Christmas traditions from around the world

If you’re travelling further afield to celebrate Christmas this year, make sure you brush up on the country’s own traditions before you set off. Here are some of our favourites…

girl with skates

Austria

In the UK, ghoulish Halloween happenings are long gone come Christmas time. Not in Austria. During the festive period, St. Nicholas' evil accomplice, Krampus, haunts towns and villages in search of naughty children. Austrian folklore believes that the beast captures badly behaved children and puts them in the basket on his back.

Each year, an annual Krampus parade takes place, where thousands of locals will line up to watch terrifying masked figures take to the streets, scaring kids – and adults alike!

Caracas, Venezuela

Or if you're heading to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, don't forget to take your roller skates with you! Every Christmas Eve, the people of Caracas will roll their way to mass on their skates. The tradition has become so popular that many of the city's streets are closed, to allow the skating congregation to skate to church safely.

Japan

In Japan, people don't typically celebrate Christmas, as the majority of the population are not Christian. But for those that do, a massively successful advertising campaign brought a surprising culinary tradition to the country.

Every year, millions of Japanese families will queue up for their KFC Christmas meal on Christmas Eve (make sure you pre-order yours, if you visit!) Instead of the turkey and trimmings we're used to in Britain, the fast food chain has taken centre stage at dinnertime – all thanks to Takeshi Okawara's marketing ploy.

In 1970, he managed the first Japanese KFC restaurant, and would go on to become CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan. With very few Christmas traditions in Asia, Okawara came up with a clever idea to fill the void: the Christmas 'party barrel'. Rather than tuck into the turkey dinner we enjoy, families feast on fried chicken.

Norway

According to Norwegian folklore, Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches, who take to the skies and wreak havoc on households. As witches need brooms to fly, Norwegian families hide their brooms before they go to sleep, so that the mischievous spirits can't steal them.

Catalonia, Spain

Perhaps the most unorthodox yuletide tradition on our list comes from the Catalonia region in Spain. Many Catalonian families will create a Caga Tío or 'defecating log'. The small log often has a smiling face and hat on it and sits on the dining table during the fortnight leading up to Christmas. Families will feed the log fruit, nuts and sweets until Christmas Eve, when they will beat the log with sticks, so that it excretes the treats!

On top of this, Catalonians also add the 'caganer', meaning 'the crapper' to their nativity scenes. The ceramic figures that are in defecatory poses have surprisingly positive connotations – they are supposed to resemble purification and prosperity for the new year.

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