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DeadHappy presents: Unusual Christmas traditions from around the world

Christmas is not just tinsel and cross-eyes fairies… Here are some of the weirdest Christmas traditions from around the world.

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Andy Knott

December 21, 2020

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Last Christmas I gave you my… radish?

Ah, Christmas. A time for peace, love and snacks. Lots of snacks. We went rummaging in the internet’s Christmas box to find you some of the best global traditions. But under the tinsel and slightly cross-eyed fairy, we found some of the best examples of weird Christmas stuff you’ve hopefully not heard a thousand times before. So settle down with your preferred festive beverage and get comfy.

Here’s our top 5 weirdest Christmas traditions.


Yule Lads

No, not The Inbetweeners Christmas special. The Yule Lads, or Jólasveinarnir, are 13 Icelandic sprites that visit lucky – or unlucky – children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Every night, kids leave their shoes by the window to receive a gift if they’ve been good, or a rotting potato if they’ve not. Our favourites are food-meddling Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) and Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper).


Mari Lwyd

Christmas is inherently creepy. Most traditions involve bargaining with a stranger for presents or moral issues. Mari Lwyd from the Welsh valleys is no different. This Pagan-inspired creep-fest involves a frankly terrifying hobby horse with a HORSE’S SKULL ON A POLE carried by someone hidden under a cape. The horse-spirit visits people’s houses and asks to be let in – but not by asking, but through singing. The householders have to refuse them entry – also through song – and then some kind of sick rap battle ensues until the Mari Lwyd is allowed into your house or not. Give me tuneless carol singers any day.



Just when you thought dying would get you out of visiting the family at Christmas, in Indonesia – they come to you. In Manado, North Sulawesi, Christmas starts early on December 1st and carries on until the first Sunday in January. During this time, families visit the graves of their loved ones, giving them a good hoover and laying fresh flowers, fairy lights and generally hanging out with snacks and drinks. We bet they don’t get roped into the annual game of Monopoly though.


Veganuary starts early in Egypt

Think you’re being virtuous by going vegan in the New Year? Sorry, health and wellness fans, Egyptians have beaten you to it by doing Vegan December. Vegadvent? We’ll come up with a better name. Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt follow a strict plant-based diet throughout the month leading up to Christmas, called Kiahk, before celebrating Christmas on January 7th. And they don’t even post on Instagram about it.


Noche de los rábanos

We always save the best ‘til last. South America has so many awesome festivals, including celebrating their dead as well as their pineapples. But this is a Christmas blog. In Oaxaco, Mexico, traditional nativity scenes come with a nutritious, village-fête twist. On December 23rd, the people of Oaxaco come together to create scenes of Mary, Joseph and Jesus et al., from radishes. As in the tiny salad vegetable. First introduced to Mexico by the Spanish in the 18th century, the special little veggies found pride of place in nativity scenes in 1897 when the Mayor of Oaxaco, Francisco Vasconcelos, began a competition to pick the best veggie nativity.

Some honourable mentions that you’ve probably heard before:

So there you have it. Five unique Christmas traditions to inspire your own annual leave. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or just not being at work for a few days, we hope you have a lovely time. Create your own weird traditions.

Happy Christmas from DeadHappy x