Unusual Christmas Traditions from Around the World

If you thought your family had some strange Christmas customs, just wait until you read about these strange Christmas traditions around the world. From unbelievable nativity characters in Catalonia and cringe-worthy dinners in South Africa to confusing tree decorations in Germany and shoe throwing in the Czech Republic – these strange Christmas traditions around the world make any family’s customs look ordinary!

Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World: Caga Tios on sale in Barcelona, Spain
Caga Tios on sale in Barcelona, Spain: Photo Valerie Hinojosa / CC 2.0

Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World


Spain is internationally renowned for its bizarre festivals and it celebrates Christmas in an equally unusual way. First there’s the addition of the defecating man character, known locally as ‘Caganer’, which is an absolute must for every nativity in the region. Then there’s the ‘Caga Tió’ – a log which children take care of throughout December and then bash with sticks on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to make it defecate sweets and presents.

Want to pick up your own Caganer or mini Caga Tió? Book a trip to Barcelona and get shopping! These trinkets can be found all over the city in December.

Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World: South African's traditionally eat caterpillars from Emperor Moths on Christmas Day
South African’s traditionally eat caterpillars from Emperor Moths on Christmas Day: Photo Darius Bauzys / CC 2.0

South Africa

Instead of a juicy turkey, families in South Africa on Christmas day gather around a great big plate of deep-fried caterpillars from the Emperor Moth and dig in! As if that wasn’t bad enough, to encourage their children to behave properly, parents in South Africa also tell their little ones the story of Danny – a young boy who was killed by his grandmother after he ate all the cookies she’d made for Santa.

Fancy swapping your ordinary festive fare for caterpillars? Visit Johannesburg this Christmas and eat like a local!

Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World: Chunks of Mattak
Chunks of Mattak, image via Flickr, Lisa Risager / CC 2.0


If you think caterpillars for dinner is disgusting, just wait until you hear about the traditional Christmas day feast in Greenland! On this festive day, some local families get together and dine on Mattak (also known as Muktuk), raw whale skin served with blubber and Kiviak, 500 dead auk birds which are stuffed inside a seal skin where they’re left to ferment for seven months.

Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World: Throw your shoes in the Czech Republic to find out if you're going to get married!
Throw your shoes in the Czech Republic to find out if you’re going to get married: Photo Sally Payne / CC 2.0

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, Christmas is also the time to predict the future – specifically, who you’re going to marry. Unmarried women on this day traditionally throw a shoe over their shoulder toward the door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing toward the door, the woman will get married within a year. If she needs more evidence of the soon-to-come wedding, she can head outside and shake an elder tree. If a dog barks when the tree shakes, she’ll marry a man from the direction in which the dog’s bark came.

A red flower from the Pōhutukawa
A red flower from the Pōhutukawa, image via Flickr, Allison Brown / CC 2.0

New Zealand

Whilst most of us think of the conifer tree as being a traditional Christmas tree, things are a little different in New Zealand. Instead of sending greetings cards with the conical evergreen on the front, their decorations and cards are adorned with the Metrosideros excelsa tree (also known as the Pōhutukawa). With its stunningly vibrant red flowers, this tree looks festive enough without the need of any decorations!

Want to catch a glimpse of the Metrosideros excelsa tree yourself? Make New Zealand your next holiday destination and admire the country’s natural beauty!

About Nicola Quinn

Website: http://www.happyhealthymotivated.com

Nicola is a travel and food writer living in the Canary Islands who loves exploring far-off places, pushing herself to the limit and trying local eats wherever she goes.

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