14 Christmas Traditions You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Every country seems to boast at least one weird and wonderful Christmas tradition. Here are our favorites from around the world!

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

1 / 14
Ueno, Tokyo, Japan-November 16, 2017: KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas specials advertised in Tokyo. KFC is seen as traditional in Japan.

Eating KFC for dinner

In 1974, KFC released a marketing campaign in Japan. The simple but effective slogan, Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii! (Kentucky Christmas!) created a tradition that is going strong to this day. Here’s how to make the best fried chicken at home any day of the year.

2 / 14
Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji/Getty Images

Hanging mushroom ornaments on the tree

No, folks who hang mushrooms all over their tree aren’t serious fungi fans. In parts of Germany and Austria, these red and white mushrooms are said to bring good fortune. Known as a gluckspilz, you’ll find these mushrooms adorning trees, wreaths and trinkets around the holiday season. Why these showy red mushrooms? They grow around the base of fir trees!

3 / 14
Santa Claus skating fast

Roller skating to church

In Caracas, Venezuela, many energetic Mass-goers celebrate the Christmas holiday on roller skates. In fact, there are so many Yuletide skaters that some of the city’s streets are closed to traffic from 8 a.m. on Christmas day to keep the skaters safe.

4 / 14
DanGonzalez/Getty Images

Sharing Christmas wafers with the family (even pets)

On Christmas Eve, people in Poland break apart thin wafers called oplatki and share them with their families. Wafers are passed around the table as everyone wishes good tidings upon their loved ones.

But what about your pets? They’re part of the family too! In many packets of oplatki, you’ll find a pink wafer that’s meant to be shared with your furry pals. Well, traditionally this wafer would have been shared with farm animals, but today people of Polish extraction share with their dogs and cats.

5 / 14

Hanging a pickle on the tree

The old legend says if a pickle is the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree, the first child to find the pickle gets an extra present. You can make yourself a family legend with quick pickles that everybody can share on Christmas.

6 / 14
the befana arrives on January 6 and takes away all the Christmas holidays
Corrado Baratta/Shutterstock

Waiting for Befana the witch

In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children on the night of January 5. Befana visits on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill good kids’ socks with candy and presents. The naughty kids are gifted with a lump of coal or black rock candy.

7 / 14
wooden outdoor sauna during a cold winter day with steam going out of the open door
yanick durand/Shutterstock

Taking a holiday sauna

In Finland, where many homes have a sauna, it’s customary on Christmas Eve to take a sauna with the family. Here you thought discussing politics over dinner could be awkward! After the sauna, Finns continue the evening celebrations—presumably clothed. Skip the sauna and warm up with a Christmas casserole instead.

8 / 14
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Watching Donald Duck

In Sweden, a show called Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul or Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas is must-see TV every Christmas. The tradition started in the 1960s and more than 40% of Sweden still tunes in.

9 / 14
bpperry/Getty Images

Trim a banana tree

In India, fir trees are not as prevalent, so celebrants there make do with what they have: banana and mango trees! These trees are adorned with lights and ornaments on the street and their leaves decorate inside people’s homes.

10 / 14
Saturnia pavonia, Small Emperor Moth
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

Eating fried caterpillars

In South Africa, people munch on fried Emperor moth caterpillars on Christmas for extra luck in the coming year. They may not bring luck, but a batch of Christmas cookies will certainly bring smiles. (You can buy a rabbit’s foot for the luck.)

11 / 14
Pied bright shiny glass garland on the Christmas tree.
Elena Rozhanskaya/Shutterstock

Decorating with spider ornaments

In Ukraine and Poland, Christmas trees are decorated with spider web ornaments. The tale goes that spiders in the house of a poor family once spun webs all over the tree on Christmas Eve. When the rays of morning sunlight hit the webs, they turned them into strands of gold and silver. If you want a little Halloween on your Christmas tree, here’s the full story.

12 / 14

Giving the pudding a stir

In the UK, families all take a turn making the Christmas pudding on Stir-Up Sunday. The Sunday before the start of Advent, families gather to stir up a holiday pudding like this plum pudding. While the term “stir up” comes from a centuries-old Anglican prayer book, today families have adapted the term and use it as a reason to gather with family.

Because these puddings are a lot of hard work, everyone takes a turn helping. Everyone that gives the batter a stir also gets to make a wish for the coming year.

13 / 14
Knitted red and white Santa stocking with nuts, apples and oranges

Finding an orange in your stocking

Oranges are often found in shoes or stockings on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) to symbolize the gold balls St. Nicholas would throw to poor girls in the 4th century as dowry money, according to one legend.

14 / 14
Krampus. Public show of Christmas devils
Nicola Simeoni/Shutterstock

Keeping an eye out for Krampus

Krampus (sort of an anti-Santa) is believed by some to be a half-goat and half-demon that comes for naughty children in early December. The legend started in Germany, but later found its way to the U.S. As Santa might say, “You’d better watch out…”

Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.
Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.