May 31, 2023

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Though they share a continent, European nations and areas take delight in their very own particular Christmas customs. To compile this record of surprising vacation celebrations, I requested journey writers from across the globe to share their favorites. From a present pooping log in Spain to the golden pig of the Czech Republic, let’s discover 12 wacky Christmas traditions in Europe.

The pooping log, or tió de nadal, is a wacky Christmas tradition from Spain
The pooping log, or tió de nadal, is a wacky European Christmas custom from Spain (Picture credit score: Justine Ancheta, Latitude 41)

1. The Present Pooping Log from Catalonia, Spain

Kids all around the northeastern area of Spain in Catalonia cherish the tió de nadal, or caga tió. He is a smiling log that poops presents yearly on Christmas Eve.

The scatological custom goes like this: Beginning on December eighth, households carry out the pooping log and place him in the lounge. He has a contented face that is painted on him and has two entrance sticks as legs. He additionally wears a barretina (a purple Catalan hat).

Each night after dinner, kids depart clementine and orange peels, sweet, nougats, and different meals close to him. In addition they place a blanket on him, so he does not catch a chilly at night time.

The tió eats the meals in a single day when nobody is watching and magically gobbles it up by morning! On Christmas Eve, the log is able to defecate presents.

A father or mother covers him with a blanket, and the youngsters sing conventional caga tió Christmas carols. Whereas they do that, they hit him with a stick to assist him poop. Then, voila! They elevate the blanket to seek out small presents that he excreted, like sweets or toys.

There are a lot of tales of its origin, however one legend is that the pooping log began centuries in the past in a rural space of Catalonia. The chilly houses used logs to maintain the chimneys operating. Because the log supplied warmth and light-weight for the hearth, the kids took care of him. It is unclear how a face confirmed up on him!
— Justine Ancheta, Latitude 41

The Icelandic Yule Cat is a scary Christmas tradition in Europe
The Icelandic Yuletide Cat (Illustration credit score: Halldor Petursson)

Scary Trolls and the Yuletide Cat in Iceland

Contemplating that the primary time he met Santa Claus, my then 2-year-old son wailed his head off, he wouldn’t do nicely in Iceland. That is as a result of Icelandic Christmas traditions involve monsters.

First, you may have Gryla, a troll/ogre mixture who lives on a mountain together with her sons. She’s on her third husband, having killed the primary two husbands as a result of they have been boring. She likes to seize naughty kids in her bag and boil them alive into her favourite stew.

Gryla has 13 sons, the Yuletide Lads, who go to Icelandic kids in the course of the 13 days within the run-up to Christmas. The Yuletide Lads depart well-behaved kids sweet and little toys in a shoe positioned on the windowsill. The Yuletide Lads depart a rotten potato within the shoe if the kid has been naughty.

The household pet is a huge black cat, Yuletide Cat, who’s non-discriminatory in his tastes. He likes to eat each kids and adults. Plus, he doesn’t even care in the event you’ve been naughty or good. Yuletide Cat solely will get to eat as soon as per yr, so maybe his neutral urge for food is because of starvation.

The one solution to keep away from being a Yuletide Cat meal is to get a brand new piece of clothes at Christmas. (No extra whines from the kiddies when that reward is a sweater as an alternative of a toy!)
— Shobha George, The Expat Journey Mama

Bulgarian bread made for Christmas Eve, a delicious European tradition
Conventional Bulgarian bread made for Christmas Eve (Picture credit score: mazzachi,

3. Christmas Pigs and Carolers in Bulgaria

Christmas traditions in Bulgaria are an intriguing mixture of pagan rituals and Orthodox Christian customs. On this European nation, Christmas Eve is definitely extra necessary than Christmas Day itself.

The big meal on Christmas Eve is all the time vegetarian and should include an uneven variety of dishes – 7, 9 or 11. December twenty fourth can be if you crack a walnut open to foretell how good or unhealthy the subsequent yr will deal with you.

Initially, there have been no Christmas presents on December twenty fifth and there was no Santa Claus in Bulgaria. As a substitute, on Christmas Day pigs have been slaughtered.

In Orthodox Christianity, the 40 days earlier than Christmas are a interval of fasting, therefore the vegetarian Christmas Eve meal, after which on Christmas Day meat could possibly be lastly eaten. So, pig slaughtering turned a ritual in itself, and in some locations, it will last as long as three days.

Lastly, on Christmas Day there are the standard carol singers known as Koledari. These teams of males go from home to accommodate to sing and dance. They want for well-being, well being, and prosperity, and chase the unhealthy spirits away. In trade, they’re given ritual breads and ring-shaped buns.

