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Christmas is a time for traditions that are shared with family and friends. Whether it’s Santa Claus, or singing carols, or heading to your chosen religious observation, there are many holiday traditions that are held close to everyone’s hearts. But the United States isn’t the only country with holiday traditions. All around the world, people in other places celebrate traditions that have a rather strange take on what we in the states consider familiar. Here are some of the strangest alternatives to some rather familiar holiday traditions. 

Santa In Chimney Cookies and Letters to Santa 

Mysterious Visitors in the Night


Santa Claus is a fixture in the Western world, known for visiting children in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning. He delivers toys and treats to good kids, and for the bad children, he leaves a lump of coal. In other parts of the world, however, Santa isn’t the only visitor during the holidays.

    In Austria and some other parts of Europe, Krampus is the dark side of Santa Claus’ light. Krampus is a half-goat demon that roams the night, searching out bad children and beating them with birch branches.
      South Wales has a tradition of carrying a horse or mare’s skull on a pole as celebrants travel from home to home. These visits are called wassailing and predate the tradition of caroling. This grisly ribbon-festooned skull is called the Mari Lwyd and has been a tradition since the early 1800s.
        Italians don’t look for Santa Claus to bring gifts. Instead, a kind old witch named Befana delivers presents to deserving children candy and presents. Instead of cookies and milk, people leave Befana a glass of wine and small servings of local delicacies.

          In Greece, people are on the lookout for Kallikantzaroi, a race of goblins that spend the year trying to cut down the World Tree to bring about the end of the world. During the 12 days of Christmas, they escape to the surface to play tricks on people. Then they go back to the tree, only to find that it has healed during the 12 days they spent on the surface.

          Christmas Tree, Holiday Decorations

            Decorating Ideas 

            For many people, Christmas is all about the tree and the decorations. From mistletoe to garlands of popcorn and cranberries, people festoon their homes in lights, colors, and all sorts of holiday cheer. There are as many strange holiday traditions around the world as there are ways to put lights and ornaments on your tree. Here are some of the most bizarre decorations you’ll find during the holidays.

              The Christmas Pickle is a decoration that has actually migrated from its home in Germany to the United States. MaThere’s a tradition that the Christmas pickle is the last ornament to be hidden on the Christmas tree where the children can’t see it. The first child to find it on Christmas gets a special gift and good luck all year.

                Catalonia is a small part of Spain located in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula. It’s also home to Barcelona, the capital of Spain. They are also home to two of the strangest Christmas decorating traditions, both involving pooping. The Caganer is a small figurine that shows a man pooping. This is placed in the traditional Nativity scene and hidden for kids to find.

                The second pooping holiday tradition from Catalonia is the Christmas log, or the Tio de Nadal. It’s also known as the Caga Tio, or pooping log. The log is hollow with a face on one end. Every night, family gathers to pretend to feed the log and cover it with a blanket. On Christmas Eve, the family gathers around the log and beats it with a stick, making it “poop” out dates, figs, candies, and other treats. The last thing that comes out is usually an onion or herring.

                  In Sweden, holiday décor traditionally consists of a straw goat. This Yule Goat –also called a julbocken – is supposed to have its roots in Norse mythology and the goats that Thor rode. You can find a yule goat all over and in many forms, from giant statues that are set on fire, to small ornaments that are put on trees.

                  Lots of presents

                    Gifts That Keep Giving 

                    Christmas and the holidays have their own special foods in the United States. The Christmas goose or turkey and the traditional meal is as much a staple of the holiday as the tree and presents. Holiday foods are celebrated all over the world, and each has their own special meaning to each culture. Some, however, are pretty strange, at least to the western world.

                      You might not think of Kentucky Fried Chicken as the quintessential holiday dinner, but in Japan, a bucket of KFC is the traditional Christmas dinner. Many restaurants in Japan take preorders for buckets of chicken weeks in advance for the special meal. Keep in mind; this isn’t just a normal 12-piece bucket. The meal also includes a special cake, salad, and a commemorative bucket.
                        For something a little stranger, a little smaller, and a little crunchier, look no farther than South Africa. A traditional Christmas delicacy is Mopane, or fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth. The caterpillar is a traditionally harvested food during the holiday, so it’s a natural pairing.
                          Greenland celebrates another type of harvest during the Christmas season. Traditional Inuit delicacies are feasted upon, with raw whale skin (mattak) served with a thick layer of blubber attached. Another local delicacy is kiviak. This is fermented sea bird that has been stewing in a seal skin for seven months.
                            Probably one of the weirdest and most quintessential foods that mark the Christmas holiday is the fruitcake. Does anyone really eat them? Or do they just store them in tins until they can be re-gifted the next year. This food has its earliest roots in Ancient Rome and then in the Middle Ages in 13th century Italy. Since then, it’s been made fun of by comedians, bashed by chefs, and become a staple of horror for kids and diners each holiday season.





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