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Around the World in 21 Christmas Traditions

Written by: Rebecca Root

We’ve collected up the most unusual and interesting Christmas traditions from all over the globe to give you a taste of how other people like to celebrate the festive season.

1. Going bananas in India

Forget fir or pine, in India the choice of Christmas tree is a little more exotic… mango or banana. Who needs chocolate decorations when you have natural fruity treats hanging off the tree anyway?

2. Goats head gravy in Africa

In East Africa it’s out with the turkey and in with the goat. Locals roast one of these baaad boys for their Christmas dinner – and no, we’re not kidding…

3. Watch yours-elf in Denmark

Beware of Nisse, a mischievous elf who taunts the families of Denmark. He is most likely to appear over the festive period and should be avoided. He dresses in grey with a red bonnet and white clogs. Arm yourself with rice pudding on Christmas Eve to prevent further attacks.

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4. Santa Banter in Switzerland

Santa Claus is coming to town – well, thousands of them are. Each year teams dressed as Santa descend on the small town of Samnuan ready to take part in the Santa Claus World Championships. Teams spend two days climbing chimneys, singing carols and sleigh driving to battle it out for the title of World’s Best Father Christmas.

5. Doing things to the letter in Canada

The Canadian postal system is dedicated to making sure every letter addressed to Santa is received, read and replied to. As long as letters are addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole, HOH OHO, you’ll receive a personalised note in return.

6. Goblins in Greece

According to Greek legend, during the 12 Days of Christmas evil goblins lurk in the shadows causing mischief when nobody is looking. They creep down the chimneys between Christmas Day and January 6th and leave destruction in their wake.

7. Colonol Japaners

Forget turkey, in Japan it’s tradition to tuck into a good KFC the night before Christmas. This began after an ad campaign stating ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ hit Japan in 1974. Pizza Hut on Boxing Day, then?

8. Dumping on nativity tradition in Spain

We’ve all seen the traditional nativity scene: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and… a pooping man? In Catalonia, the nativity scene wouldn’t be complete without Caganer, aka a small man who celebrated the miracle of Jesus with a celebratory poop.

9. The hungry, hungry… Saffers

Turkey? Check. Christmas pudding? Check. Deep fried caterpillars? Er… in South Africa this wriggly treat is a traditional delicacy not to be missed at the dinner table.

10. Witch out for La Befana in Italy

Move over Santa, there’s a new mythical creature in town. La Befana is an old witch who travels by broom delivering more toys to children on January 5th. That’s double presents for Italian children; we’ll be moving there, then.

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11. Germany branches out with presents

Starting Christmas a little earlier than most, German children leave a shoe outside their homes on December 5th. If they’ve been good that year the children will wake to find it brimming with sweets but if they’ve been naughty they’ll receive a branch instead.

12. USA: Father Christmas walks into a bar…

Americans combine their love for Christmas with their love of partying and, the week before Christmas, thousands of people enjoy an all-day bar crawl dressed as big SC himself. Ho Ho Hurl.

13. Almond ricities in S-wed-en

Who needs a crystal ball when you have… rice pudding? Each year the Swedes hide an almond in their traditional dessert dish and claim that whoever finds it will be wed within the year.

14. Lobbing loksa in Slovakia

On Christmas Eve, the most senior man of the household takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling. The more mixture that sticks means the richer that man’s crops will be for the following year.

15. Sweepstakes in Guatemala

For Guatemalans, Christmas is a time to eat, drink and sweep. Yes, each neighborhood of people sweep out their homes to create a large pile of dirt in the town centre. Then they put an effigy of the devil on top of the pile and burn it to the ground – very cathartic.

16. Sticking it to the Man in Ethiopia

Ethiopians enjoy an extended Christmas on January 7th. On this day locals wear white clothes and men play a game with sticks and balls to mark the occasion.

17. Restonia

Christmas can be a stressful time, so what better way to rest than to head to the sauna? On Christmas Eve that’s exactly what Estonian families do. We wish you a sweaty Christmas and a perspiring New Year.

18. Thrown shoe over shoulder? Czech.

In the Czech Republic, Christmas is a time for giving – giving in to old superstitions, that is. Unmarried women stand by a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder and, depending on which way it falls, they’ll be able to tell if the following year will be their year to get married.

19. No time for crackers in Caracas

Combining a festive mass with an ‘80s roller disco, residents of Caracas skate to church on Christmas Day. Oh what fun it is to ride…

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20. Witches raiding broom cupboard? Nor-way, man!

On Christmas Eve, families hide away every broom in the house just in case evil spirits and witches swoop in and steal them. Locals pray for a silent night and a full broom cupboard the next day.

21. Ravishing radishes in Mexico

In Oaxaca, December 23rd is named the Night of the Radishes. Artists compete to carve out oversized veggies into human faces. The festival carries on over the next few days with fireworks and float parades.

Discover more interesting customs from around the world

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