Weird + Wacky Holiday Traditions Around the World!

Austria's Krampus

Austria's Krampus

According to Austrian folklore, jolly Saint Nicholas makes the rounds with a sidekick in tow - the devilish Krampus. This hairy creature visits Austrian children annually, but where Saint Nicholas bestows lavish gifts to all the good little girls and boys, Krampus does the unthinkable - he unleashes punishment to those on the naughty list! If he discovers a particularly bad child, he bundles him into a sack and carts him away, presumably for a midnight snack! The beastlike creature has Germanic roots and today, young people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets in Austria, Romania, Bavaria, and other Balkan countries to frighten young children. Merry-or not-so-merry-Krampus!

Spain's Caganer

Spain's Caganer

In Catalonia, Spainthere is an infamous male Nativity scene figurine, who is ckakssically portrayed with his pants rolled down, while in mid-squat. Who is he? Why, he's the traditional Spanish Caganer. What? Well, his true nature is revealed when you translate his name - the defecator. Folklore says that farmers would be punished with a poor crop harvest and bad fortune if they didn't include a caganer within their nativity scene. Today, the tradition continues with Christmas markets selling old school caganers alongside new versions that feature famous celebrities and politicans. The figures symbolize fertilization, hope and prosperity for the coming year.

Japan's Kentucky for Christmas

Japan's Kentucky for Christmas

While it’s true Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, the Japanese do have a December 25th tradition - but you'll be surprised what it centers on: Kentuck Fried Chicken! In fact, the Colonel's special recipe is so popular in Japan on Christmas day, KFC suggests that customers place their holiday order two months in advance. And it’s all thanks to the insanely successful 'Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!' (Japanese for 'Kentucky for Christmas!') marketing campaign started back in 1974 when KFC bosses unveiled their first Christmas meal for visiting foreigners, who wanted something that resembled a traditional holiday dinner. As it turns out, locals embraced the Christmas dinner too - and now 40 years late - this unique KFC tradition is still going strong in Japan to this day.

Wales' Mari Lwyd

Wales' Mari Lwyd

In Wales - from late December through January - a knock at your door might unveil a strange visitor... namely an elaborately decorated horse's skull, attached to a long wood pole, covered by a sheet or blanket. What is this strange appariton? Why it's Mari Lwyd - aka the Grey Mare - and her party of five or six revelers. But don't be scared; the Mari Lwyd and her handlers travel from house to house singing and engaging residents in rhyming contests. Once the traditional opening verses are sung, Mari Lwyd and company are answered by those inside with challenges and insults. A battle of wits known as a pwnco ensues, where riddles, challenge,s and insults must be exchanged in rhyme. If Mari’s party wins the pwnco, the Mari party enters with another song and is given drinks and treats. This is not as foreign a tradition you might think - it is referred to in the Christmas carol “Here We Come A-wassailing.”

Germany's Christmas pickle

Germany's Christmas pickle

The Germans love a good game of “hide the pickle.” Sounds naughty - but it's not what you think... Each Christmas, parents across the country, hide a pickle for their children to find in their Christmas tree. The first child who discovers the pickle gets an extra gift. Why is this done? Well- according to German folklore, two boys traveling home from a boarding school for the holidays stopped at an inn for the night - the evil innkeeper killed the boys and put them in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nick stopped at the inn, found the boys in the pickle barrel, and then miraculously brought them back to life. Find that pickle!

Finland: Cemetery tradition

Finland: Cemetery tradition

In Finland, a classic Christmas tradition it to visit the local cemetery - but it’s not as morbid as it might sound. It’s aspecial custom to visit your buried relatives at sunset on Christmas Eve - for families to have a moment of reflection with those no longer here with them. Many cemeteries and churches hold brief services complete with hymns and moments of reflection while family members lay lanterns and lit candles on the graves to remember departed loved ones, making Finnish graveyards at Christmas a beautiful sight to behold. Many people stroll in their local graveyards on Christmas, even if none of their relatives are buried there, just to enjoy the tranquil candlelit scene. This touching custom began in the 1920s, when candles were placed on the graves of World War I soldiers.

