It’s the holidays and, for many families, that means gifts are exchanged, feasts are had with friends and family, and the season rounds out with a fun and festive New Year’s celebration. Many of us also see our insane families let loose and follow some pretty unique traditions. Even still, there are quite a few worldwide holiday traditions that are much different than what you’re used to, but what better way to celebrate than with the strange, unique, and totally weird? Here are five bizarre traditions that are totally outside of the norm.
1. Fearing the wrath of Krampus
While those who celebrate Christmas are all-too-familiar with Santa Claus, there’s another mythical Christmas figure that stems from German folklore. Krampus, Santa’s evil counterpart, is a half-goat, half-demon beast and threatening anyone who chooses to be naughty instead of nice during the holidays, says National Geographic. The name stems from the German word “krampen,” which means claw, and has been compared to other scary beasts in Greek mythology.
In Germany, the holidays are celebrated all throughout December, and that’s around the time children start fearing that Krampus is going to make an appearance in place of St. Nick. The National Geographic story explains folklore states Krampus can typically be seen on the night of December 5, which is known as Krampusnacht (Krampus night). On this night, children leave a shoe or a boot outside of their doors, hoping to find presents candy the next day, which is known as Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day). But if they’ve been bad, they’ll awake to a rod.
If you’ve been dying to have a Christmas with a creepy spin, considering adding Krampus in to your holiday tradition.
2. Celebrating the Night of the Radishes
If you didn’t get your fix for carving vegetables out in October, this charming Mexican holiday tradition is one you’ll want to introduce to your family. According to BBC Travel, once the holidays hit, radishes get a chance to shine. December 23 is the official Night of the Radishes celebration. The tradition began over a century ago, when merchants would try to attract holiday shoppers by selling intricately cut radishes. The merchants actually did rather well with this practice, and it became common to see them before and after Church. Today, the tradition continues with local artists and vendors providing these decorative radishes for the town.
These aren’t your typical radishes, either. According to Travel + Leisure, they’re grown until they’re about 20 inches long. This tradition is so popular that there are even cash prizes for the best ones. If you’re looking for something unique for your family to do every year for the holidays, consider grabbing some radishes out of your veggie bin and going to town.
3. Lighting up the city
You probably think the lights you put on your house and around your yard for the holidays are pretty cool, but we can pretty much guarantee that when compared to this Cuban holiday festival, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Smithsonian.com explains Cuba’s oldest festival known as Las Parrandas actually takes place on Christmas day in the city of Remedios. It’s known for its light shows (fireworks, electronic displays, lamps — you name it) that vary across town. Neighborhoods even compete with one another to see who can create the most brilliant light show for the holidays, which results in some pretty over-the-top works of art.
If you’re wondering how this tradition began, the same story says some claim a priest noticed less and less people were making it to mass around Christmas in 1820. To combat this slow decline, he encouraged children to go into the streets and create as much noise as possible with whatever they could find to attract more attention to the church. Eventually, this noise ended up being music, which then spread to light. As crazy as your family’s Christmas display may seem, this might be the biggest and brightest holiday tradition of them all.
4. Eating KFC in mass quantities
Your holiday table is most likely seen displaying a ham, turkey, or some other deliciously roasted protein. In Japan, they also have their holiday protein of choice — fried chicken. They may not celebrate Christmas as a national holiday in Japan, but The Huffington Post’s WorldPost says they do celebrate Christmas dinner with a KFC menu featuring fried chicken, wine, cake, and champagne for about $40. It started in 1974 when KFC decided to find a way to appease foreigners who were having difficulty getting their hands on turkey around the holidays. Clearly, it was a hit. But don’t think you can just waltz over to KFC if you’re in Japan for this tradition — you have to reserve your chicken dinner ahead of time.
5. Setting the yule goat on fire
There are traditional symbols to signify the holidays are here — Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and holiday lights, to name a few. In Sweden, there’s a special tradition involving a giant yule goat made of straw. Traditionally, the yule goats are tiny, but in 1966, a Swedish man named Stig Gavlen decided to give this tradition an overhaul by making the yule goat huge. The Gävle Goat (which can be found in the city of Gävle, as the name suggests) now stands at 42.6 feet tall and stands as the official symbol of the holidays in Sweden.
While a giant goat is all well and good, PRI’s The World reminds us there’s a darker side to this story, too. The original yule goat that stood at 23 feet tall was burned to the ground, and most of the yule goats that have come after this have also been subject to arson. Only 14 goats have lived through the entire holiday season without going up in flames.