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6 Christmas traditions from around the world


Photo by Mukumbura on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

All across Canada, we celebrate the holidays in many different ways — some of us put up a Christmas tree, some light a menorah for Hanukkah, some celebrate Orthodox Christmas in January, and there's even more traditions out there. But what Christmas and holiday traditions — rituals, customs and stories passed down through your family — are there in other countries around the world? Are they different than your family traditions? Check out some interesting traditions from seven countries around the world.

The Christmas pickle — Germany

pickle ornament in a tree

Photo by elvissa on Visual Hunt / CC BY

You're probably wondering why a pickle, but the Christmas pickle isn’t an ACTUAL pickle. It’s a pickle ornament; usually made of blown glass. In Germany, the Christmas pickle ornament is hidden in a hard-to-spot place in the tree and the first child to find it gets a special present and good luck for the coming year.

The legend of the Yule cat — Iceland

black cat covered in snow

Photo by Kerri Lee Smith on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

If you were going to pick a scary monster, it probably wouldn’t be a cat. But in Iceland stories, anyone who finished their chores before Chritmas would get new clothes as a reward. The Yule cat would skulk around in the snow on Christmas night to eat the dinners of the bad children who didn't get new clothes — and eat them as well! Today, the story inspires children in Iceland to be generous and give clothes to the less fortunate to protect them from the Yule cat. 

The Christmas spider — Ukraine

spiderweb ornament in a Christmas tree

A traditional spiderweb ornament. (Photo by fiskadoro on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

Maybe you'd rather face the Yule cat than a Christmas spider but unlike the cat, the Christmas spider of Ukrainian folklore is actually a good guy. Legend has it that when a poor family couldn’t afford decorations, the Christmas spider visited and decorated their tree for them. Today, many Ukrainian families put sparkly spiderweb decorations on their tree to bring good fortune for the New Year.

Broom hiding — Norway

two brooms against a wall

Photo by 27147 on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

What do brooms have to do with Christmas? In Norway, they would traditionally hide their brooms at Christmas so that witches and evil spirits wouldn't ride on them. Even today, many people still hide their brooms!

Kekatas — Latvia

people dressed up in straw masks

Wikimedia/Spekozols/CC BY-SA 4.0

At Christmastime in Latvia, many people take part in ķekatas, or mumming, which is a type of folk play with music and dancing! Participants dress up in elaborate costumes and masks, parade from house to house to offer blessings in return for treats. The masks can be animals and even supernatural creatures.

Loksa — Slovakia

table set for Christmas

A table set for the holidays in Slovakia. (Photo by Robert.BlueSky licensed CC BY-SA 2.0)

Here’s a messy one for you. In Slovakia, the oldest man in the house throws a spoonful of loksa pudding — made from poppy seeds, honey, milk and bread — onto the ceiling. The more pudding that sticks to the ceiling, the better your luck for the coming year.

Banana trees — India

a banana tree on the banks of a river in India

Photo by shankar s. on VisualHunt / CC BY

What do you do when you have no traditional fir or pine trees to decorate for the holidays? You use fruit trees instead! In India, families decorate banana and mango trees for Christmas.

Want to check out more Christmas traditions? Head over to How Do They Celebrate Christmas Around the World?