Guatemala: La Quema del Diablo

Guatemala: La Quema del Diablo

La Quema del Diablo - or the Burning the Devil - is a tradition held on December 7, at 6pm sharp. Guatemalans sweep their homes, collect trash from around their property, and create a massive heap of refuse in the street. As a final touch, the pile is crowned with an effigy of the devil and set ablaze. Why is this done? It's a symbolic cleansing ritual said to cleans homes from evil spirits and negative energy before the upcoming Christmas festivites. After the Quema del Diablo, the Christmas celebrations can begin!

Colombia: New Year's Grapes

Colombia: New Year's Grapes

In Colombia, New Year's is considered a very special night - and to celebrate and set intentions for the coming year - Colombians eat 12 grapes as the clock turns twelve. Each grape represents a month of the New Year- and with each grape one can make a wish. But here's the only caveat: you must finish eating all the grapes within the first minute of the New Year. Oh - let’s not forget colored panties - yes, you read that right. There is a superstition that if you wear yellow underwear on New Year's Eve, it brings wealth and prosperity in the coming year - so get your grapes and yellow lingerie next time you celebrate New Year's Colomian style!

Iceland's Yule Lads

Iceland's Yule Lads

In Iceland, children put their best foot forward at holiday time. During the 13 days before Christmas, Icelandic children leave a shoe on their windowsill. While they sleep each night, 13 magical Yule Lads climb down from the mountains and stuff the shoes of well-behaved children with gifts. Naughty kids end up with shoes stuffed with rotting potatoes! Originally, the Yule Lad tradition had a more sinister tone and many parents used their mysterious nighttime visits to scare their children into behaving.

Italy's Befana

Italy's Befana

Don't waste your time asking Santa Claus for presents on Christmas Eve in Italy. Instead, Italian children await the arrival of Befana, a friendly witch who travels around the world by broomstick, entering each house through the chimney. She delivers sweets and gifts on the Eve of Epiphany - January 5th - to well-behaved children, obliging parents to leave out a plate of delicous regional cuisine (often broccoli with spiced sausage and a glass of wine) for Befana. Come the morning of January 6th, happy faces awake to a bounty of treats tucked into their stockings.

Mexico's Night of the Radishes

Mexico's Night of the Radishes

On December 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico, the Noche de Rabanos - or Night of the Radishes - is celebrated; where vegetable carving is the star of this holiday show. But instead of a big orange pumpkin, the vegetable of choice is the humble red radish! The people of Oaxaca present the most impressive displays of carved vegetables in the world. The radishes are grown especially for this event - and remain on display through Christmas day. The miniature radish exhibits depict the Nativity scene and other events from Mexican folklore. Originally, the tradition of radish carving was done by shopkeepers who wanted to entice people into their stores. Today, it’s a three-day festival. ¡Viva el Rabano!

SantaCon - Cities Worldwide

SantaCon - Cities Worldwide

What began as a nonsensical gathering of San Franciscans dressed as Santa Claus has become a worldwide annual pub crawl, in which people dressed as Santa Claus costumes drunkenly parade in cities around the world. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014, the official website describes it as “a convention of Santas - groups of men and women dressed as Santa.” But don't' be lazy with your outfit - as specified in the very important guidelines, one cannot merely show up in a Santa hat, you need to really get your "Santa on" for SantaCon! And don't call your friend by his name - one must address every single participant as “Santa.”

Ethiopia: Ganna

Ethiopia: Ganna

Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th - and the tradition is for people to dress in white clothes and play ganna – a fast pace, brutal ball-and-stick game with high injury potential. According to local tradition, the biblical shepherds played the game when they first heard about the birth of Jesus. But ganna is anything but peaceful. The balls are made from olive wood or leather, which can easily knock out a player. Ethiopians don’t give and receive presents, ganna (also their name for Christmas) is more of a time for going to church, eating, and playing rough-and-tumble games!

Portuguese Consoada

Portuguese Consoada

The Portugeuse enjoy a traditional holiday feast called Consoada on Christmas Eve that honors dead friends and relatives who can no longer join in the holiday celebration. One normally leaves an empty chair at the table for the alminhas a penar (“souls of the dead”) who may be present at the feast. Leftovers remain on the table overnight for hungry ghosts who might drop in later. All in all a considerate feast for the dearly departed!

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