Immediately, though Santa Claus additionally makes a detour to Bulgaria, most of those Christmas celebrations are nonetheless alive and practiced, besides maybe for the pig-slaughtering one, which is fading away and will be discovered solely in villages.
— Daniela Koleva,

Sinterklaas and Black Peter are wacky and controversial traditions in Europe
Sinterklaas and Black Peter arriving by boat within the Netherlands (Picture credit score: Buurserstraat38,

4. Sinterklaas and the Black Peters within the Netherlands

The Christmas season begins within the Netherlands with the arrival of Sinterklaas in November yearly. Sinterklaas and his companions (known as Black Peters) sail into one of many Dutch ports from Spain, the place they stay the remainder of the yr. Sinterklaas is an older gentleman in a bishop’s clothes who rides a white horse.

The Black Peters are presupposed to be Moors from Spain and have historically donned blackface. For sure, the racist implications have induced a number of controversy within the Netherlands in recent times.

The Dutch have been proof against altering their beloved custom, although. They insist the Black Peters are darkish as a result of they received caught within the chimney for a very long time.

When Sinterklaas is on the town, the kids depart a shoe out at bedtime within the hopes of getting a small reward. Naughty kids get a lump of coal of their sneakers as an alternative.

Sinterklaas enjoyable culminates on December 5, when he drops off presents for every youngster earlier than he heads again to Spain.
— Shobha George, Simply Go Locations Weblog

Christmas on Red Square in Moscow, Russia
Christmas on Purple Sq. in Moscow, Russia (Picture credit score: mikolajn,

5. Christmas Fortune Tellers in Russia

Fortune telling is an fascinating custom that’s executed in Russia in the course of the vacation season. Russian Orthodox Epiphany is taken into account the very best time of the yr to foretell the longer term. It takes place from January sixth (Christmas Eve for Orthodox Christians) by January 19. 

It’s commonest for youthful women to get collectively and carry out these predictions. They often try to find what’s in retailer for them in the course of the New Yr. In addition they search solutions to questions on their extra distant futures, similar to when they’ll get married or if they’ll get again along with their boyfriends.

These fortunes will be predicted in quite a lot of methods – from decoding newspaper ashes to utilizing mirrors and candles and burning threads! In current occasions, most ladies do that of their houses. However Russian banyas (or saunas) have been the place these predictions passed off up to now.
— Lindsey Puls, Have Garments, Will Journey

Celebration of St Lucy’s Day in Sweden
St. Lucy and her entourage singing in Malmo, Sweden (Picture credit score: markovskiy,

6. St. Lucy’s Day in Sweden

Each December 13, Sweden celebrates St. Lucy’s Day. This vacation is predicated on tales instructed by the early missionaries who introduced Christianity to the nation.

St. Lucy was a Christian lady who was martyred within the 4th century for bringing meals to Christians who have been hiding from persecution in Roman catacombs. She wore candles on her head so as to maintain her arms free to carry the meals.

Yearly Sweden picks a woman to be the nationwide St. Lucy. Native cities and villages additionally choose their very own St. Lucys. The competitors is fierce.

The Lucys gown in white robes and put on crowns of white candles on their head. Historically, the crowns are fabricated from lingonberries and maintain lit candles. Little boys be a part of within the custom by carrying white robes and holding a star on a follow be Star Boys.  

The Lucys go to hospitals and previous individuals. Then they hand out gingersnap biscuits and candy raisin buns formed like St. Lucia’s cats (lussekatter). 

If you want to attempt your hand at making gingersnap biscuits or the raisin buns, then the official website for the country of Sweden has recipes for each.
— Shobha George, Just Go Places Blog

Krampus masked people in Graz, Austria at a Christmas festival
Krampus masked individuals in Graz, Austria (Picture credit score: calinstan,

7. Krampus the Christmas Satan in Austria and Germany

Rising up as a child celebrating Christmas in North Georgia, a lump of coal in your stocking from Santa was simply concerning the worst menace conceivable across the holidays. However in Alpine Austria and Germany, the place the darkish Grimm fairy tales have been born, there’s Krampus. Probably the world’s weirdest Christmas custom, Krampus is an insane satan certain in chains, with matted fur, stag horns, and flaming coals for eyes.

On December 5, the night time earlier than the Feast of St. Nicholas, Krampusnacht is widely known. The half-goat, half-demon takes to the streets to punish naughty girls and boys for his or her misdeeds. Some variations counsel he’ll swat them with birch branches, whereas others contain a sack for taking them to Hell.

Although this creepy Christmas custom is widespread in Central Europe, no person’s sure the place the Krampus idea originated. Some historians consider he is a holdover from the Alpine area’s pagan previous, which targeted on winter solstice and was demonized by the Catholic Church.

In case you see Krampus throughout your European travels, then it is custom to supply him some schnapps. It may not make him go away, however hopefully you will be spared a swat from his department!
— Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, Blue Ridge Mountains Journey Information

Pepperkakebyen gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway
Pepperkakebyen gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway (Picture credit score:

8. The Largest Christmas Gingerbread Village in Norway

One of many coziest and most unusual traditions in Europe is that of the Pepperkakebyen (gingerbread village) in Bergen, Norway. Visiting Bergen in winter could seem to be an unlikely selection for a lot of because the coastal metropolis is thought extra for its rain than its snow.

