Fun Christmas traditions from around the world

06 Dec, 2018 Blog

Here at Advent of Change we are humbled by the amazing reaction to our charitable twist on the advent calendar concept. And recently, we’ve been thinking about popular festive traditions and how they have changed over time. Did you know, for example, that the tradition of the advent calendar dates right back to the mid-19th century in Germany, when chalk marks on doors were used to count down to Christmas?

Countries from around the world each have their own fun and quirky festive traditions – and we don’t just mean inviting a man in a red suit down our chimneys to eat our food…! These weird and wonderful acts are often born from myths, stories and superstitions, and are proudly upheld to this day.

From roller skates to radish carving, we take a look at different Christmas traditions from around the world…


1. Get your skates on!

In the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, revellers make their way to early-morning church services on roller skates. This rolling congregation can be seen throughout the festive period, and the roads are even closed off specially. Does this make you want to go rollerskating?

Picture credit: Metro

2. A literary flood…

A tradition book lovers will adore! Residents of Iceland take part in a festive tradition called Jolabokaflod, or ‘The Yule Book Flood’ where they exchange books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them. This lovely tradition originated during World War II – Iceland could not support a year-round publishing industry, so companies flooded the market with new releases as the year came to a close.

3. Quirky carvings

23rd is Noche de los Rabanos, or ‘Night of the Radishes’, in Oaxaca City, Mexico, and takes the form of an annual radish-carving competition. The tradition dates back to 1897 when Oaxaca City’s mayor made the contest part of that year’s Christmas market, to promote local agriculture in a fun and interactive way.

4. The broom cupboard

In Norway, there’s a superstition that spirits and witches come out on Christmas Eve. To protect themselves – and to thwart any mischievous flying spooks – families hide all their brooms before they go to bed.

5. An icy swim

Here in the UK, intrepid members of the Serpentine Swimming Club plunge into the lido for a traditional chilly Christmas day race. The Peter Pan Cup has been held every year since 1864. Would you take the plunge?

Picture credit: ITV

6. Elvish pranks

In Denmark, Nisse is a mischievous elf or gnome who plays pranks on families during the Christmas season. On Christmas Eve, it is therefore customary for people to leave rice pudding out to appease him.

7. The festive goat

Come Christmas time, houses all over Sweden place julbocken, or Christmas goats, in their homes, and giant versions of these straw goats appear in larger cities. Some people believe this festive tradition comes from Norse mythology, when goats were part of Thor’s entourage.

8. Popcorn chicken

In Japan, although Christmas isn’t a national holiday, a jolly bearded man still visits the country, in the form of KFC’s Colonel Sanders. An advertising campaign from the seventies spawned an unusual national tradition where people line up around the block to get their buckets every Christmas Eve.

Picture credit: CNN Travel

We absolutely love these traditions – they bring families and communities together and help spread the festive spirit far and wide! Do you think you will adopt any of these fun ideas this year? We're dusting off our roller skates as we speak...

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