Giant goats & throwing your shoes: 11 unique Christmas traditions from around the world

Posted: 18 Dec 2023

The Swedes build (then try to burn) a giant goat, in Venezuela they skate to church, and in Greenland, they eat seabirds fermented in seal skin. Yep, not everyone celebrates Christmas with turkey on the 25th of December.

Read on to learn some of the weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world.

1. Hide your brooms in Norway

Norwegian people will hide all the brooms in the house on Christmas Eve. December is the darkest time of the year, and the superstition is that witches will lurk in the shadows, looking to steal a broom for their traditional Christmas night ride.

Read more here.

2. Skate to church in Venezuela

Photo courtesy of

In the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, people ride to early morning Mass on roller skates. It happens between the 16th and 24th of December, and so many people do it that they close the streets to traffic to let people skate safely.

Read more here.

3. Eat KFC in Japan

Photo courtesy of image_vulture/Shutterstock

In 1970, Takeshi Okawara – manager of the first KFC restaurant in Japan – began promoting chicken “party barrels” as a Christmas meal. Each year, 3.6 million Japanese families order a party barrel to be delivered.

Read more here.

4. Decorate your tree with spiders in Ukraine

Photo courtesy of

In addition to the standard tinsel, fairy lights, and baubles, Ukrainians like to throw an artificial spider and webs on the tree. The tradition originates in an old tale of a poor woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and woke on Christmas morning to discover a spider had covered it in a glorious, sparkling web.

Read more here.

5. Throw your shoes in Czech Republic

On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women stand with their backs to the door and toss one of their shoes over their shoulders. If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means that they’ll be married within the year.

Read more here.

6. Burn a giant goat in Sweden

Photo credit: BYU College of Humanities

Every year in Gävle, Sweden, the town builds a huge goat at the beginning of Advent. It measures 13m high and takes a whopping 1,000 hours to construct. The fun part? Someone always tries to burn it down, so people bet on whether it will make it to Christmas Day.

Read more here.

7. Hit a pooping log in Spain

Image courtesy of Tio Nadal

Unique to Catalonia, autonomous community of Spain, is the Caga Tió or ‘pooping log’. The log is dressed and fed with small pieces of bread or orange peel each evening. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, children hit the log with a stick, singing the special Caga Tió song, asking it to give them lots of sweets.

Read more here.

8. Hide from the anti-Santa in Austria

Photo courtesy of Christkindlmarket Munchen

In Austria, St. Nicholas has an evil counterpart called Krampus, a demon-like creature with one task: to punish bad children before Christmas. The central event is always the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run). It is a spectacular nocturnal parade of terrifying clad Krampus figures and Perchten elves.

Read more here.

9. Eat a decomposed bird in Greenland

Photo courtesy of Culinary Schools

Each Christmas in Greenland, people tuck into mattak – raw whale skin with a little blubber – and kiviak, which is made by wrapping an auk (a small arctic bird) in seal skin, burying it for several months and then eating its decomposed flesh.

Read more here.

10. Earn a 13th salary in Brazil

Photo courtesy BNN Breaking

In Brazil it’s written into law that all workers get a “13th” salary in December, i.e. they get double pay that month. It’s been going since 1962, and the extra money is meant to help people spend more and boost the economy.

Read more here.

11. Give a peace apple in China

Photo courtesy of

This tradition is rooted in a homophone; “Merry Christmas” translates to Ping’anye (平安夜, the evening of peace) in Mandarin, which sounds very similar to the word for apple. In China, Christmas isn’t a public holiday, but this Christmas Eve tradition for decorating a peace apple has become so popular in the last decade that the price of apples goes up on the 24th of December.

Read more here.


Editor’s note: This blog was originally written in 2020, and has been updated to include new traditions.