Interesting Christmas Traditions Around the World

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is a time of traditions of all kinds, and we compiled a list of some of the most unique ways people all around the world celebrate Christmas.

SwedenGavle Goat
Ever seen a 40-foot-tall goat? Since 1966, a 13-meter tall Yule Goat made of straw has been built in the center of Gavle’s Castle Square for the Advent season. Unfortunately, this tradition has led to another one over the years – people attempting to burn the giant goat down. The goat has been successfully burned down 29 times!

Gavle Goat

Austria – Krampus
Krampus is a beast-like, scary creature that roams the streets of Austria frightening children. Yes, this is a Christmas tradition; not Halloween. According to Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards nice boys and girls, while Krampus is said to try to capture the naughty kids. How…festive?


Norway & Italy – Brooms
It’s not just Austrians that have Halloween-like traditions associated with Christmas. Norwegians hide their brooms before Christmas. This act dates back many centuries to when people believed witches came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on.

Italians also have a belief involving brooms. A friendly witch called “La Befana” flies around bringing gifts to deserving children and coal to the naughty ones.

Le Befana

Iceland – The Yule Lads
In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 troll-like characters venture out in Iceland. The Yule Lads visit children across the country, and leave gifts for nice boys and girls and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones. These guys are known to be playful, and can cause all kinds of trouble.

Yule Lads

Japan – KFC (yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken)
Food is of course a large part of most holiday traditions, but you may be surprised to learn a typical Christmas meal in Japan includes fried chicken from American fast food restaurant, KFC!

Greece – Mistletoe
Be careful under the mistletoe in Greece! According to Greek culture, kissing under the mistletoe is considered a promise to get married!


Australia – Surfing Santas!
Our winter is their summer, or their summer is our winter? Confused? When you can hit the beach and dine on fresh prawns and lobster on Christmas Day, who cares! Caroling is especially popular is Australia, often starting a week before Christmas Day.

Columbia – Day of the Little Candles
Little Candles’ Day, or Dia de las Velitas, marks the start of the Christmas season in Columbia. People place candles and paper lanterns in their windows and yards to honor the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception. Neighborhoods even compete to see who can create the most impressive candle displays.

 Philippines – Giant Lantern Festival
The Giant Lantern Festival is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando, also known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The impressive lanterns are around six meters in size and sparkle in kaleidoscope-like patterns. The festival attracts visitors from around the country and even the world!

Giant Lantern Festival (photo credit: Ramon F Velasquez)

Washington, D.C. – Lighting of the National Christmas Tree
President Calvin Cooldge first lit the National Christmas Tree in 1923. Back then the tree was a 48-foot fir tree outfitted with 2,500 red, white, and green bulb lights. 95 years later, this American tradition continues to spread a message of hope and peace during the holiday season, and the tree features 75,000 LED lights that weigh about 1,000 pounds – that’s the weight of a grand piano!

National Christmas Tree

Whatever your traditions this time of year may be, WorldStrides wishes you a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

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