9 Intriguing International Holiday Traditions

The holidays are a time for families to come together, celebrate and practice some seriously strange traditions.

The holidays are a time for families to come together, celebrate and practice some seriously strange traditions.

Don’t think yours are strange?

Do you buy a tree cut down specifically to decorate with glass balls and twinkly lights? How about sticking small gifts in giant socks?

How about giving kids their very first taste of gambling, with a little wooden dreidel?

Regardless of what holiday you do or don’t celebrate, there’s no denying that we are beholden to some very strange customs.

Check out these nine other holiday traditions from around the world.

1. The United Kingdom // Christmas Crackers


Because who doesn’t love the sound of shots fired on Christmas? Photo: @brionyrogers / Instagram

The Brits celebrate Christmas with a bang. Christmas crackers are cylindrical party toys with three segments roughly the dimensions of a toilet paper tube. Two people hold the end pieces and pull them apart, creating a small cracking sound that’s akin to a cap gun bang.

Whoever pulls the side that keeps the center compartment will also get the presents inside: trinkets, toys, candies, and usually pleasant messages written on scrolls. With boxes of eight to ten Christmas crackers, you can entertain your kids in between meals and presents.

2. France // Yule Log


This is one log you won’t want to burn. Photo: @bbcgoodfood / Instagram

Inspired by the Germanic pagan tradition of keeping a log burning on the hearth all through the Yuletide, French bakers put a sweet and decadent twist on the concept. Instead of an actual log, French tables bear a roulade cake that resembles a tree branch, made by rolling layers of sponge cake in chocolate buttercream frosting.

The result is like a giant Ho Ho, but, like a million times better because some French pastry chef rolled it with love. One end is traditionally cut off, reinforcing the look of a branch sawed off a tree.

They’ll also drag forks through the icing to imitate tree bark, coat it with powdered sugar to resemble light snow, and, sometimes, add meringue mushroom caps for extra fun.

3. Sicily, Italy // Feast of the Seven Fishes


I want to go to there! Photo: @wtseafood / Instagram

In Sicily and Southern Italy, La Vigilia celebrates the world’s waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ. For many areas with Italian populations, The Feast of the Seven Fishes has become a more familiar version of the tradition.

Families spend Christmas Eve together eating, at least, seven, but sometimes as many as 13, different seafood dishes. The staple is *baccalà *(a dried and salted cod) though other dishes like calamari and fried smelts have become staples, too.

4. Australia // Beach Party


Hey, if anyone deserves to catch some rays, it’s Santa. Photo: @stitchinsiren / Instagram

In the land down under, Christmas occurs in the middle of summer. Although, many in Australia celebrate the Christmas holiday much like Americans, there is one special difference - a massive beach party.

Nearly 40,000 people show up on Bondi Beach, dressed in their holiday best to have the most festive beach bash ever. Walking in a summer wonderland? Chestnuts roasting on a beach bonfire? Anyone else want to take a December trip to the Southern Hemisphere?

5. The United States // Festivus


Only in America would a legitimate holiday be born from a television show. Photo: @xmikeywildx / Instagram

Inspired by George Costanza of Seinfeld fame, many now celebrate a new holiday on December 23. Seinfeld scriptwriter, Dan O’Keefe brought light to his family tradition of celebrating a sort of anti-consumerism holiday.

Although the holiday began as a parody, it has evolved into something of an actual secular event. To celebrate, one erects a bare aluminum Festivus pole, and engages in the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength.”

The idea that an episode of Seinfeld could create a new holiday is a true testament to the miracles of Festivus.

6. The Philippines // Págmamáno


These blow my boring Christmas decorations out of the water. Photo: BritandBeyonce / Wikipedia

While Christmas isn’t as big a deal in most Asian countries, the Philippines deck the entire freaking country with festivities. Carols get sung as early as September lasting all the way until the Feast of Santo Nino on the third Sunday of January.

After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, Filipinos traditionally visit their extended family members all morning long, participating in the Págmamáno ritual. After asking for a blessing from elder family members, the children in the family receive crisp bank notes to reward them for paying their respects.

7. Vietnam // Bánh Chưng


The most delicious tradition of all! Photo: @t.shusi / Instagram

Vietnamese families pay homage to their empirical past by eating bánh chưng during their New Year’s celebration of Tet. Following a victorious battle that ousted China’s Shang Dynasty, the presiding leader of the Hung Kings couldn’t decide which son he wanted to rule. Whoever could bring the best dish to honor the victory would win the rule.

It was Lang Lieu’s cake of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork wrapped in green leaves that ultimately won. Traditionally observed in late January or early February, coinciding with the first new moon of the Vietnamese calendar, bánh chưng is synonymous with the festival, reminding them of out with the old and in with the new.

8. Venezuela // Rolling to Mass


If you’re going to mass, you might as well go in style. Photo: @ili_delsur / Instagram

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, it is typical to see the entire city roller skating to early morning mass on Christmas. The streets are closed to vehicles until 8 am, and children are even put to bed early the night before so that they’re awake and ready to skate the following morning.

Even odder, the night before this roller derby, children will tie a string to their big toes and hang it out of the window to allow the passing roller skaters to give them a friendly tug as they roll by the next morning. Que divertido!

9. Ukraine // Spider Web Tree


I wish all spider webs were this colorful. Photo: @lindsay_macrae / Instagram

For fellow Arachnophobes, this could be the most nightmarish tradition, but for those in the Ukraine, spiders are considered good luck around the holidays. According to legend, there was once a widow, living in a small, cold hut with her children.

One day, a pinecone fell, and a tree grew in its place. Her children tended to the tree and planned their decorations. However, they soon realized that they did not have enough money to do so. That night, the spiders of the house heard the children’s cries and spun a beautiful web around the tree. The next day, when the widow and children came out to see the tree, the sun shone on the webs, turning them into silver and gold.

The family, saved from poverty, lived happily ever after. To this day, Ukrainians decorate their trees with artificial spider webs, to bring good fortune.