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10 Unusual Holiday Traditions From Around the World

Last updated on October 11, 2019 at 10:12 am

Have you ever wondered how other people celebrate the holiday season? Well, countries all over the world have their own unique traditions, from receiving candy in shoes to collecting trash for a ceremonial burning. Here are 10 unusual holiday traditions from around the world.

  1. First up on our list is Latvia, where during the winter solstice many Latvians put on various masks, such as resembling bears, horses, or gypsies parading about town singing songs and telling neighborhood residents their fortunes for the coming year.
  2. Next up is Donald Duck. Back in 1958, Disney released a TV special called “From All of Us to You.” Since then, it has aired in Sweden every year on December 24 and is watched by nearly 50% of the country’s population. The show, called Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul which translates to “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas”, is so entrenched in Swedish culture that there is even an exhibit at the Stockholm Museum devoted to it.
  3. From Sweden to Iceland, it is a quick trip to learn about the Yule Lads. Icelandic children leave a shoe on their windowsills from December 12 to 23. According to the folklore, one of 13 magical Yule Lads climbs down from the Icelandic mountains each night to leave gifts in the shoes of the best behaved, and potatoes in the shoes of the not-so-well behaved.
  4. Ever have a hankering for a gherkin during Christmas morning? Well, you might be in luck this year. The Christmas Pickle is a tradition with origins dating back to the 19th century in America. On Christmas morning, an actual pickle is hidden somewhere in the Christmas tree, and the first child to find it gets an extra gift. In recent years, pickle ornaments have replaced actual pickles.
  5. Strap on your roller skates for the next tradition because we are heading to Caracas, Venezuela, where each year the streets are closed to all vehicular traffic on Christmas Eve so individuals can attend mass by roller skating.
  6. What says ”holidays” more than KFC and wine? Apparently not much else if you live in Japan, where this combo has been on the holiday menu at Colonel Sanders’ joint for over 40 years. In fact, Japanese KFC locations see a sales increase of almost 10% due to its holiday meal deal.
  7. The next tradition brings us to England, where crackers are a big part of the holiday tradition but we aren’t talking about food. These crackers are thin cardboard tubes wrapped in holiday paper that are twisted at both ends. The tradition is that two people grab opposing ends and pull. The tub “cracks” apart with a bang, and the individual with the bigger half wins the prize inside.
  8. From England, it is just a short flight to Italy, which is easy when you are a witch. That’s right, on January 5, Italian boys and girls can look forward to a visit from La Befana on the eve of Epiphany. St. Nicks’ number one competitor is an old lady who arrives covered in soot riding a broomstick down your chimney to deliver gifts and candy. But this being Italy, she isn’t interested in cookies or milk. She’s looking for left out wine and good food to get the best gifts.
  9. In Guatemala, some time around December 7, residents sweep their homes, collect trash from around the local properties, and create one collective (and huge) trash pile. Then they top it off with an effigy of Satan and set the entire pile on fire to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
  10. That isn’t the only way to kick off the holiday celebration, though. In Wales, you may get a visit from the Mari Lwyd (or “Grey Mare” in English). For this tradition, groups of five or six revelers elaborately decorate a horse skull, attach it to a long wooden pole, and cover it with a sheet. They then take to the streets, skull and all, and engage the local residents in rhyming contests. Their presence in your home or establishment is thought to bring good luck.

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2 thoughts on “10 Unusual Holiday Traditions From Around the World

  1. Great info on foreign Christmas customs, but I believe the Christmas pickle tradition actually started in Germany.
    It was introduced to Americans by German immigrants, like my late father, who came to the U.S from Germany. in 1913. In keeping with my German background, we place a pickle on our fresh tree every single year.

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