5 unique Christmas traditions celebrated around the world

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5 unique Christmas traditions celebrated around the world

Christmas Day in the Southern Hemisphere is different when compared to the Northern Hemisphere simply due to the weather. In Australia, for example, the sweltering heat that often characterises the 25th of December means that many people enjoy a BBQ outdoors, complete with fresh seafood and cold meats, surrounded by family and friends. This tradition may seem odd to those celebrating Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere in the same way that so many of their customs and festivities may appear peculiar to Australians. From Japan to Finland, we look at Christmas traditions that are stranger than fiction.

Many Australians enjoy a cold seafood salad on Christmas Day.


Fried chicken is never so highly sought after as it is in Japan during Christmas time. This unique tradition was first formed in the 1970s when KFC launched a successful marketing campaign to ensure that their food became synonymous with Christmas. The fast-food giant was influenced by the tale of a group of foreigners who, unable to find turkey on Christmas Day in Japan, settled for fried chicken instead. This campaign was able to create an ongoing tradition in Japan of eating KFC at Christmas. Due to the high demand for KFC meals during this time, the fast food chain takes orders months in advance. Should you forget to pre-order, prepare to join the two-hour lines outside KFC outlets on Christmas Eve. The delicacy of 'Christmas Chicken' isn't cheap either despite its humble fast-food beginnings: a Christmas chicken meal will set you back up to $40 but it surely is a unique experience to be hadi,ii !


For those fearful of spiders, it's advised you stay away from Ukraine during December. Spiders and their webs are welcomed into Ukrainian households at Christmas time because they are meant to represent good luck. The legend of the lucky spider has its origins in the story of the destitute widow who could not afford to decorate her family's Christmas tree. When she and her children woke on Christmas morning, they found that spiders had decorated the Christmas tree with intricate webs that turned to gold and silver when the light of day shone upon the tree . In honour of this story, Ukrainians decorate their trees with artificial spider webs and spiders, hoping that the next year will bring luck and good fortune just like it did for the widowiv.


In Italy, the Befana takes the main stage towards the end of the Christmas holiday period in January. Described as the 'good witch', this Christmas figure is usually portrayed as an old woman, dressed in a scarf and a long skirt with patches, and riding a broomstick, visiting the homes of children across the countryv. The legend of the Befana is closely linked to the story of the Three Kings. It is said that the Three Kings stopped to ask the Befana for directions to Bethlehem. They invited the Befana to join them on their quest, but she declined, saying she had too much housework to do. Later she regretted her decision and went in search of the baby Jesus. Till this day she still searches for the baby Jesus by visiting the homes of Italian children, leaving them with all sorts of confectionery and gifts. For the kids who've been naughty, she leaves a lump of coal as punishment, just like Santa Claus.

The Befana is usually portrayed as an old woman, dressed in a scarf and a long skirt with patches, and riding a broomstick, visiting the homes of Italian children.

Central Europe

Krampus, the Christmas devil, replaces the magic of Christmas with madness and mayhem in central Europe. The mythical beast – half goat, half demon – whose origins stem from German mythology is the hell-bound counterpart of St Nicholas. Thrashing his chain and shaking warning bells, this frightening creature is said to find children who have been naughty and whip them into being nice with a bundle of birch sticks. For those kids whose naughty nature can't be changed, Krampus drags them down into the underworld as punishment. Krampus makes his debut into civil society each year on the 5th of December, the night known as Krampusnachtvi.


At Christmas, the people of Finland indulge in a tradition that commemorates loved ones who have passed away. Families visit their local cemetery for a stroll among candlelit tombstones to remember their relatives buried there. The snow-covered and leafy cemeteries are sedate and solemn, offering a place of quiet contemplationvii. The rows of candles add a mystical feel to the scene, raising everyone's spirits before they go on to enjoy other festivities such as the Christmas meal and of course, a trip to the saunaviii.

iSmith, A.K. 2012, 'Why Japan is Obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas', Smithsonian.com, 14 December, viewed 22 October 2014,

iiQuigley, J.T. 2013, 'A Kentucky Fried Christmas in Japan', The Diplomat, 11 December, viewed 22 October 2014,

iiiReader's Digest, Christmas Around the World: Traditions and Customs, viewed 22 October 2014,

ivUkraine.com, The Ukrainian Tradition of Spider Webs and Christmas, viewed 22 October 2014,

vGiglio, M 2008, 'Presents on a Broomstick: Taking Flight with Italy's Holiday Witch', Spiegel Online International, 12 December, viewed 22 October 2014,

viBasu, T 2013, 'Who Is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Devil', National Geographic, 17 December, viewed 22 October 2014,

viiWeaver, F, 'Christmas Eve in a candlelit cemetery', This is Finland, viewed 22 October 2014,

viiSalokorpi, S, 'A time of tradition', This is Finland, viewed 22 October 2014,