Unique Christmas traditions around the world

Fun facts

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The festive season is nearly here, and different countries celebrate in different, sometimes unusual ways. Here are some of the more unique Christmas traditions around the world

Are you feeling Christmassy yet? These fun facts about how Christmas is celebrated around the world will ease you into the festive spirit, and perhaps even inspire your next trip with Kiwi.com!

Pickle tree decoration, US

Pickle Christmas tree ornament — Getty ImagesThe person who finds the Christmas pickle gets an extra gift — Getty Images

There are numerous stories describing the origin of the Christmas pickle. Some say it dates back to 16th-century Germany, while others say it originated in Spain with two boys being rescued from imprisonment in a pickle barrel by St. Nicholas.

Either way, this tradition has reached the US where many families hang this unusual ornament on their Christmas trees. It’s popular among families with more children; the child first to find the hanging pickle gets a present.

“Kentucky for Christmas”, Japan

KFC's Christmas advertising in Japan — ShutterstockIn Japan, fried chicken is one of the most common associations with Christmas — Shutterstock

Fried chicken for Christmas dinner? This is commonplace in Japan. The tradition started back in 1974 with KFC’s marketing campaign, “Kentucky for Christmas”. Even though Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, many have celebrated it with KFC since then. In fact, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese people pay a visit to the American fast food chain every Christmas.

Eggnog, UK

People toasting with glasses of eggnog — Getty ImagesAlthough nowadays, eggnog is most popular in North America, its roots are on the other side of the Pond — Getty Images

Sticking with the theme of Christmas food and drink, eggnog is an exceptionally traditional beverage, typically made from egg yolks, milk, rum or whiskey, and spices.

The history of eggnog goes all the way back to medieval Britain. It is believed to have been a variation of another drink called posset, which was a mixture of hot curdled milk, ale or wine, and spices. Later on, after it’d made its way to the other side of the Atlantic, warm eggnog became associated with Christmas as its popularity spread to the American colonies in the 18th century.

Defecating log, Catalonia

Tió de Nadal, traditional Catalonian Christmas log — Getty ImagesThis personified Christmas log might just be the epitome of Catalonian surrealism — Getty Images

Tío de Nadal, or the “Christmas log”, is a tradition unique to Spain’s region of Catalonia. The hollow log with a face painted on it brings small presents, not unlike Santa Claus filling a Christmas stocking. But there’s a twist.

On December 8 — the Day of the Immaculate Conception — families cover the log with a blanket to keep it warm and cozy, and begin to “feed” it. On Christmas Eve, the log is placed by the household’s fireplace and the family members take it in turns to beat it with a stick. Upon beating, the log is supposed to defecate presents and candies, hence its alternative name Caga tió, or “Sh*t log”.

Chichilaki — the alternative Christmas tree, Georgia

Chichilaki in a Georgian kitchen with painted nuts underneath it — ShutterstockThe chichilaki is a particularly unique Christmas decoration — Shutterstock

While a coniferous tree is usually the go-to Christmas centerpiece in many celebrating households around the world, the Georgians have a slightly alternative approach to this symbol.

They display the chichilaki — a Christmas tree-like sculpture crafted from the wood of a hazelnut or walnut tree. The wood is shaved in such a way that the finished product is a pretty impressive mop of makeshift branches. The chichilaki is then often decorated with red berries, dried fruits, or churchkhela, a traditional Georgian candy.

Christmas rollerblading, Venezuela

A person's foot in a rollerblade — ShutterstockSkating to Mass is a unique Caraquenian tradition — Shutterstock

The locals in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas have put a unique and fun spin on their custom of going to Christmas Mass. Every year, they strap on their rollerblades and glide there. It’s become such a popular mode of transport for this particular occasion that the city now closes off its streets to traffic until 8 the following morning, so that families can skate together safely.

After Mass, as per tradition, families get together in the streets and at each other’s houses to celebrate by sharing food, playing music and dancing.

12 pubs of Christmas, Ireland

Temple Bar in Dublin at night at Christmas time — ShutterstockThe neighborhood of Temple Bar is the epicenter of Dublin nightlife — Shutterstock

The popularity of this relatively new Irish custom has been on the rise. Even though it’s more-or-less just a 12-pub crawl that takes place over Christmas week, there are a number of rules to keep in mind.

Attendees dress themselves up in their “best” Christmas clothes — the more outrageous, the better. A standard choice of attire is a tacky Christmas sweater garnished with bells or lights. In each of the bars, at least one drink must be consumed, which is usually a pint of beer

Typically, each pub also has its own signature drinking rule. On top of this, groups usually make up their own ones — such as no swearing, talking only in a foreign accent, or drinking only with your left hand. A couple of bars in and remembering all the rules becomes even more of a challenge.

Christmas peace, Finland

Turku in the snow at dusk — ShutterstockTurku prefers a quiet Christmas — Shutterstock

And now, from the clamorous crowds of Dublin to the seasonal serenity of Turku. Every year at noon on Christmas Eve in Finland’s former capital, the “Declaration of Christmas Peace” is read out to mark the start of Christmas celebrations and peace lasting for 20 days. This tradition dates all the way back to the 13th century.

Since 1886, the declaration has been made on the balcony of Brinkkala Mansion and nowadays, it’s broadcast over national TV and radio. The current script dates back to 1903 and wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, free of any noisy and rowdy behavior.

Bathtub carp, Czech Republic

Young boy reaches out to a fish swimming in a bathtub — ShutterstockPet or dinner? — Shutterstock

Carp, the freshwater fish that is the pièce de résistance of any Czech Christmas dinner table, is almost always sold live. Vendors bring huge tubs of these swimming fish to town and city centers throughout December for the public to pick out the very ones that they want.

The journey for these slippery Christmas creatures doesn’t end here — they’re taken home, deposited swiftly into the family’s bathtub, and left there right up until Christmas Eve. The common belief is that the longer the carp is kept alive in cleaner water before it’s eaten, the tastier it’ll be in the end.

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