The Strangest Holiday Traditions Around the World

Holidays are important to every culture around the world. They’re a chance to celebrate the things most important in life and spend some time away from work and with the people who matter most. But, while you might be familiar with the American holidays we celebrate year after year, you might not be so knowledgeable about what goes on in the rest of the world. To a person used to events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Independence Day, some of those holidays might seem pretty strange in comparison. Here are some of the odder celebrations that occur throughout the world.

Be a Good Boy or Girl, or Krampus Will Get You in Austria

While many celebrate Santa throughout the world, each culture seems to have its own twist on the jolly gift-bringer. In much of Europe, for instance, he’s known as St. Nicholas or Father Christmas. But in Austria, Santa has a sidekick – and we’re not talking about Rudolph. No, Santa’s Austrian helper is a terrifying goat-demon named Krampus, who steals away children who’ve misbehaved. And you thought getting a lump of coal in your stocking was bad enough punishment!

Christmas Trees Adorned With Spider Webs in Ukraine

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are thy… spider webs?! Lights and stars aren’t the only things to go on Ukrainian Christmas trees, which also get the spider web treatment. The practice comes from the old folktale called “Legend of the Christmas Spider,” which tells the story of a poor child whose family couldn’t afford to decorate their tree. On Christmas, the family woke up to a tree covered in cobwebs, which magically turned to silver and gold. Interestingly, it’s said that this folktale is the reason we decorate our trees with tinsel.

Raising (and Vandalizing) a Goat in Sweden

Scandinavian countries have long held the tradition of creating straw goats for decoration and ornaments. The city of Gavle, Sweden, took that tradition to the next level in 1966 by building a huge goat made of straw to be kept in the middle of town. It was in that year that another tradition began: vandalizing and burning the goat down. Each year, town authorities raise the goat, only to see it burnt down just a few days later. What makes matters worse is that each year, authorities increase security overwatching the goat, but it’s still been burnt down 36 times. And to be clear, this isn’t something condoned by the town officials – an American man was jailed for burning the goat in 2001. He argued that he was just taking part in tradition.

KFC for Christmas Dinner in Japan

Those who celebrate Christmas are accustomed to the typical meal that goes along with it: turkey or ham, and all the fixings. Things are a little different in Japan, though. The big event for the Japanese, who don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, is to visit the local Kentucky Fried Chicken and get a big bowl of fried chicken. Even Colonel Sanders gets in on the tradition, with restaurants dressing up statues of the KFC figurehead in a red Santa suit.

While there are some odd traditions around the world, it’s important to remember that it’s only strange to us because it’s something we’re not used to. For some, dressing up a tree or singing songs outside a stranger’s house can be just as weird! It’s worth learning about other culture’s holiday traditions, as those habits often give us interesting insights into what those people find important.

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