Weird Christmas Traditions Worldwide



Almost everybody has once heard about some weird Christmas tradition. Whether it’s Japan’s finger-lickin’ good feast or the Austrian beast Krampus, you would be surprised at how other countries celebrate this holiday.

So, to save you some precious time, we found the top five uncanny Christmas traditions for you!


1. Iceland: The Yule Lads

Iceland is the kind of country that always goes big on Christmas! Their festive traditions kick off on December 12th, making it a big celebration.

What’s more shocking is that Icelandic children don’t only get presents on Christmas Eve. Instead, on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, Icelanders receive visits from 13 Yule Lads, descending one by one from the mountains, bearing gifts.

This group of jolly, elderly lads weren’t always as kind. Well-behaved kids get a small gift from each of the Yule Lads. Meanwhile, naughty children only get a potato, which is usually either raw or rotten.

Their level of mischievousness has changed over the centuries. Obviously, what each of the Yule Lads is known for has also changed over the years. Now, the most widely accepted version of the tale comes from the 1932 poem Jólasveinavísur, written by Jóhannes frá Kötlum.

Here’s the list of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads‘ names, in the order they’re said to come down from the mountains:

Stekkjastaur – The Sheep milk Stealer

Giljagaur – The Cow Milk Thief

Stúfur (Stubby) – The Leftovers Thief

Þvörusleikir – The Spoon Licker

Pottasleikir – The Pot Licker

Askasleikir – The Bowl Licker

Hurðaskellir – The Door Slammer

Skyrgámur – The Skyr Gobbler (He’s ravenous for skyr, Icelandic yoghurt.)

Bjúgnakrækir – The Sausage Swiper

Gluggagægir – The Window Peeper

Gáttaþefur – The Door Sniffer

Ketrókur – The Meat Hook

Kertasníkir – The Candle Beggar

To really understand the full story, check out this short video:

The Story of Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads


2. Catalonia: Caga Tió

Look at this cutie! Isn’t he festive?

At first glance, Caga Tió (also known as Tió de Nadal) may look like your average, smiley log, but the tradition holds a special place in Catalan Christmas celebrations.

The name itself offers a clue to the curious nature of this ritual. Literally translated, ‘Caga Tió’ means ‘pooping log’. Although it may sound silly, it makes perfect sense! Catalonian children ‘feed’ this respected log in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the kids strike the log with bats while singing traditional songs, encouraging it to ‘poop’ out presents and sweets.

It sounds unreal, but it’s true!


3. Austria: Krampus

Enter the darker side of Christmas with Krampus Night in Austria. Now, don’t be scared when you see him, but while St. Nicholas rewards the nice, Krampus punishes the naughty, creating a yuletide balance between good and mischief.

Although he may not be the best looking, Krampus is a well-respected figure in Alpine folklore. Hailing from Austrian traditions, Krampus surfaces during the Christmas season, particularly on Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) on December 5th.

He represents the darker side of Yuletide celebrations. Cloaked in chains and carrying birch branches, Krampus is tasked with punishing naughty children, dragging them to his lair, or delivering stern reminders of moral behavior.

This mythical beast is a fusion of pre-Christian Alpine customs and medieval Christian imagery and serves as a warning for misbehaving children to change and be good.


4. Ukraine: The Cobweb Tree

In the western part of Ukraine, people authentically decorate their Christmas trees with cobweb-like and spider-shaped ornaments. Spooky!

The inspiration for this tradition stems from an Eastern European folktale called The Legend of the Christmas Spider. This famous legend goes something like this:

There once was a widow living in a cramped hut with her children. One day, a pine cone dropped from the tree outside and took root. The children, excited by the idea of a tree for Christmas, cared for the seedling and made plans on how they would decorate the tree.

Poverty was their way of life and when Christmas approached, the widow knew that they would not be able to decorate the tree. And so, they left the tiny tree bare on Christmas Eve and went to bed. The next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with intricately woven cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into real gold and silver. The mother and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again.

5. Japan’s Christmassy Feast

Most people will agree that food is one of the main attractions of the festive season. A traditional meal might resemble those scenes from classic Christmas films: glazed ham, hundreds of different casseroles, mashed potatoes, and so on. Japan is on a whole different level!

Colonel Sanders is a Japanese icon for a good reason. Families gather yearly around buckets of fried chicken. In Japan, Christmas has always been a secular celebration. Most schools close on the 25th of December, but rather to acknowledge the end of the year than to welcome Santa. There are little ways in which the country does come alive around this time though – Japan’s world-famous illuminations, Christmas trees decked up in glitz and families enjoying buckets of KFC.