing the door, they’re in for another year of watching Bridget Jones movies. Perhaps it's better than marrying a heel, though.

9. South Africa: Fried Caterpillars

Photo: The Nomad Tours
Photo: The Nomad Tours

There are some foods around the world that are slightly strange to people that don't live there. Some of them are surprisingly delicious once you give them a chance, but then there are others that we could never imagine trying.

In South Africa, there's one really unusual food that tends to be eaten during the Christmas season. It's fried, crispy, and they say it's delicious. What is it? Fried caterpillars! On Christmas Day, people in South Africa snack on deep-fried caterpillars.

10. Italy: The Christmas Witch

Photo: Daily Italian Words
Photo: Daily Italian Words

In many cultures, Santa Claus is the person that travels around the world and delivers gifts to deserving young boys and girls on Christmas Eve. Kids are told to be good because Santa is watching them and will know if they behave! On Christmas morning, good kids are rewarded with gifts from this iconic figure.

But in Italy, there's someone else delivering gifts. Befana is the name of a witch in Italy who is said to travel around Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) to deliver gifts to children all over the country. If the children were good all year, their socks are filled with candy and gifts. But if they were bad? They get nothing but coal.

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