Christmas has never been just about gifts under the tree, yuletide greetings, or watching the latest hallmark movies. In fact, Christmas itself has a long history of co-opting various traditions to celebrate the long winter's night. Some of the world's coolest Christmas traditions may make you wonder what it is you're doing watching aunt Edna knit a scarf for three nights straight.

Japan and KFC

When we think of Christmas, it's easy to picture roast turkey, prime rib, honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. 3.6 million Japanese people have a completely different tradition. Their go-to Christmas meal is fried chicken from KFC, thanks to some good, old-fashioned love of fried chicken.

Those who do partake in this holiday simply have to walk into a store on Christmas Day for their gift-wrapped KFC. The demand for this meal is so high that many locations recommend that patrons pre-order their meals online and have them delivered to their homes.

TOKYO, JAPAN - DECEMBER 23: A man holding a Christmas meal box leaves a KFC restaurant on December 23, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. KFC at Christmas has become something of a tradition in Japan with some attributing its yuletide popularity to a kindergarten delivery being made in a Santa Claus outfit which was such a success it was requested by a number of other schools and subsequently gave the company the idea of associating its product to Christmas. The chain launched its first Christmas campaign in December 1974, and has continued to do so every year at all its outlets nationwide. In 2018, KFC Japan posted all-time high sales of roughly 68 million USD for the five days from December 21 to 25. Roughly 10 percent of its annual turnover for the entire year. Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images


The Yule cat and Iceland

According to Icelandic traditions, a huge and vicious feline, known as the Yule cat, lurks around the snowy countryside during Christmas. This monster devours anyone who hasn't received a new set of clothes for Christmas. Traditionally, workers would get new clothes from their employers, but nowadays, it's tradition for everyone to get and wear a new outfit for Christmas in order to avoid their demise.

This is Jolakotturrin or the Christmas Cat. Legend has it that it eats up children who don't wear new clothes at Christmas. Carolyne Parent / Shutterstock.com


Finland and festive saunas

Almost every home in Finland has a sauna, and everyone is expected to spend some time unwinding in the sauna on Christmas day. It's not only a much-needed break from work but it's also meant to cleanse the body and mind before the start of the midwinter celebrations.

Many families will go to the saunas together, and the saunas are often decorated with candles and other decorations. Interestingly, the sauna is also believed to be the Christmas elf's home.

The outdoor sauna building is decorated with tiny lamp lights during the Christmas time. k009034 / Getty Images


South African and fried caterpillars

The Sundried Emperor Moth Caterpillar is a delicacy that South Africans look forward to on Christmas Day. They’re a beloved treat by many children who will eat them like chips. These tasty, little snacks are said to taste like tea and are quite nutritious. The popularity of these caterpillars is due in part thanks to their colorful nature. Eating them is believed to bring luck!

Smoked silkworm, market in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso Ssviluppo / Getty Images


Norway and mops

In Norway, Christmas is associated with fearful superstitions that are similar to Halloween, which is why every family will hide all of their broomsticks and mops on Christmas eve. If they don't, they might never see them again because witches are going to steal them for a joy ride! Before the family hides the mop, it's tradition to eat a family meal together and then open some gifts.

the Epiphany arrives at the Epiphany and takes away all the Christmas parties


Ukraine and cobwebs

Ukraine also has one of the coolest Christmas traditions in the world fake cobwebs adorn their homes and their Christmas trees - some shimmering with dew.

This unique tradition comes from a folktale about a poor widow who couldn't afford any decorations for her tree. Legend has it that the spiders in the house felt pity for the woman and spun beautiful webs everywhere in the tree in lieu of decoration. These days, decorating the Christmas tree with fake cobwebs is not poor housekeeping. It's meant to be a sign of luck.

Ukrainian christmas decoration, straw spiders on the fir branches, bright new year celebration in Ukraine


Austria and Krampus

While American Christmas is all about good vibes and jolly Saint Nick, Christmas takes a fairly wicked turn in Austra. Instead of Santa Claus, the star of Christmas in Austria is a ghoulish monster known as Krampus. Krampus is essentially the scarier counterpart to Saint Nick, and his one job is to scare children into behaving.

During the month of December, Krampus roams the streets of Austria, and you'll see lots of people wearing these masks and scaring both children and adults alike. Be good, or else!

A closeup of Krampus

Rudi_Brandstaetter / Getty Images


Caracas and roller skate mass

In Caracas, people roller skate their way to mass every year on Christmas morning. This tradition has become so ingrained that many cities now close off the streets to traffic on that day so those who want to skate to mass can get to church safely.

Santa Claus skating fast


The Czech Republic and shoe tossing

It's all about romance and shoes in the Czech Republic. Single ladies that want to know whether they'll marry a romantic partner that year can throw a shoe over their shoulder while standing in the doorway facing the door. If the shoe lands with the toe facing the door, it's a sign that they'll be married within the year. However, if the shoe lands with the heel facing the door, it's just not their year.

 A snowman in fornt of the shops at the traditional Christmas markets at the Peace Square (Namesti Miru) in Prague, Czech republic. WhiteHaven / Shutterstock.com


Germany and pickles in the Christmas tree

In Germany, parents will hang a surprise pickle-shaped glass ornament on the tree sometime during Christmas even. The first child to find the ornament on Christmas Day receives a surprise or is believed to be extra lucky that year.

There are a lot of different theories as to when this tradition originated, but the most popular theory is that the Christmas pickle was a marketing ploy designed in the 1890s to promote the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations.

Someone hanging a pickle Christmas decoration on the tree Meagan Baker / Getty Images


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