14 Christmas Traditions You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Every country seems to boast at least one weird and wonderful Christmas tradition. Here are our favorites from around the world!
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Eating KFC for dinner
In 1974, KFC released a marketing campaign in Japan. The simple but effective slogan, Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii! (Kentucky Christmas!) created a tradition that is going strong to this day. Here’s how to make the best fried chicken at home any day of the year.
Hanging mushroom ornaments on the tree
No, folks who hang mushrooms all over their tree aren’t serious fungi fans. In parts of Germany and Austria, these red and white mushrooms are said to bring good fortune. Known as a gluckspilz, you’ll find these mushrooms adorning trees, wreaths and trinkets around the holiday season. Why these showy red mushrooms? They grow around the base of fir trees!
Roller skating to church
In Caracas, Venezuela, many energetic Mass-goers celebrate the Christmas holiday on roller skates. In fact, there are so many Yuletide skaters that some of the city’s streets are closed to traffic from 8 a.m. on Christmas day to keep the skaters safe.
Sharing Christmas wafers with the family (even pets)
On Christmas Eve, people in Poland break apart thin wafers called oplatki and share them with their families. Wafers are passed around the table as everyone wishes good tidings upon their loved ones.
But what about your pets? They’re part of the family too! In many packets of oplatki, you’ll find a pink wafer that’s meant to be shared with your furry pals. Well, traditionally this wafer would have been shared with farm animals, but today people of Polish extraction share with their dogs and cats.
Waiting for Befana the witch
In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children on the night of January 5. Befana visits on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill good kids’ socks with candy and presents. The naughty kids are gifted with a lump of coal or black rock candy.
Taking a holiday sauna
In Finland, where many homes have a sauna, it’s customary on Christmas Eve to take a sauna with the family. Here you thought discussing politics over dinner could be awkward! After the sauna, Finns continue the evening celebrations—presumably clothed. Skip the sauna and warm up with a Christmas casserole instead.
Watching Donald Duck
In Sweden, a show called Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul or Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas is must-see TV every Christmas. The tradition started in the 1960s and more than 40% of Sweden still tunes in. If a trip to Disney is on your Christmas wish list, here’s a guide to the best places to eat.
Trim a banana tree
In India, fir trees are not as prevalent, so celebrants there make do with what they have: banana and mango trees! These trees are adorned with lights and ornaments on the street and their leaves decorate inside people’s homes.
Eating fried caterpillars
In South Africa, people munch on fried Emperor moth caterpillars on Christmas for extra luck in the coming year. They may not bring luck, but a batch of Christmas cookies will certainly bring smiles. (You can buy a rabbit’s foot for the luck.)
Decorating with spider ornaments
In Ukraine and Poland, Christmas trees are decorated with spider web ornaments. The tale goes that spiders in the house of a poor family once spun webs all over the tree on Christmas Eve. When the rays of morning sunlight hit the webs, they turned them into strands of gold and silver. If you want a little Halloween on your Christmas tree, here’s the full story.
Giving the pudding a stir
In the UK, families all take a turn making the Christmas pudding on Stir-Up Sunday. The Sunday before the start of Advent, families gather to stir up a holiday pudding like this plum pudding. While the term “stir up” comes from a centuries-old Anglican prayer book, today families have adapted the term and use it as a reason to gather with family.
Because these puddings are a lot of hard work, everyone takes a turn helping. Everyone that gives the batter a stir also gets to make a wish for the coming year.
Finding an orange in your stocking
Oranges are often found in shoes or stockings on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) to symbolize the gold balls St. Nicholas would throw to poor girls in the 4th century as dowry money, according to one legend.
Keeping an eye out for Krampus
Krampus (sort of an anti-Santa) is believed by some to be a half-goat and half-demon that comes for naughty children in early December. The legend started in Germany, but later found its way to the U.S. As Santa might say, “You’d better watch out…”