with a host of different traditions!
BAD SANTA I AUSTRIA
A sinister Santa lurks around Austria. He’s a ghoulish creature called ‘Krampus’, the evil accomplice of St Nicholas, and is said to wander the streets in search of badly behaved children.
During the month of December, terrifying masked figures wander the streets and scare kids and adults alike with pranks. If this holiday tradition sounds like your kind of thing, be sure to check out the annual Krampus parade in Vienna.
A COBWEB CHRISTMAS I UKRAINE
Forget about Christmas decorations such as baubles, tinsel and stars, Ukrainians use decorations that mimic the natural formation of spiders’ webs shimmering with dew.
The tradition goes back to a folktale about a poor widow who could not afford to decorate a tree for her children. Legend has it that spiders in the house took pity on the family, and spun beautiful webs all over the tree, which the children awoke to find on Christmas morning. Spiders’ webs are also considered to be lucky in Ukrainian culture.
COLONEL SANTA I JAPAN
In 1974, Kentucky Fried Chicken released a festive marketing campaign in Japan. The seemingly simple slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) spawned a national tradition that still thrives to this day. Although Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, families from all over the country head to their local KFC for a special Christmas Eve meal.
PICKLE IN THE TREE I GERMANY
This Christmas tree tradition, embraced around the world today, is believed to have started in Germany back in the 16th Century. Although some claim that the tradition may not be German after all.
One legend says that the Christmas pickle originated in Spain when two young boys were held as prisoners inside a pickle barrel. The heroic Saint Nicholas rescued the boys and brought them back to life. Either way, a pickle on the Christmas tree is a tradition one can totally get behind.
ROLLER SKATE MASS I VENEZUELA
In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, swathes of city-dwellers make their way to mass on roller skates every year on Christmas morning. The tradition is now so well established that many of the city’s streets are closed to traffic from 8 a.m. so that the skating congregation can get to church safely.
FESTIVE SAUNA I FINLAND
Many homes in Finland come equipped with their own sauna, and at Christmas time this spot becomes a sacred space associated with long-dead ancestors. On Christmas Eve, it’s customary to take a long sit in the sauna, which is also believed to be home to the legendary sauna ‘elf.’
After the sauna session, Finns head out to the evening celebrations – while the spirits of those ancestors take their place in the bubbling water.
SHOES BY THE FIRE I THE NETHERLANDS
Every year in the days leading up to 25th December, Dutch children place their shoes by the fire in the hopes that Sinterklaas will fill them with small gifts and treats in the night. Traditionally, carrots are left in the shoes for Sinterklaas’ faithful steed, a white horse named Amerigo.
BEFANA THE WITCH I ITALY
Forget Santa and 25th December when in Italy, as all the action takes place
on the eve of 5th January. According to folklore, an old woman named Befana visits all the children of Italy to fill their stockings with candy and leave them presents if they’ve been good. Just like Father Christmas, Befana enters through the chimney and is left treats by the children who live there – typically wine and local delicacies.
THE YULE CAT I ICELAND
One of the more unique festive traditions comes from Iceland, where a giant cat is said to roam the snowy countryside at Christmas time. Traditionally, farmers would use the Yule Cat as an incentive for their workers – those who worked hard would receive a new set of clothes, but those who didn’t would be devoured by the gigantic cat-like beast.
FRIED CATERPILLARS I SOUTH AFRICA
Festive fried caterpillars may seem like one of the more unusual Christmas traditions, but these caterpillars aren’t just the run-of-the-mill variety you find in the garden. The Pine Tree Emperor Moth, or Christmas caterpillar, is covered in very festive hues – giving all who swallow a little extra luck in the coming year.
DONALD DUCK I SWEDEN
A Donald Duck video from a 1958 Christmas special called “Kalle Anka och hans vanner onskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas” is still a hit in Sweden today. Every Christmas, families around Sweden gather around the television at 3 p.m. sharp to watch Donald deliver his raspy message.
Christmas is planned around the television special, and more than 40% of Sweden’s population still tune in like clockwork.
THE ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS TREE I NEW ZEALAND
In New Zealand, Christmas trees are all about the pohutukawa, a beautiful tree that is native to New Zealand with gnarled roots and bright crimson flowers.
The first mention of the pohutukawa tree came from Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter in 1867. He described locals decorating their churches and homes with the brightly colored branches at Christmas.
Today, the pohutukawa tree is a recognized symbol of Christmas around New Zealand and is featured on Christmas cards, decorations, and even in the Christmas carols that children sing at school.
No matter how you celebrate this season, no matter what part of the world you are celebrating in, the John Eric + Trevor Moore team wishes you and your families a sincere wish for the best in 2024.