Around the World

Guest post by: Nicole Tegge (Follow on Spotted Places here)


I’m sure you’ve heard of Santa Claus, but what about Babouschka?  In Russia, children don’t eagerly await Santa but rather Babouschka.  Babouschka is the old woman or grandmother who gives gifts to children.  The legend is inspired by the story of the birth of Jesus and the old lady who is still in search of him. 

Let’s try another.  What do Irish children leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve?  If you guessed milk and cookies… you’d be wrong.  In fact, it’s mince pies and Guinness!  (I wonder which Santa prefers… wink, wink?

These are just two of many unique and fun holiday traditions from around the world!  In this article, in the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, I’ve included twelve of my favorites.  Be sure to read on to see if you’ve ever heard of these!


Colombia Little Candle's Day

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In Colombia, the start of the holiday season begins with Little Candle’s Day.  

People light candles and paper lanterns and spread them throughout their balconies, windows, yards, driveways, sidewalks, stores, parks, streets, and town squares. 

While the tradition honors the Virgin Mary, it is also a very important family and community activity.


Residents of Caracas, Venezuela know how to travel in style. Every year when heading to Christmas mass, they arrive by virtue of roller skates! The tradition presumedly started as a way to mimic sledding.

Families skate together amid streets full of food stalls, fireworks, and church bells. People commonly eat tamales (a tasty dish of meat, vegetables, and dough wrapped in a banana leaf) while washing them down with hot chocolate.

Venezuela tamales holiday tradition
Austria Krampus holiday tradition

Photo Credit: Foottoo/Shutterstock


We all know that Santa rewards the nice, but who punishes the naughty? In Austria, that’d be Krampus

Krampus is a half-demon, half-goat that stalks the streets dragging chains, ringing bells, and carrying sacks in search of bad little boys and girls. 

Young men dress up and terrify children in parade-type processions or spectacular performances. 


Kentucky for Christmas!

After a clever marketing ploy exploded in popularity, the Japanese trade the Christmas turkey for KFC’s fried chicken!

More than 3.5 million Japanese this year will eat KFC for their Christmas dinner placing orders weeks in advance, putting up with long lines, or braving bad weather conditions for this finger linkin’ fast food staple. 

Japan KFC Holiday Tradition

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Photo Credit: Gavlebocken/Twitter


In Sweden, one peaceful holiday tradition has taken an unexpected turn.

Since 1966, the city of Gävle has constructed a colossal, Yule Goat. Composed of straw and displayed in the town center, it’s a symbol of Christmas. 

However, almost every year it doesn’t survive Christmas. Local pranksters do their best to ensure that it is burned to ground


Christmas in Britain resembles many of the classic traditions in the States… yet with unique twists.

Children hang stockings, but at the foot of their beds. Letters to Santa are written before being tossed into the fire. Paper crowns rival Santa hats in popularity. And fruitcakes are ditched for Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings. 

And one can’t forget Boxing Day, the day after Christmas which is comparable to the States’ Black Friday.

Santa Christmas in the UK bike riding

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Iceland Christmas traditions Yule Lads

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Although previously depicted as naughty pranksters, today Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads more closely resemble Santa Claus.

For the 13 nights preceding Christmas, boys and grows set out an empty shoe on their windowsill before going to bed for the magical creatures.

Upon waking up, the young children will be greeted with gifts or chocolate whilst the naughty ones will find potatoes.


Across the Bahamas, the holiday festivities reach a fever pitch with Junkanoo.

Originating with plantation slaves, today the tradition involves all residents.

A huge street parade with music, dances, and intricate costumes ushers in a night of celebration and crazy fun. The parties continue all night long during which spiced curry goat will be served for dinner.

Christmas in the Bahamas

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Ukraine Christmas

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At first glance, it appears those in Ukraine may have Christmas confused with Halloween.

That’s because Christmas trees are decorated with spider webs!

The story goes that a poor family could not afford to decorate a tree. The night before Christmas a spider covered the tree in webs; in the morning these webs magically transformed into gold and silver garlands. 

The Phillippines

Giant lanterns block out the night sky in the Filipino city dubbed “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.

While constructing the lanterns began as a modest religious tradition, in the years since it has exploded into a full-blown competition between 11 neighboring villages.

The lanterns are composed of many materials including bamboo and thousands of light bulbs. Measuring up to twenty feet, they are truly evolved from the original origami-paper ones.

The Phillippines

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Greenland holiday food

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Traditional foods are an important part of the holiday season. Those in Arctic circle celebrate with their unique take traditional Christmas foods.

Kivak — raw bird wrapped in sealskin buried under a stone for months until  decomposed

Mattak — raw whale skin stuffed with blubber 

Barbecued caribou/reindeer


Befana: the Christmas Witch

Italians have a spin on Santa Claus. According to folklore, Befana the Witch is responsible for the Christmas treats.

Not only does she enter through the chimney, but, years ago, naughty children could expect to find coal upon checking their stockings. 

Today, it’s more common to find black, rock-shaped candy as a supplement to sweets, toys, books, and dolls commonly awaiting eager children.

Italy Christmas tradition Belfana the Witch

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There you have it.  12 fun and unique holiday traditions from around the world.  Don’t forget to comment and share yours!
Nicole Tegge

Nicole Tegge

Guest Blogger

After a study abroad trip in college sparked the love of traveling, Nicole has called home Taiwan, Colombia, and, currently, Peru. In between exploring foreign cities, she’s taken on a variety of work including copywriting, blogging, social media management, and more!

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