6 Strange & Somewhat Creepy Christmas Traditions Around The World

Hey Friends!

This year, we had the amazing opportunity to coach students that have heritages from over 6 different cultures. We wanted to honor them, and share with all of you, the different Christmas traditions that are done in our client’s countries and cultures around the world.

Now, pull up a chair, grab some egg nog or hot chocolate, and get cozy by the fire. These traditions are definitely ones you’ll want to share about around your dinner tables this Christmas.

Austria – “The Krampus”

Smile for the camera.

This first tradition is positively terrifying. We will never forget when our clients, whom live in Austria, shared with us this tradition – we actually sat there in shock. In a mix of what could seem to many as a scary, Halloween-like twist on Christmas, the Krampus are beast-like demon creatures that roams city streets frightening kids and punishing the “bad ones”. They are known as St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice.

In Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls, while Krampus is said to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack. In the first week of December, young men & women dress up as the Krampus (especially on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 6) frightening children with clattering chains and bells. This is enough to keep anyone on their best behaviour & be on the top of St. Nick’s Nice List!

Venezuela – “Hot Tamales & Rollerskating”

Tamales anyone?

Who here likes to eat yummy food around the holidays? Yes, please! In Venezuela, tamales, (a wrap made out of cornmeal dough and stuffed with meat, then steamed), will be on the menu.

We have another question for you: do you love Christmas, but think it could be improved by roller-blading? May sound random, but, if the answer is yes, then you must visit Caracas, Venezuela this year.

Every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents head to church in the early morning but, for reasons known only to them, they do so on roller skates. This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church in safety – and then of course, go home to enjoy some fresh tamales. Yum!

Mexico – “Parades & Poinsettias”

A splash of red fills every street in Mexico on Christmas Eve

All across Mexico members of the Catholic Church put on Pastorelas (“Shepherd’s Plays”) to retell the Christmas story. The Mexican Christmas season begins early in December with Las Posadas, a religious march that re-enacts the journey of Mary and Joseph. The vibrant red poinsettia flowers are also used in holiday arrangements for decoration throughout the country. 

Ukraine “Singing Carols & some Kutya”

Anyone bring a spoon?

Almost half of the Ukrainian population are Orthodox Christians. As a country, Ukraine observes Christmas Day on January 7. They do so by dressing in traditional garments and walking through town singing carols.

A dish called kutya, made of cooked wheat mixed with honey, ground poppy seeds, and sometimes nuts, is a popular Christmas Eve treat. Some families throw a spoonful of kutya at the ceiling: If it sticks, there will be a good harvest in the new year. We’re curious if on December 25, a maid shows up to help with the mess?

If you’d like a recipe for how to make your own Christmas kutya, click the link here:

(Sorry, a maid is not included)

Belgium – “Sinterklaas & Sweet Treats”

Someone’s arriving fashionably in Belgium this year…

Here we are, ready to share with you about the traditions from the country we currently LIVE in. In Belgium, you may catch a sighting or two of Santa Claus, but Sinterklaas, or St. Nick, is the man that rules the land.

Much like the character of Santa Claus, Sinterklaas also dresses in red and visits children’s homes & delivers presents. However, he does so by horse, instead of reindeer, assisted by helpers called “Zwarte Piet”, instead of elves, and on a totally different day – Dec. 6 instead of Dec. 25. Children place their shoes by the door or fireplace, as well as a hand-written note for Sinterklaas, and some treats for his helpers and horse…sometimes even a beer. In the morning of Dec. 6, children would awake to their shoes being filled with candy, coins and little presents.

On Christmas Eve in Belgium, many families gather together for warm & cozy meals, including a traditional dessert, the chocolate Christmas log, which is made of sponge roll, layered with cream. You’d also see many Belgian families enjoying “Smoutebollen” (deep fried dumplings) and drinking jenever (gin) or Gluhwein (hot wine). To all that we say, schol, or “cheers!”

USA – “Lights, cookies & stockings”

Three generation family are doing door-to-door carol singing. There is a senior woman at the door, appreciating their singing.

America’s Christmas traditions may be the most popular and famous around the world thanks to Hollywood’s plethura of Christmas films and pop culture. Everything from Christmas pop music to massive Christmas parades, it is one of the American people’s most anticipated seasons of the year.

People in America like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even with statues of Santa Claus, Snowmen and Reindeer. Some cookies and a glass of milk are often left out as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve. Towns and cities will decorate the streets with lights to celebrate Christmas. It also would be common to hear families and friends out singing Christmas carols to their neighbours. In the month of December, in America, the Christmas spirit is all around.

Did you learn something new from this post? We sure did!

How do YOU and your family celebrate the Christmas season? We’d love to hear.

Comment below and share your own traditions with us.

From our family to yours, we pray that you all have a Christmas that’s full of joy, connectedness and warmth that’ll spread to everyone inside your home – and out.

The Cleymans

Published by Kim & Cheyanne Cleyman

Married Belgian-American couple living in Europe helping families connect through fitness across cultures and continents; with a passion for well-being - mind, body, heart and soul.

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