Unique and Strange Holiday Traditions from Around the World
Austria – The Krampus
Thanks to American horror movies and other pop culture references, you might have heard of this Austrian folk character already. Think of him as the Anti-Santa, traveling around the world in search of naughty boys and girls that he can kidnap in his little bag. Definitely not the one you want to have coming down your chimney.
Japan – Christmas Fried Chicken
Although Japan doesn’t really have a strong connection to Christmas, there is a strong adoration of American culture. Due to a very successful ad campaign in the mid 70’s KFC convinced most of Japan that America loves fried Chicken on December 25th, and every year the lines at Japanese KFC’s are out and around the door still to this day.
Wales – Mari Lwyd – the Grey Mare
From December to January if you live in Wales, you might find yourself visited by Mari Lwyd, the Grey Mare. Or more accurately the skull of a horse on a stick, wrapped in a sheet and accompanied by holiday carolers. It’s considered good luck to invite the Mari Lwyd into your home or business.
Finland – Cemetery Memorials
Less strange, and more touching; started in the 1920’s with candles on veterans graves, Finland started a more somber tradition of mourning the dead on Christmas Eve. Expanded now to all lost loved ones, cemeteries in Finland are very busy every year with people grieving those they’ve lost the world over.
Guatemala – La Quema del Diablo
Translated to “The Burning of the Devil” this holiday tradition is celebrated on December 7th. Families gather up all their garbage from in and around their homes and make heaps in the streets, then place an adorable little paper mache Devil on top. Burning the refuse heaps near sun down is said to rid your home of evil spirits.
Mexico – Flores de Noche Buena
Meaning “Flowers of the holy night” These flowers are better known as Poinsettias. A Mexican folk story suggests that two young boys offered a meager Christmas gift of an old branch. The boys were mocked but, the following morning, the branch grew beautiful vibrant red star shaped flowers. US Mexican ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett later would bring some of the flowers to America, where they would later be renamed the Poinsettia.
Iceland – Yule Lads
Children leave their shoes out on the windowsill for the from December 12th to the 23rd for the Magical Yule Lads who make their way down the mountains and fill them the shoes with gifts for all the good children, and for the naughty kids they only leave a potato. Still better than a lump of coal!
Spain – Tió de Nadal
Translated into simply “the Christmas Log” this traditional folk character is an interesting one to say the least. Spanish children are given a log with a cartoon face and two front legs to keep it’s face higher than the other end. It’s their job to keep the log fed, and covered with a blanket from Dec. 8th through Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve night, the children’s parents will lift the back end of the blanket and stuff presents into the hollow back end of the log, creating the illusion that their hard work and feedings have led their Tió to “pass” an assortment of Christmas presents.