5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

Believe it or not – even after checking your calendar, Christmas is right around the corner! And even though December is one of the busiest months for students, mainly due to assignments, project work and tests, it is simply impossible to avoid being possessed of the festive spirit! Seriously, who would mind having a nice break to celebrate with their friends and family, possible receiving a few presents, and placing some defecating figurines around their home? Wait a minute, do what now?

Christmas – origins, history and tradition

First of all, allow us to introduce you to the traditional background behind Christmas, and Christmas Day –25th December. Originally, this date marked and celebrated the birth of Jesus during the 4th century. And as time passed, this celebration spread around various regions around Europe, and later the world, evolving into a period of festivities including tree decorations, preparing Christmas cards, exchanging gifts and expecting a visit from Santa Claus.

Interestingly, around the 17th century, there was even a time when Christmas was cancelled! But since then, Christmases have mostly emerged into a family holiday involving the preparation of Christmas dinner, followed by scenes of children waiting for their chosen presents after writing a letter with an addressee in Lapland, Finland! Of course, many also choose to attend church, or simply enjoy their home comfort behind the TV and “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter” marathons. But hey, we are here for those rather strange Christmas traditions, right? Let’s go back to those defecating figurines first.

5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
Hier steht Text
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

1. Caganer – Catalonia

When picturing a traditional nativity scene, you are most likely to imagine something quite spectacular given that it is the birth of Jesus. Regular scenes include the figures of Mary and Joseph, and other characters such as angels and shepherds. But for a brief moment, add the following to the background: a peasant, wearing a red Catalan cap, with his trousers down, defecating.  

But before you consider this rather preposterous to such a holy act, look at it from the funny side. El Caganer is present at a variety of Catalan nativity scenes and is often related to good luck, fertility and prosperity. Other, more philosophical point of views point out that human side of this representation as a normal call of nature. Regardless, caganer figurines are now often considered as a regular Christmas decoration – and are becoming more and more popular around the world.

5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

2. Krampus – Austria and Germany

As a popular commentator once went on to express the iconic “Watch out! Watch out!” before an RKO from WWE star Randy Orton, here we definitely recommend that you watch out for the Krampus if you are celebrating Christmas somewhere in Austria or southern Germany. Seen as a beastly figure with the looks of a demon, the Krampus seeks to punish naughty children with a stick and even takes back some of them to his lair.

Now, legends do not really say anything about bad students at university as well – but take this advice, do not go out on5th December, better known as Krampusnacht. On this date, during the night, the Krampus comes out to frighten and whip those that have been naughty, primarily children, before St. Nicholas Day on the following day.

5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

3. Donald Duck - Sweden

On every Christmas Eve since 1959, Swedish TV airs the episode “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas” at 3 PM. As a fan of cartoons, you might be thinking – awesome -  but historically, Swedes share a time period marked by a lack of diverse television channels. This restricted them to having the opportunity to enjoy a Disney animation only during Christmas, which quickly became a tradition.

Translated to Kalle Anka in Sweidsh, Donald Duck is without any doubt a nation’s favorite, even though, much like El Caganer, he is not even wearing pants! If you are in Sweden for Christmas, make sure to tune in and enjoy “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” together with millions of other people around the country.

5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

4. Yule Cat – Iceland

By far, this could be one of the strangest Christmas traditions in this article, yet – as in Iceland, there is the folklore character of the Jólakötturin, or the Yule Cat. It is often described as an enormous creature with the visual of a cat, lurking in the snow in preparation to eat anyone, preferably children, who have not been given new clothes for Christmas.

Thankfully, in order to avoid being devoured from this monstrosity of a cat, all you have to do is simply wear something brand-new – or even better - hint your family members and friends that you are in a need, bigger than ever, of that expensive jacket or those wicked shoes you have always wanted. Of course, it would make sense to do this if you are in Iceland, especially if you are also fond of your other presents and food. The Yule Cat can eat a lot of things!

Hier steht Text
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe
5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe

5. Shoes and marriage – the Czech Republic

“Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” Words of wisdom from Frank Sinatra, although there is quite the intriguing method of telling the future around Christmas in the Czech Republic. Here is the catch – upon throwing a shoe over her shoulder, an unmarried woman can quickly find out if she will get married within the next 12 months.

However, this would be the case only if the toe of the shoes lands while pointing towards a doorway. Indeed, an unusual way to foretell such an important event – rounding up our 5 strange Christmas traditions around Europe!

Related and recommended articles:

Masters Search »

+ more than 30,000 programmes
+ all fields of study
+ universities in over 25 countries
+ 10 filter options
Search now »

  • Study and start your career with the most employable Masters degree of Luxembourg!
  • Drive digital innovation and create economic and social impact
  • Barcelona GSE Data Science Winter School 2020: Applications are now open

Masters portal for Germany:

Masters portal for Austria: