Americans are obviously familiar with our culture's most famous Christmas traditions, but plenty of other countries have traditions we see as unique and bizarre. In the U.S., kids rush to the living room to open their presents on Christmas morning, and adults get the Christmas dinner ready. Before Dec. 25, we decorate our houses with lights and watch our favorite movies. Radio stations play Christmas carols constantly, and A Christmas Story is on TBS and TNT for 24 hours straight starting Christmas Eve.
But outside the 50 states and U.S. territories, cultures have different beliefs and traditions. In Norway, they hide broomsticks and in Japan, kids eat KFC. In Ukraine, fake spiders are Christmas tree decorations. Here's a look at 10 bizarre Christmas traditions from around the world.
Japan: KFC For Christmas
One of the best-known weird international Christmas traditions is Japan's love of KFC for Christmas dinner. As Kokatu points out, KFC Japan even makes elaborate ad campaigns each year for its Christmas dinners. There are several different stories about why this became a tradition.
The official KFC story is that a Christian kindergarten in Japan ordered KFC for its Christmas party. The store's manager agreed to come to the party as Santa Claus. In 1974, launched its first Christmas dinner ad campaign, just four years after arriving in Japan.prevnext
Norway: Hiding Brooksticks
In Norway, it was once believed that witches came out on Christmas Eve to steal broomsticks and fly away, notes Care2. Unlike Santa, they must not have been able to afford their own modes of transportation. Every year, Norwegians skip cleaning the house and hide their broomsticks to keep them safe from witches.prevnext
Germany: Find the Pickle Myth
One strange tradition allegedly comes from Germany where Germans hide pickles under the Christmas tree. The first child to find it gets a special gift.
According to Why Christmas, the idea that this is an old tradition is a myth. In the 1880s, U.S. Woolworth stores sold glass ornaments important from Germany, and one of them was a pickle. Around that time, the idea that the Christmas Pickle was a German tradition started.
There are other stories about pickles and Christmas. In one, an American Civil War soldier who was born in Germany asked a prison guard for a pickle before his death. In another story, St. Nicholas brought two Spanish boys back to life after they were stuffed in a pickle barrel.
While some sites still include the "Christmas Pickle" on lists of odd traditions, it turns out that most Germans have no idea what it is. A 2016 study found that 91 percent of Germans have never heard of the German "Christmas Pickle."
One tradition that is real in Germany is Nikolas on Dec. 6. On the night before, children put their shoes on the front doors. In the morning, they wake to find candy inside if they have been nice all year.
Germany has plenty of real traditions, many of which are explained in the video below.prevnext
Venezuela: Roller Skating to Mass
Venezuela has a fun tradition in Caracas, the capital. Every morning from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24, people roller skate to early church services. Roads are even closed to cars because so many people like roller skating to church.
Part of the tradition includes children going to bed with a string tied around their toe with the other end dangling out their window. When a skater goes by, they are supposed to tug the strings to wake the children up. Venezuelans also set off firecrackers in the morning.prevnext
Mexico: Night of the Radishes
On Dec. 23, Oaxaca, Mexico hosts the "Night of the Radishes." This is a unique celebration where artists carve radishes, much like pumpkin carving during Halloween. The celebration started in 1897, when the city's major made radish-carving an official celebration. Some people carve the Nativity scene out of radishes, while others made animals. Whoever makes the best-carved radish wins 12,000 pesos.prevnext
Ukraine: Christmas Spiders
If you see a spider on your Christmas tree, you might scream. But in the Ukraine fake spiders are part of the festivities. The "Legend of the Christmas Spider" is a popular folk tale there, so Ukranians will make their own spiders out of paper or wire to use as ornaments. Some also add spider webs made out of tinsel.prevnext
Estonia: A Day at the Sauna
In Estonia, it's tradition for families to head to a sauna on Christmas Eve. Saunas are surprisingly very important in the Baltic State, as Visit Estonia points out. The Southern Estonian smoke sauna tradition is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.prevnext
Greece: The 12 Days of Goblins
In Greece, there is a legend about the Kallikantzaroi, a race of evil goblins who live underground. During the 12 days of Christmas, they reach the surface, cause havoc and lead humans astray. According to Greek legends, they were the spawn of evil and pictured as short, dark-skinned creatures. There is no standard depiction of them, and they vary by region.prevnext
Spain: The Poop Log
Another famous weird European tradition is the Catalan "poop" log. It all starts on Dec. 8, when children take a stick, draw a face on it, and 'feed' it nuts, water and dried fruit. On Christmas Eve, they hit the log with sticks while singing a song, until the contents are released. After the "beating," the children get to eat whatever comes out of the log.prevnext
Belarus: A Rooster Predicts When You'll Get Married0comments
In Belarus, Christmas is part of Kaliady, a two-week long celebration of the winter solstice. In one game played during the celebration, two single women stand behind two piles of corn. A rooster is then placed in front of them. Whoever gets her pile eaten first by the rooster will be married next.
In another game, a married woman hides several items around her house, including bead and a ring, for her single friends to find. Whoever gets the bread first marries a rich man. Whoever gets the ring will marry a handsome husband.prev