Every country around the world has their own Christmas traditions.
There are definitely some that are better than others though.
So whether it’s popping out your poop log or going on a bar crawl dressed as a devil, these are some festive traditions from around the world we’d love to steal.
While the Philippines has many Christmas traditions, our favorite would have to be their paról’s.
Every Christmas season, homes and buildings are decorated with these beautiful star-shaped lanterns. In this picture you can see University students have lined their accommodation building with their own paról’s. The lanterns are described as an ‘expression of shared faith and hope’ for Filipinos.
Hanging a paról outside of your house is said to represent the star of Bethlehem which guided the Three Wise Men. While they have Spanish origins, the crafty decorations now hold a place in the heart of all Filipinos.
They were initially used to light the way to church to faithfully attend a 9-day mass held to celebrate the festive season.
One Swedish tradition we have to highlight is their adventsljusstake tradition! While the word adventsljusstake can be used to refer to that row of candles that you often see in people’s windows at Christmas, in Sweden they have just four candles. One is lit every Sunday in December, in the run up to Christmas day.
It only takes one look at the hashtag of ‘adventsljusstake’ on Instagram to see how beautiful they can be.
Who wouldn’t love one lighting up their house?
Another cute tradition that we’d love to steal for our own is that of Barbaratag. People take to the streets on the morning of December 4 to cut off small twigs from cherry trees or forsythias.
The twigs are then kept in a vase of water in the house. And then, you wait! If the twig blossoms and blooms in time for Christmas day then it’s a sign of good luck for the upcoming year.
The origin of the tradition comes from the legend of St Barbara. She was kept locked away in a tower by her father, pagan god Dioscorus, whenever he was away so that he could be certain she would remain a virgin.
One day, Saint Barbara found a dried up cherry tree branch in her cell.
She would moisten it daily with a few drops of her drinking water. The beautiful flowers that blossomed mere days before her impeding execution brought her great joy.
Christmas dinner for the western world looks like loads of meat and vegetables. However for Japan, a successful campaign by KFC meant their Christmas dinner now consists of fried chicken!
In 1974, KFC launched a nationwide campaign called ‘Kentucky is Christmas!’ which cemented ‘the connection between fried chicken and Christmas in the minds of many Japanese.’
It is reported sales of Christmas KFC make a third of the company’s total yearly sales.
The standard party box consists of eight pieces of chicken, salad and a chocolate cake. This entire box costs ¥4,000 ($35.24/€29.96) when booked in advance.
As any child will tell you, any excuse for more presents is excuse enough. In Iceland, kids get thirteen extra presents in the build up to Christmas Day as well as getting presents on the day itself!
The Yule Lads are the 13 sons of ogress Grýla. Icelandic folklore says she lives in the Icelandic mountains and comes down at Christmas time to capture naughty children.
Early versions of the stories were used to scare children into behaving, but this stopped in 1746. A public decree said parents should no longer use the tale to frighten their kids.
So now the Yule Lads now pull pranks and surprise kids with little treats instead. Children are told to leave a shoe by their window and the Yule Lads take turns in the 13 days before Christmas to leave them a gift.
Reykjavik really throws themselves into the tradition. They project pictures of different Yule Lads on the sides of buildings, as well as having people dressed up as them roam around town.
The legend of Krampus was made popular by the 2015 about the character.
Krampus is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. He was created to be a counterpart to the much kinder St Nicholas.
While St Nicholas rewarded children with gifts and treats, Krampus would swat bad children take them to his lair.
6 December is known as both Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) and Nikolaustag (St Nicholas Day). German children leave a shoe outside their door the night before. If they’ve been good, St Nicholas leaves them a reward. If not, Krampus will leave a a nastier treat.
Here’s the part of Krampusnacht we like the sound of though. The more modern take on the tradition see’s people dress up as the devil and enjoy a night on the town.
Año Viejo is a Columbian tradition which includes making a dummy of your least favorite person and lighting them on fire.
This is said to symbolize burning up the failures, regrets and anger of the old year. You do this on the last day of the year, clearing the way for new hopes and resolutions in the new one.
Sometimes a handwritten note is pinned to the dummy which explains why it must be burned and what changes are desired in the new year.
The whole thing sounds creepy but also cathartic.
You might need to sit down for this one.
It’s common in Brazil to get a 13th salary at the end of the year. They literally get an extra month’s worth of money at the end of the year, for the same amount of work.
Employers total the employees salary over the last year, divides it by 12 and then that’s the amount that get as extra salary at the end of the year!
The 13th salary has to be paid in two lumps, with employers often paying half the amount on 30th November and the other half on 20th December. This was established in Brazil by then President João Goulart on 13 July 1962.
The idea is that it helps to boost the economy around Christmas and lifts spirits. But we’re thinking, more money to spend on ourselves during Christmas gift shopping and then some more to spend on drinks on New Years Eve…
This is by far the funniest of all the traditions. Tió de Nadal (Christmas log) is a hollow log with stick legs, a smiley face painted on it and sporting a floppy red hat.
On 8 December, families bring out the little log. Children ‘feed’ the log with nuts and dried fruit every night from then on until 24 December. The log is also required to be covered with a blanket to keep it warm.
Christmas Eve is when everything get’s fun. The children gather around the log. They hit him with a stick and sing a traditional song which basically tells the log that if he doesn’t poo, they’ll carry on hitting with with a stick.
The kids will then look under Tió de Nadal’s blanket to find all of their presents have been pooped out! When all the presents have been collected, Tió de Nadal is thrown on the fire. Rest in piece Tió de Nadal.
We like being as dramatic as the next person, and Portugal really goes all out.
A Nativity Scene (Presépio) can be seen inside most family homes. They’ll usually be quite small. Some people however really go the extra miles. Stores and shopping centers make huge nativity scenes including dozens of characters. Some include ‘windmills that rotate’ or ‘waterfalls.’
Understandably, people like to go and visit these over the top scenes during the festive season. We reckon we’d pull together a pretty good Presépio.
This is definitely a tradition we’d like to snatch up.
Going to the sauna on Christmas Eve is a very old and very important tradition in Estonia.
Early in the morning, the family join together in the sauna to steam themselves clean and get fresh and ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself.
Afterwards, children are often surprised with new clothes and shoes to wear to an evening church service later that day.
Italy is another country who really like to go all out.
While Portugal likes to go big or go home, it’s all in the detail for Italy. They like to fill out their little Nativity Scenes with as many figures as possible.
Having a filled out Nativity Scene is so important, there’s an entire street in the Italian city of Naples filled with Nativity Scene makers. These Via San Gregorio Armeno’s made everything from cribs and crib decorations to extra figures.
Georgia really spices up their life.
While some people do have the kind of Christmas tree’s you’d expect to see, a traditional Georgian Christmas Tree is a Chichilaki. Dry wood is shaved and curled into long strips, they tied together on a stick to make a small tree. It looks a lot like a long white curly beard. A lot of people pop a little Santa’s head on top. The rest of it is often decorated with small fruits and sweets.
The cute Chichilaki is then burnt on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany (19th January) to mark the end of the year’s troubles.
BONUS TRADITION: Catalonia, again
If you couldn’t get enough of the poop log, Catalonia has another poop related tradition for you.
The people there really like to switch up their nativity by popping a figurine of a guy pooping in the corner. There’s an explanation, we promise.
The little guy is there to fertilize the holy ground in hopes of a good harvest the next year.
Our favorite bit though is that Caganer, the name of the figurine, is the Catalonian word for crapper.