‘Tis the season to be jolly, to give and to celebrate. Thanks to those ubiquitous carols, when one thinks of Christmas, the images of Santa Claus, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and snow inevitably come to mind. But not everyone celebrates Christmas the way it is portrayed in the movies.

In fact, there are some interesting variations on the way people celebrate the event in different cultures and countries around the world. Here are 8 unique Christmas celebrations around the world:


1. Decorating The Banana Tree In India

In India, Christians might celebrate Christmas by going to church and exchanging gifts, much like the rest of the world, but their Christmas decor is quite different. Instead of the usual Christmas trees that we are used to seeing in homes and shopping centres, Indians actually decorate banana trees and mango trees instead. Yes, with lights and ornaments and everything!

2. Christmas KFC In Japan

Forget turkey. For the Japanese, the bird of choice when it comes to celebrating Christmas is chicken. And not just any type of chicken, it has to be KFC! Thanks to a savvy marketing campaign some four decades ago, KFC became synonymous with Christmas in Japan, and has been part of the country’s Christmas traditions ever since.


CC 2.0 by Robert Sanzalone

3. A Time For Remembrance In Finland

In Finland, Christmas is a season of celebration and a time to honour the deceased. Families usually visit the graves of their ancestors and relatives on Christmas Eve to light candles and even those who don’t have the graves of their relatives nearby, visit cemeteries to light candles in honour of deceased family members that are buried elsewhere.



4. Skating To Mass In Venezuela

In the capital city of Caracas, church-goers tie one end of a length of string to their big toe and leave the other end hanging outside their bedroom window before they go to bed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, as people roller skate to early morning mass – another Venezuelan Christmas tradition – they tug on the strings they see hanging out the windows to wake up those who have overslept.


5. A Time To Share (And Scare!) In Austria

Christmas isn’t only about joy and good cheer over in Austria. December is also a month when young men walk around dressed up as the Krampus – a scary looking, devil-demon type of creature, complete with horns, cowbells and rods – to scare children and even the adults, too.

 6. Spider Webs In The Christmas Tree In Ukraine

According to a Ukrainian legend, a poor widow and her children, who didn’t have money to decorate their Christmas tree, woke up on Christmas morning to discover that a spider had spun a web around their tree. When the youngest child opened the window and sunlight hit the web, the web turned to silver and gold, thus providing money for the family. Today, people in Ukraine decorate their trees with fake spider webs to attract good luck and fortune for the following year.

7. The 13 Yule Lads In Iceland

Let the rest of the world have Santa Claus. In Iceland, children believe in the 13 Yule Lads instead, who are kind of like Santa Claus except there are 13 of them. In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, children leave their shoes by the windowsill in the hope the 13 Yule Lads will leave small gifts inside them.

Iceland Yule Lads


8. Hitting the Tió De Nadal In Catalonia

In Catalonia, Spain, a log known as Tió de Nadal is propped up on sticks, and children ‘feed’ it and cover it with blankets in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas day, Tió de Nadal is put in the fireplace and beaten with sticks. Children believe that it ‘drop’ or ‘poops’ presents. In actual fact, *SPOILER ALERT* small presents are placed under the blanket by parents when children are in another room praying.



9. Watching Donald Duck in Sweden

On Christmas Eve in Sweden, families stop whatever they’re doing to gather around the TV to watch the Disney special Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul. In English, that is “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Almost half the country observes this tradition of watching Kalle Anka on Christmas Eve, which is the day that Sweden officially celebrates Christmas. The Disney special has been airing on Christmas Eve in Sweden since 1959, consisting of cartoons dating all the way back to the 1930s. It has been said to be a version of gathering around the fire and listening to fairy tales.


Image Credits: Shutterstock, images under Creative Commons 2.0 License