Merry Weirdmas: Nine crazy Christmas traditions around the world

And you thought a lump of coal was bad...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.15 25 Dec 2021

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Merry Weirdmas: Nine crazy Chr...

Merry Weirdmas: Nine crazy Christmas traditions around the world

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.15 25 Dec 2021

Share this article

It's that time of year again - the time when we look at how other countries celebrate Christmas in weird and wonderful ways.

So sit back, relax and prepare to be a little shocked.



While Irish children are well familiar with Santa's elves and a trusty team of reindeer, children in Austria are dealing with Saint Nicholas' terrifying evil companion - The Krampus.

A horned, folkloric figure described as 'half-goat, half-demon' during the Christmas season, the Krampus travels with Saint Nicholas.

While his big red friend is rewarding the well-behaved with gifts, the Krampus is left to punish those who've been naughty.

A Krampus festival is seen in Tulln, Austria in December 2019. A Krampus festival is seen in Tulln, Austria in December 2019. Picture by: Leopold Brix / Alamy Stock Photo

Each year, thousands of people gather in Hollabrunn Market Square to watch more than 120 Krampus impersonators take to the streets.

Germanic folklore holds that that the Krampus beats naughty children with a bundle of sticks before putting them in a woven wicker basket on his back.

That bag of coal suddenly sounds a lot more reasonable.


A traditional and unusual Christmas delicacy takes us to Greenland.

Children there tuck into mattak, which is raw whale skin with a little blubber.

There is also kiviak, which is made by wrapping a small arctic bird in seal skin and burying it for several months. Then they eat its flesh.



Perhaps a more palatable - but nevertheless unusual - option takes us to Japan.

A traditional Christmas dinner here is actually a KFC.

Thanks to a successful advertising campaign, families will queue around the block to pick up their battered thighs and wings.


The Giant Lantern Festival 'Ligligan Parul' is celebrated every year in the city of San Fernando.

Traditionally celebrated on the last Saturday before Christmas Eve, the original lanterns were around three feet tall - a far cry from the almost-sixteen foot mechanical ones used today.

Around 10 of the giant lanterns - or 'parols' - are produced each year to compete in the city's festival, with the top three taking the honours.

It has been held every December for more than 80 years in Pampanga province, about 75km outside of Manila.

Light is a symbol of hope in the Philippines, and the lanterns also commemorate the star of Bethlehem.


A bit closer to home and this Polish delicacy is arguably its most famous and simple comfort food.

Perogis can be cooked or fried and stuffed, with pretty much anything and everything.

Meat, vegetables, mushrooms, cheese and even fruit and chocolate.

They can also have a sour cream topping or just butter.

Sign me up.

South Africa

Turkey, potatoes and caterpillars - here fried caterpillars are considered a delicacy.

The Pine Emperor Moth is one of the largest in Southern Africa, but it is the caterpillars that are especially impressive.

Reaching up to 12cm in length and almost 2cm in diameter, they are covered with a series of colourful spots that almost look like Christmas lights.

Christmas traditions Ian Lindsay from Pixabay

This is why they are sometimes referred to as 'Christmas Caterpillars'.

But actually their association with the holiday is more sinister: they can be a serious pest for pine plantations.

And you thought Brussels sprouts were bad?


The Gävle Goat or 'Gävlebocken' is a traditional Christmas display constructed every year at Slottstorget in the centre of the town of Gävle to the north of Stockholm.

Each year the 40-foot-tall goat it is constructed in the town's central square, and has a grand celebration for its unveiling in late November.

Over the years, the goat has become famous for being constantly destroyed in arson attacks during December.

Back in 2016, the goat only lasted a matter of hours before falling victim to the flames.

In the past it has also been hit by cars, attacked by a Gingerbread Man, and almost stolen with a helicopter.


In Ukraine, families decorate their Christmas trees with artificial spider webs - while finding an eight-legged friend (real or fake) on a web is considered good luck.

This tradition comes from Ukraine's Legend of the Christmas Spider - the Pavuchky, literally 'Little Spider' - and is widely regarded as the origin of the tradition of decorating with tinsel.

In Eastern European folklore, the tradition comes from the story of a poor family who could not afford to decorate their Christmas tree.

While the children were sleeping on Christmas Eve, a spider came down and covered the tree in cobwebs.

When the children opened the windows on Christmas morning they saw the sunlight turning the cobwebs into strands of gold and silver.


Each year between December 16th and 24th, the people of Caracas lace up their roller skates and skate through the streets of the capital for early morning mass.

Streets are closed to traffic until 8.00am to allow for the safe passage of the skaters.

In some areas, children even tie a string to their big toe before they go to sleep and hang it out the window - and passing skaters will give the strings a tug to let them know Christmas has begun.

Main image: A vintage illustration of Krampus is seen in July 2018. Picture by: Keith Corrigan / Alamy Stock Photo

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Christmas Traditions Crazy Christmas Traditions Gävle Goat KFC Krampus Lantern Festival Mattak Perogis Pine Emperor Moth Roller Skates Spider Webs

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