Christmas is one of those holidays that’s celebrated in a million different ways. No two households celebrate it the same, much in the way that no two countries celebrate it the same. All over the world, people have adopted numerous unusual but fun traditions to celebrate the holiday. Read on to learn about some of the quirky Christmas Traditions that take place around the world!
Sweden – Gävle Goat
One of the Christmas traditions in Sweden is to build a 13-metre-tall, straw, Yule goat for Advent in Gävle’s Castle Square. If that’s not the strangest thing you’ve heard all day, it gets even weirder. This tradition has been going on since 1966 and since then an unexpected tradition developed in which pranksters attempt to light this highly flammable goat on fire. So far, they’ve been able to successfully burn it to the ground 29 times. The tradition of the yule goat goes back to the 11th century, where it was said that Saint Nicholas led a man-sized goat figure who had the ability to control the devil. During the 17th century, men would dress up as the goat and pull pranks while demanding presents. In the 19th century, the reputation of the goat became less sinister so men would dress up as the goat and give out gifts instead. Perhaps this year will mark the 30th time the pranksters are able to burn down the goat and carry out this quirky tradition.
India – Banana Tree
One of the staples of the Christmas season is spending a couple hours hauling out the boxes of decorations you have stored in some remote part of your home and setting up a Christmas tree. Some people opt for a fake one and some for a real one but typically it’s of the fir variety. In India however, they climate is too hot to grow fir trees, so people often decorate banana or mango trees instead. Decorations range from traditional baubles, lights, handmade ornaments, stars and even stretched out cotton to mimic snow. Only about 2.5% of the population in India is Christian and celebrates Christmas, but since there are over a billion people living there, this still means about 25 million people take part in the holiday, with many using a banana tree as their Christmas tree.
Italy – Belfana
Unlike most children around the world, the children in Italy receive more than one nighttime visitor around Christmas. Similar to Santa, an old witch named Belfana is said to visit houses on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) during which she leaves presents and candy for all the good children. The legend goes that on their way to visit the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men stopped and asked Belfana for directions and invited her to come with them. Later on, a shepherd also asked if she wanted to come but she turned down both offers because she was too busy. When she saw a great light in the sky, she regretted her decision, so she gathered up gifts that once belonged to the child she had who passed away, and attempted to join the wise men and shepherd. She was never able to locate the manger, so it’s said that she flies around and delivers gifts to children in hopes of finding baby Jesus.
Japan – KFC
Christmas in Japan isn’t really celebrated, nor is it a national holiday, but that didn’t stop KFC from launching a festive themed campaign which has made fried chicken a Christmas tradition for many Japanese families. When the first KFC opened in Japan in the early 1970s, the manager woke up one night with the idea to sell a party barrel for people to celebrate the holidays. Since then, millions of people in Japan celebrate Christmas with a KFC dinner that can range from about 3,780 yen ($33 USD) to 5,800 yen ($58 USD), depending on how much they splurge one sides and extras. These party packages make up a third of the company’s revenue, so the increased demand means that people often make reservations in advance or have to wait in lines for hours. Maybe this year, instead of a turkey, fried chicken could be on the menu for your Christmas dinner!