Unique Christmas traditions from all around the world

SHREVEPORT, La. (Ark-La-Tex Weekend) - Christmas has become one of the most popular holidays across the world and it has tons of different traditions, from Christmas trees to a horse skull on a stick.

The Christmas holiday is one of America’s biggest and has many traditions, but across the globe, other countries celebrate far differently with some even older traditions than our own. We did some research and here’s what we found.

Christmas traditions:

  1. New Orleans - Starting close to home, the Big Easy has its own unique mardi gras-like parade organization called Krewe of Krampus. The krewe holds a parade of horned horrors dressed in twisted Christmas garb every December. If you are interested to attend the parade, check out https://kreweofkrampus.com/. The city also has its own large ChristmasFest, learn more about it here >> ChristmasFest.
  2. Austria - Krampus is pre-christian and pagan in origin, he began in central and eastern Europe dating back to the 6th or 7th century CE. Villagers of old believed that Krampus and his army of ill-tempered elves roamed the Tyrolean mountains of the Alps, causing mayhem. They delighted in whipping lazy folks, unruly youngsters, and drunks. Sometimes Krampus abducted people altogether. Parents would scare disobedient kids into better behavior by warning them that Krampus was coming for them. In Austria, dozens of Krampus events are held, but the main event is the Krampus Parade, a nighttime horrifying but festive event.
  3. Sweden - Santa is much different in this country. In Sweden, their version of Santa is called Jultomten or Tomten. The Jultomten is gnome-like beings, short with red furlined outfits, white beards, and a jolly attitude. Also, since 1959 at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, families gather around the tv and watch old Disney cartoons, primarily “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” (Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas).
  4. Philippines - In San Fernando, the city is reputable for its giant handcrafted colorful lanterns during Christmas. Then on the Batan island, Sacristans, a group choir, and a long parade of devotees bring the image of infant Jesus to every Catholic house on the island. Families would then kiss the image of Santo Nino.
  5. Japan - Christmas has grown in popularity in Japan, and a big part of the Christmas tradition is KFC. Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a traditional meal for Christmas in Japan.
  6. Brazil - Most people, especially Catholics, will go to a Midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster). After Missa do Gallo, there are often big fireworks displays and big Christmas Tree shaped displays of lights.
  7. France - Nativity cribs are often used to help decorate the home during Christmas in France. Alongside normal nativity scenes, you would also see scenes with figures such as a butcher, baker, policeman, and priest. In France, on Christmas Eve it is also a tradition to carry in a cherry wood Yule log and sprinkle it with red wine before burning it, the wine is said to give it a good smell.
  8. Iceland - Icelandic children get to enjoy the favors of 13 father Christmases. The 13 Yule Lads are merry but mischievous fellows who take turns visiting kids for 13 nights leading up to Christmas. On each night, children place one of their shoes on the windowsill and the Yule lad will leave candy. If the lad disproves they leave the shoe filled with rotting potatoes. To learn who the Yule Lads are, visit https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/meet-the-thirteen-yule-lads-icelands-own-mischievous-santa-clauses-180948162/.
  9. South Wales - An interesting tradition in South Wales, called the Mari Lwyd, involves the creation of a stick horse but it is crafted with a real horse skull mounted on a pole and rapped in sackcloth. As part of the tradition, a Mari Lwyd party approaches houses and sings a song requesting entrance, and the occupants of the house would need to provide excuses why they couldn’t enter. If the inhabitants failed to produce enough excuses, they would be obliged to allow entry and provide the party with food and ale. Its believed that this tradition is pre-christian.
  10. Denmark - A nordic tradition in Denmark is to decorate homes with characters called nisser (similar to garden gnomes) that are believed to provide protection. Then on Dec. 24, Danish families place their Christmas tree in the middle of a room and dance around it while singing carols.
  11. Norway - The Christmas season is called Julebord in Norway. Starting Dec. 3 local bars, restaurants, and local markets begin filling up throughout the month. Families then celebrate Little Christmas on Dec. 23; with small rituals like decorating the tree, making gingerbread houses, and eating risengrynsgrøt (hot rice pudding). Dancing around the Christmas tree while holding hands and singing carols is not out of the normal. After all the dancing, it’s time for presents, but these presents are not delivered by Santa Claus, like other Norse countries the presents are relieved by a gnome-like creature called Julenissen.
  12. South Africa - While there are varying traditions in South Africa depending on the region, almost all families come together for a cookout called braaing for the holiday. Expect marinated steaks, boerewors sausages, and malva pudding served with custard. Traditional Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments, including hand-beaded African ornaments.

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Brittney Hazelton

Brittney Hazelton

Brittney Hazelton was born and raised in Shreveport, La. and attended Southwood High School. They're a professional, self-taught local artist and is now one of KSLA’s digital content producers.