11 Christmas Traditions From Around the World You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
Christmas is a time for tradition, family, and food, but this can mean something different in various parts of the world. For example, in South Africa, the main dish is fried caterpillars, whereas, in Greenland, they eat whale skin and fermented sea birds.
Bright Side was curious about what other unusual Christmas traditions you can encounter when you travel around the world. You will definitely relate to our bonus feature at the end of the article.
1. In South Africa, the main holiday dish is fried caterpillars.
Deep-fried caterpillars (of the emperor moth) are very nutritious because they’re high in protein. They’re also considered to be a delicacy there because they’re so tasty. These insects are also harvested during winter, so it lines up perfectly with Christmas. The locals eat them as a snack or cooked with tomatoes and sauce.
2. In Japan, red-white cake is the highlight of the holiday season.
This Christmas cake is so embedded in the Japanese culture that you literally see it everywhere: in commercials, in every store, and on every corner. But this is not just any cake — the most popular one is a white, sponge-like cake, covered in whipped cream and strawberries. It’s so popular that there is even an emoji of it. If you don’t believe us, scroll through your phone and see for yourself.
3. In Venezuela, they roller skate to the celebration.
In Venezuela, roller skating happens on Christmas Eve, and this tradition became so popular that the authorities had to close the streets so that everybody could skate carefully. It’s not known just how all of this started, but it’s believed that this is an alternative to sledding, due to the high temperatures.
4. In Greenland, they eat whale skin and fermented sea birds.
Locals from Greenland serve a special dish called “mattak” made from whale skin. It’s too hard to chew, so it’s usually swallowed whole. They have also “kiviak” which is the raw flesh of auks (a species of birds) fermented in seal skin. They’re considered delicacies up there.
5. In the Czech Republic, women throw shoes to find out when they’ll get married.
According to this Christmas tradition, unmarried women have to stand with their backs to the door, and depending on how the shoe will “land,” they’ll know if they’re going to get married soon. If the toe is pointed toward the door, wedding bells will ring. If not, they need to wait a little longer.
6. In Spain, they wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve and eat 12 grapes.
Spain has 2 unusual traditions, not on Christmas but on New Year’s Eve. First, you need to eat 12 grapes at midnight. And you need to eat them fast, in just 12 seconds. As you can assume, each grape represents one month and if you eat them all, you will have good luck.
Additionally, don’t forget to wear your red underwear for this event. It can even be a sock, as long as you received that item as a gift from somebody else.
7. In Finland, a long sauna session on Christmas Eve is a must.
On Christmas Eve, every Finnish person gets ready for a long and relaxing sauna session before indulging in treats during Christmas dinner. It’s considered to be a great way of cleansing, which is very important on this festive day.
8. In Iceland, they offer new clothes to almost anybody.
Iceland has not one Santa Claus, but 13 Santa Clauses, the so-called Yule Lads. They come 13 days before Christmas and leave gifts in children’s shoes. Their troll parents, Gryla and Leppaludi, are 2 popular folklore figures of Iceland. They have a big black cat, known simply as the Christmas cat. Legend says that if you don’t receive any new clothing items for Christmas, the animal will “eat” you. So you’d better think about gifting at least a scarf to someone in Iceland.
9. In Ethiopia, they wear traditional white clothes on Christmas.
Ganna, as Christmas is called in Ethiopia, is celebrated on the seventh of January. The locals usually wear long, white traditional clothing known as “netela.” They all gather together for the celebration and sing and chant traditional music.
10. In the US, thousands of people dress like Santa at SantaCon.
SantaCon is an American tradition that started in San Francisco in 1994 but quickly spread to other cities in the world. New York is the biggest venue of all. Plenty of people come dressed as Santa Claus or any other Christmas characters and party together.
11. In Norway, they hide all broomsticks and mops.
Norwegian people have a custom of hiding all the broomsticks and mops on Christmas Eve because there’s a belief that witches or other evil spirits may come and steal them.
BONUS: After Christmas day, you will definitely enjoy the “romjul,” which is a Norwegian term that has no English translation.
It means “that time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when no one is sure what they should be doing.” We can definitely relate to this period of time!
What other unusual traditions have you heard of or experienced? Please share your thoughts with us.