5 Weird & Wonderful Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Dec 24, 2019 · 16 mins read ·

Fun Stuff
Christmas tree and decorations

For this Christmas Eve blog post we thought we’d leave our typical topics of finding seafarer jobs and maritime recruitment alone for now and instead take a look at something a little more festive!

So let us present you with five slightly unusual Christmas traditions from around the world that you may or may not know about.Christmas is celebrated in a wide variety of different ways depending upon where in the world you are. Have you heard of any of these five slightly more unusual Christmas traditions?

5 weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world

1.The Krampus in Austria

Now you might have heard of Krampus as he featured in a 2015 movie of the same name. If you don’t know anything about this mythical creature, however, you might be surprised to learn that he seems to have a lot more in common with that other winter festival, Halloween, than he does with Christmas.

Person in black holding an animal skull surrounded by pumpkins and candles

In some countries in Europe Saint Nicholas has one or more companions who play the ‘bad cop’ to Saint Nick’s ‘good cop’.

And in Austria, this is the Krampus. Saint Nicholas rewards good little Austrian children while Krampus’ job is to punish the naughty ones by whipping them with a birch branch. He even goes as far as to put some children in his basket or sack and kidnapping them!

Read more: How to Stay Upbeat Onboard Your Vessel this Christmas

And if you think that’s scary, wait until you see him! The Krampus is a sort of half-goat demon. He has horns and a long tongue and drags chains behind him as he stalks the streets looking for badly behaved children.

Krampusnacht falls on the 5th of December, Saint Nicholas’ Eve. On this day people, especially young men, dress up as Krampus and take to the streets to parade around in their sinister costumes.

2. KFC in Japan

Okay, here’s one that’s a little less scary! Over in Japan, Christmas isn’t celebrated as a religious festival by the vast majority of the population, although traditions such as giving presents and decorative lights have started to catch on in the Land of the Rising Sun.

But one uniquely Japanese Christmas tradition has taken off in a big way - going to Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner. The restaurant chain even features Christmas specials on its menu in Japan - but how and why did this very modern custom come about?

It’s all thanks to good old advertising. Back in 1974 KFC in Japan launched a campaign called "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!" which means "Kentucky for Christmas!" - and it took off in a big way, seeping into the public consciousness and still maintaining its popularity today.

A KFC in Japan

If you feel like booking a flight to Tokyo to get your hands on some finger lickin’ good Christmas KFC though you might be too late. These days families are ordering their Christmas dinner boxes months in advance.

Or you could go and queue at a KFC restaurant if you don’t mind standing in line for two hours to get your Kentucky Fried Turkey!

3. Broom Hiding in Norway

Meanwhile back over in Northern Europe, people in Norway are busy on Christmas Eve hiding their brooms. Yes, you read that correctly.

This is a centuries old tradition and springs from the belief that evil spirits and witches would come out of hiding on December 24th for a spot of pre-Christmas black magic and mischief making. Of course, a witch’s preferred mode of transport is the broomstick so cautious homeowners would hide theirs to prevent it from being stolen.

And it’s a tradition that remains to this day, with many Norwegians (who probably don’t believe in witches and evil spirits!) hiding their broom somewhere in their home to keep it safe.

A woman peeping over the top of a household broom

4. Roller Skating in Venezuela

We’re off to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela now where the locals like to get their skates on when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Quite literally.

This is a tradition that no one seems to quite know when or how it started, but one thing is for sure, and that is that the residents of this sprawling metropolis strap on their roller skates or roller blades early on Christmas morning and glide their way through the city streets to church.

Mass is held early in the morning and this tradition of skating to a place of worship is now so immensely popular that the streets in parts of the city are closed before 8am so that young and old can safely skate together.

A group of people roller skating through a park

5. The Yule Cat in Iceland

To round this post of weird and wonderful Christmas traditions across the world off, we thought we’d finish in the same way we started: with something terrifying from Europe!

If children in Austria have the Krampus to contend with, almost 3,000 miles north, in Iceland, kiddies there must prepare themselves for an encounter with The Yule Cat, or Jólakötturinn as he’s called in his native tongue.

Think The Yule Cat sounds quite sweet? This is no normal kitty. The Yule Cat is HUGE and he is obsessed with fashion!

On Christmas Eve this furry monster prowls the streets, looking through the windows of homes to see who got something new to wear for the holiday season. If you did receive new clothes, and they’re up to The Yule Cat’s standards, you might just be safe. If not - well, first the cat’s going to eat all of your food - and then he’ll eat you.

A black cat peeping over the top of a wall

Even now, many people still make sure they give the gift of clothing to their loved ones - often presenting it to them on Christmas Eve morning to make sure The Yule Cat sees it when he’s doing his rounds later on that evening!

A very merry Christmas from Martide

So there we have it, just five of the many unusual and interesting Christmas traditions that can be found around the globe. We hope you enjoyed reading about them.

This Christmas, whether you’re hiding from the Krampus, tucking into Kentucky Fried Chicken, spending time ashore with loved ones, taking a break from the office, or spending Christmas working away from home at sea, Martide wish you all very safe, peaceful and happy holidays.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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