7 of the Most Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

United States By Christy Lowry Dec 4, 2023

7 Unusual and Intriguing Christmas Traditions

Christmas is celebrated by many cultures across the globe, and almost every family or community has their own special traditions. We’ve drawn together a collection of customs that show how the “most wonderful time of the year” can also be the most weird and wonderful time!

Lock up your brooms

In Norway, Christmas Eve marks the chance for witches and demons to walk among us –  though they’d rather fly. To foil their wicked designs, and make sure your precious broom isn’t purloined, it’s tradition to hide away your sweepers, far from prying demon fingers.

The 13 Lads of Christmas

Why settle for just Santa, when you could have a whole gang of 13 Christmas characters with names like Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper and Doorway-Sniffer? Iceland’s mischievous Yule Lads come out to play (or cause mayhem) and visit the country’s children in the 13 days leading up to Christmas. In this Christmas tradition, Yule Lads visit any child who puts shoes in their bedroom window. They leave gifts for those who have been good and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.

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Find the pickle in Germany

There’s some argument about where this tradition originated—some say Germany and others say Spain—but it’s certainly, most famously a German Christmas custom. Each Christmas, someone in the family hides a pickle (well, usually a pickle-shaped tree ornament) on the Christmas tree and then the children of the house race to find it. First to produce the pickle gets an extra present!

The festive cat with a big appetite in Iceland

Another one from Iceland, where it’s become Christmas tradition for everyone to get a new outfit as a festive gift or risk becoming the Yule Cat’s Christmas dinner. This giant feline is said to prowl the frozen countryside around Christmastime. The myth was initially used by farmers to “encourage” hard work from their employees – do a good job and you’d be gifted with new clothes, slack off and you’d be next to fill the Yule Cat’s ravenous belly.

A web of fortune in Ukraine

In Ukraine, it’s tradition to deck homes and trees not with boughs of holly or baubles but with decorations made to look just like glistening spiderwebs. These decorations don’t just look beautiful, they’re meant to draw in good luck for the year ahead.

A classic folk tale is the inspiration. It tells of a penniless widow who could not afford any decorations for her tree or to make her home jolly for her children. But when the family went to sleep on Christmas Eve, the house spiders heard the children crying and were moved to cover the tree in beautiful intricate webs. When the sun hit the webs, their threads shone and turned to gold and silver, and the family enjoyed good fortune for the rest of their days.

Caracas Christmas on wheels

If you think Christmas could stand to be merrier, or maybe just a little more mobile, you might like to visit Caracas, capital of Venezuela, for the festive season. Here, it’s become a Christmas tradition to head to church on Christmas Eve—on roller skates! No one’s quite sure why this began—one theory is that people started heading out on skates because there’s not really much chance for sledding in sunny Venezuela. Now this roller-skating tradition is so popular that many roads close to cars for Christmas Eve morning.

A giant flaming goat in Sweden

Not to be outdone by Iceland’s cat and pack of lads, the Swedes include a giant goat in their Christmas celebrations. There can be no doubt that this is a true tradition, passed down through the ages—it dates right back to ancient pagan times.

The goat is mostly seen on Christmas trees throughout Sweden, as a rustic ornament usually made of straw. However, if you should visit the town of Gävle around Christmas, you might be lucky enough to come face-to-hoof with a giant straw Yule Goat, soaring 40 feet into the sky. Unfortunately for the goat, it has also become tradition for pranksters to destroy it, usually by burning it. Arrive too late, and you might only meet a smoking pile!

However, you like to celebrate, if you have loved ones around the world looking forward to the festive season, why not send them a little something towards their festivities? With Western Union, sending money for Christmas, all around the globe, is as easy as putting shoes out for the Yule Lads. You can easily send funds online, use our fast and reliable money transfer app, or visit an agent location in over 200 countries and territories around the world.