Search Menu

Weird Christmas Traditions Around the World

Weird Christmas Traditions Around the World

"Our Christmas traditions are normal." That's what everyone thinks. Wait, what is normal about a fat guy in a red velvet suit sneaking into our house and eating our food and leaving us things that clearly have a Made in China sticker on them? To top it off, he leaves you coal if you've been bad even once that year, causing all sorts of early childhood anxiety. Welp, it's pretty clear that all over the globe, there are no normal Christmas traditions, only weird, MAGICAL ones! Check out the bananas things these other countries do to celebrate the winter solstice/yuletide! (Also, what is yuletide? The thing with the log? Who's tradition is that? Ours?)

Greenland: Eat "Kiviak"

Guys, I don't even know to describe this with out it sounding like the worst thing you've ever heard, so here I go—just keep an open mind, it is apparently delicious. A very popular dish around the holidays in Greenland is something called Kiviak. To make this dish, take about 500 local birds called "auks" and stuff them into the body of a dead seal: beaks, feet, feathers, and all. Sew up the seal and seal any orifices with grease. Place a large rock on top of the seal to keep out as much air as possible and let sit for a few months. This is not a science experiment, it is a festive recipe. When you open the seal, you will be bowled over by a smell like Stilton cheese, but work through it because the birds are quite yummy. (????????) It's cold up there guys, don't judge.

Iraq: Let it Burn!

A big pile of twigs and thorns are gathered in front of the house and lit on fire. If the fire burns swiftly and peacefully down to the ashes, the family within that house will have good fortune that year. (I guess if anything else happened it would be bad luck all around.) Once the fire is reduced to ashes, everyone jumps over them three times, making wishes.

Spain, Catalonia: Caganer—Christmas Pooper

Ok, I don't even—whatever, this is how Catalonia does it. A Caganer is a figurine of someone pooping. Not into a terlet, just onto the ground. The statues are usually very cute and Snow White-dwarf looking, usually a peasant with a traditional red Catalan Cap, a white shirt, and black pants that are around his ankles as he squats, producing a turd that looks like it came out of Dairy Queen soft serve machine. They are usually placed in nativity scenes (?????) and symbolize hope, fertilization, (geddit?), and prosperity. Ewwkay!

Ukraine: Web Trees

Hey, 'member back a couple years when there were these horrifying floods in Pakistan, and afterwards all of the trees looked like cotton candy plumes, but it was actually just bajillions of spiders moving up into the trees and swarming them with webs? Remember your nightmares? Come to Ukraine at Christmas time to relive them! No, just kidding. But Christmas threes are typically decorated with fake webs and spiders! And it is a sweet story. One version, is that on Christmas Eve, a poor family went to bed, lamenting that they did not have gifts or anything with which to decorate their tree. The spiders, overhearing this, took it upon themselves to decorate the tree with their beautiful webs, and the next morning the webs turned to gold and silver. SPIDERS ARE SO NICE BUT THEY LOOK SO TERRIBLE.

Caracas, Venezuela: Roller Skates!

I know it might seem like I'm making these up, but I swear to the tiny baby Jesus that these are real Christmas traditions. Like this one: everyone in the city of Caracas rollerskates to Christmas Mass. The streets are closed off for about a week before hand, and it is the holiest rollerderby you've ever seen.

Iceland: The Yule Cat (Jolakotturinn)

So if we're bad, we worry about getting coal in our stocking (that will most likely just be made out of chocolate, let's face it), but in Iceland there is a giant black cat that eats the children! And not for being bad, but for not working hard enough. Whatever keeps morale up!

Oaxaca, Mexico: Night of the Radishes

Noche de los rábanos is celebrated in Oaxaca every December 23. Adorably tiny and terrifyingly huge radishes are shaped and sculpted into all sorts of figurines, nativity and otherwise. Radish people are very cute but taste terrible.

What are your weird late-December traditions?

Topics: Life
Tags: christmas, traditions, cultures, pooping, we're learning

Write your own comment!

About the Author
Sara Jonsson

Sara Jonsson is a Brooklyn-based writer, storyteller, and comic-book-movie lover. She can sometimes be found hosting variety shows, or writing web series about girls waiting in bathroom lines. She is from Montana and and dreams of one day interior designing ranch houses for a living.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email