British Culture

Unwrapping the Magic: 23 Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Have you ever considered enjoying a KFC meal on Christmas Day? Or perhaps, on occasion, have you found something less desirable than expected, like a surprising encounter with rotten potatoes in your shoes?

Christmas is a time of wonder and celebration, and every corner of the globe adds its unique twist to this festive season.

At Evan Evans Tours, we’re delighted to unveil the enchanting and unique Christmas traditions that make the season special for people from different cultures worldwide.

1. La Befana in Italy: The Magical Witch

Italy introduces us to La Befana, the whimsical Christmas witch who visits on January 5th. Children hang stockings, hoping she’ll leave small gifts and sweets. La Befana is still on a quest to find the baby Jesus, and her heartwarming gifts reflect her kindness.

2. Krampus in Austria: A Dark Companion

Austria and Bavaria bring a thrilling twist to Christmas with Krampus, St. Nicholas’s menacing companion. With his horns and fur, Krampus punishes naughty children with switches and chains, ensuring good behaviour.

3. KFC Christmas Dinner in Japan: A Unique Feast

In Japan, a delicious KFC Christmas dinner is a must-try tradition. Many Japanese families order their KFC meals in advance, creating a unique twist on the Christmas feast.

4. Barbies on the beach in New Zealand

Christmas falls during summer in New Zealand, leading to the tradition of “barbies” (grilling sessions) on the beach. Families and friends gather for alfresco dining, enjoying fresh seafood, meat, and seasonal vegetables.

5. Rotten Potatoes in Iceland

Iceland’s 13 days of Christmas are marked by visits from the 13 Yule Lads. Children place their shoes by the window each night, receiving sweets for good behaviour or encountering rotten potatoes if they’ve been less than angelic.

6. St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden: Saffron and Light

Sweden’s St. Lucia’s Day on December 13th is a heartwarming spectacle. The eldest daughter of each family becomes St. Lucia, donning a white robe and a crown of candles, serving saffron buns and coffee.

7. Tió de Nadal in Catalonia: The Beating Log

In Catalonia, Spain, the playful tradition of Tió de Nadal features a Christmas log that children “beat” to reveal hidden gifts. It’s a festive experience like no other.

8. Gävle Goat in Sweden: A Fiery Tradition

Gävle, Sweden, brings a fiery debate to Christmas with its towering straw goat. Locals eagerly await its fate each year, with potential arsonists posing a thrilling challenge.

9. Carolling with Lanterns in Colombia: A Luminous Celebration

Colombian children celebrate the Day of the Candles on December 7th. They carry lanterns, candles, and their voices to spread Christmas cheer, illuminating the streets with a warm glow.

10. The Yule Lads in Iceland: Mischievous Trolls

Iceland’s 13 playful Yule Lads visit children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. They leave either treats or tricks in children’s shoes, depending on their behaviour.

11. South Korea: Money Presents!

In South Korea, it’s a common tradition to give money as a gift during the Christmas season. This practice is similar to the Korean New Year’s tradition of giving “Sebae Don” (New Year’s money) in colourful envelopes. The money given during Christmas is often placed in festive, decorative envelopes.

12. Roller Skating to Church in Caracas: A Unique Commute

Witness the vibrant tradition of roller skating to early morning Christmas church services in Venezuela, a lively and spirited celebration.

13. Las Posadas in Mexico: A Time-Honoured Journey

Mexico’s Las Posadas reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. With processions, songs, and piñata-breaking, it’s a heartwarming and joyous tradition.

14. Kransekake in Norway: Towering Almond Delight

Norway presents the Kransekake, an exquisite Christmas dessert. This towering, almond pastry ring cake is a culinary masterpiece, adding grandeur to the Christmas feast.

15. The Christmas Pickle in the USA: A Game of Hide and Seek

The USA’s amusing tradition involves hiding a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The lucky child who finds it receives an extra gift, adding an element of fun and surprise to Christmas.

16. St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland: Wren Hunting

On December 26th, Irish children dress up and carry a fake wren from house to house, singing and collecting sweets and small change. It’s a lively and festive tradition.

17. Mistletoe Kissing in England: A Romantic Tradition

Hanging mistletoe and sharing kisses beneath it is a popular Christmas tradition in many English-speaking countries, symbolising love and affection.

18. The Christkind in Germany: Angelic Gift-Giver

Germany’s Christkind, portrayed as an angelic figure, brings gifts to children, adding a touch of wonder to the Christmas season.

19. Picnicking in South Africa: An Outdoor Feast

South Africans celebrate Christmas with outdoor picnics and barbecues, thanks to the warm December weather, creating a unique and festive atmosphere.

20. Wigilia in Poland: A Feast of Twelve

Poland’s Wigilia, a Christmas Eve meal, features 12 meatless dishes, symbolising the 12 apostles. It’s a time-honoured tradition filled with delicious and symbolic foods.

21. Foie Gras in France

In France, especially during the Christmas season, foie gras (fatty liver of duck or goose) is a traditional and luxurious delicacy that holds a significant place in festive culinary celebrations. 

22. The Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines: A Dazzling Display

The city of San Fernando, Philippines, hosts a spectacular Giant Lantern Festival with oversized lanterns lighting up the night in a breathtaking celebration.

23. Breakfast Tradition in Finland

In Finland, Christmas morning is celebrated with rice and milk porridge topped with cinnamon, milk, or butter. Whoever finds the almond placed inside one of the puddings “wins,” adding an element of surprise to the Christmas breakfast.

This Christmas season, let’s embrace the wonderful diversity of traditions around the world, appreciating the joy and magic they bring to this special time of year.

Evan Evans Tours London invites you to explore these remarkable customs and create your own festive memories with an exciting selection of Christmas Eve and Boxing Day tours.