8 Unique Holiday Traditions Around The World

Sure, you could spend Christmas around a tree, opening gifts with loved ones and enjoying a delicious meal together. But where’s the adventure in that? From setting giant straw goats on fire to a pooping yule log and St. Nick’s evil alter-ego, we’ve rounded up eight of our favorite … unique spins on the holidays around the world.

Sweden’s Christmas Goat
On December 1, a 42 foot (13 meter) straw goat was erected in the Gavle Square, as it has every December 1 for the last 50 years. The only question is, how quickly will it be burned down? It seems the only thing more traditional than the straw goat is the attempted arson that follows; the goat has successfully (?) been burned down 29 of the 50 years. To see how it fairs in 2018, there’s a goat cam for that.

The Philippines’ Giant Lantern Festival
Beginning the Saturday before Christmas Eve, villages compete to build the most impressive lantern. Steeped in cultural tradition, the lanterns used to be simple, small creations made from origami paper and lit with a candle. Today, you’ll find elaborate constructions nearly 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter.

Roller Skating to Church in Caracas
On Christmas Eve morning, Venezuelans head to mass—not terribly surprising for a country that’s 70 percent Catholic, right? Except that they do it on roller blades. City streets are even closed to traffic so that families can skate safely. No one is sure exactly how the tradition got started (an alternative to sledding, perhaps?), but they’re just rolling (sorry; couldn’t resist) with it.

The Krampus in Austria
Prefer your yuletide with a side of bone-chilling terror? Then you’re going to love Austria’s Krampus, a horned beast who supposedly scoops up naughty children in his sack and carts them off. You’ll find parades across Austria filled with young men dressed up as Krampuses (Krampusi?), in celebrations that rival Mardi Gras for their theatrics.

Iceland’s Yule Lads (and Christmas Cat)
Don’t settle for just one Santa when you could have 13 Yule Lads. While these chaps used to come with a much more terrifying backstory (seriously—they passed an actual law in 1746 forbidding parents from tormenting their children with scary stories about them), now they just fill shoes with treats in the 13 days leading up to Christmas. There are no laws on the books about Christmas Cat tales though—this giant, blood-thirsty black cat prowls the countryside on Christmas Eve and eats anyone not wearing at least one new article of clothing. Supposedly, of course.

KFC Christmas in Japan
It sounds like a case study from a Marketing 101 class but in the early ‘70s, Kentucky Fried Chicken launched an ad campaign in Japan called “Kentucky for Christmas!” that was so successful, it got a country that doesn’t even widely celebrate Christmas to head, en masse, to KFC for dinner every Christmas Eve.

Catalonia’s Poop Log
Tio de Nadal is made from a hollow log with stick legs, a smiley face, and a red hat. From Dec. 8 until Christmas Eve, the log is plied with treats and water by children and kept warm under a blanket. A little odd, but no biggie, right? Well, stuff goes a little sideways on Christmas Eve. The children beat the log with sticks while singing traditional songs that, among other words, include commands to poop. Eventually, when it’s been beaten thoroughly, the log poops out presents and candy … and is then thrown into the fire and burned.

The Undead Rhyming Welsh Horse
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a horse skull on a stick covered with a sheet shows up at your door. It engages you in what is essentially a rap battle and, if the horse wins, it gets to come inside for food and drink.  And you thought Cousin Eddie made Christmas a little strange.

Did we miss one of your favorite unexpected holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!

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