Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World

Discover a variety of global Christmas traditions—from religious and secular to sweet and slightly menacing. Whether you’re into the festivity or using a Christmas demon to keep kids in line, there’s a tradition on this list for everyone.

St. Nicholas and his sinister companion, Krampus, visit children on December 5th to reward good behavior with treats and punish bad behavior. Krampus is often depicted as a half-human, half-goat creature with hooves, horns, and a long tongue. He carries a basket or bag, chains, bells, and birch branches for various menacing purposes.

In addition to this tradition, children in Austria submit their Christmas wish lists to Christkind (Baby Jesus) by burning them in the fireplace. Alongside these folklore elements, Austrians also engage in festive activities such as decorating Christmas trees, singing carols, baking cookies, and enjoying Christmas markets.

San Fernando, dubbed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines, lives up to its name with a year-round Christmas-themed park and the famous Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu). The festival, which began in 1931, has gained immense popularity, featuring a competition among 11 villages to craft the most stunning star-shaped lanterns.

Originally, lanterns were made with paper on bamboo frames using rice paste. However, the modern versions are technicolor marvels, constructed with welded steel frames, plastic materials (replacing paper), and adorned with thousands of tiny lights.

Since a strategic 1974 ad campaign by KFC Japan, fried chicken has become a popular Christmas meal, with many families still following this tradition today. Due to high demand, pre-ordering is necessary, and some may even wait in long lines on Christmas Day for a bucket of boneless wings. In Japan, Christmas is mainly a secular novelty holiday, marked by dazzling Christmas light displays in Tokyo and the exchange of gifts among families.

In Germany, St. Nicholas travels on a donkey to deliver treats to children on Nikolaus Tag (December 6th), leaving goodies in their shoes. His devilish counterpart, Farmhand Rupert, accompanies him, wearing dark clothing with bells and carrying a stick for naughty children. Germany is home to renowned Christmas markets with billions of lights, gift shopping, live entertainment, and glühwein (hot mulled wine) for adults.

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