However when you pop inside this magical gingerbread land, you’ll suppose you are within the snowy, far north in a land far-off from the Norwegian metropolis heart. Pepperkakebyen began in 1991 when native schoolchildren began developing gingerbread homes resembling Bergen sights, boats, vehicles, and even some iconic worldwide landmarks.

It’s the largest gingerbread city in the world lately and it takes place in Bergen from mid-November by the month of December yearly. The earnings constructed from Pepperkakebyen are all donated to a neighborhood charity for kids in want.
— Megan Starr,

9. Mummers’ Vacation Performs in the UK

Mummers’ performs are dramatizations of folks tales held at Christmastime in lots of components of the UK. This custom began within the British Isles and unfold to British colonies.

These performs are carried out, historically, by abnormal individuals somewhat than skilled actors and are designed as a enjoyable solution to let off steam in the course of the holidays. 

There are a number of variations of mummering. The most typical plot includes fight between two characters, often Saint (or King) George and an evil character.

The evil one is killed however is then miraculously revived by a comic book physician character, bringing the play to an finish. The character who’s killed and is revived differs between performs however is commonly a dragon or a personality known as Turkey Sniper.

Different characters additionally become involved. All of them have fairly great names: Intelligent Legs, the Previous ‘Oss, Daring Granny, and Mazzant Binnit are just a few. Plus, Father Christmas additionally nearly all the time makes an look.
— Chris Younger,

A traditional Christmas king's cake, or Bolo Rei, in Portugal
A Christmas king’s cake, or Bolo Rei, in Portugal (Picture credit score: Julie Fox,

10. King’s Desserts in Portugal

Portugal’s conventional Christmas cake, Bolo-rei, or king’s cake, historically contained a few surprises. The cake itself is a doughy circle that’s richly jeweled in brightly coloured dried fruit.

King’s cake originated within the French courts of Louis XIV and have become widespread in Portugal within the mid-19th century. Consistent with French Christmas celebrations, a dried fava bean and a small toy could be baked into every Bolo-rei.

Whoever received the slice with the bean could be the king or queen for the day. This entitled the winner to a want in addition to the privilege of paying for subsequent yr’s cake. This tradition has turn out to be a much-loved a part of Portuguese Christmas traditions.

Though, through the years, the fava bean advanced into cats, good luck charms, and plastic toys. That’s till the federal government banned the sale of truffles containing such non-food gadgets. Home made truffles, nevertheless, nonetheless comprise the component of shock.
— Julie Fox, Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal

Look for golden pigs made of chocolate, Christmas traditions in the Czech Republic and Slovakia
Search for golden pigs fabricated from chocolate within the Czech Republic and Slovakia at Christmastime (Picture credit score: valalolo,

11. The Golden Pig of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Within the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the principle time of yr to have a good time Christmas is on the night of December twenty fourth. That’s when the entire household has a Christmas Eve dinner collectively, after which presents are unwrapped.

To maintain keen kids on a mission to eat their foremost Christmas meal, a fasting custom developed. Primarily, all people is meant to not eat in the course of the day on December 24 in order to have an urge for food for the standard Christmas dinner. This is applicable to meals solely, as Christmas-themed pastries, such because the candy braided bun known as vánočka or Christmas cookies are allowed.

If the kids handle to carry off consuming, then they’re promised to see a golden pig. It’s mentioned the golden pig custom developed already within the Center Ages when fasting would apply to meat meals solely.

After I was a toddler rising up within the Czech Republic, I spent quite a lot of time searching the window, trying to find the elusive golden pig. I even thought I noticed it a couple of occasions.

All through the years, native confectioners caught up. Now you can simply purchase small pigs fabricated from chocolate wrapped in golden tinfoil. Dad and mom who nonetheless adhere to the custom place the golden pig on a windowsill or wherever it seems the pig got here in from open air to reward good kids.

— Veronika Primm, Travel Geekery

Calissons, one of the 13 Christmas desserts of Provence typical in Aix-en-Provence
Calissons, one of many 13 Christmas desserts of Provence typical in Aix-en-Provence (Picture credit score: Nadine Maffre, Le Lengthy Weekend)

12. The 13 Christmas Desserts of Provence, France

13 desserts could seem to be a decadent and flamboyant feast, however to the individuals of Provence, it is a custom that has stood the check of time. First talked about in print round 100 years in the past, it is a Christmas customized that is cherished by many.

Every Christmas Eve, after attending midnight mass, three tablecloths are laid out bearing 13 desserts. These symbolize the Holy Trinity.

Everybody is anticipated to attempt a bit of every dessert. However, in true French type, the choices are small and delicate.

The 13 desserts aren’t strictly set, however usually embrace dried or candied fruits, recent fruits similar to clementines or apples, biscuits (cookies), nougat, and caramelized nuts. There’s additionally usually a Bûche de Noël (Yuletide log cake).

Each city in Provence provides its personal specialty to the combo. In Marseille, it is Navettes (cylindrical cookies flavored with orange blossom). In Aix-en-Provence, it is Calisson (candies made with finely crushed almonds and candied fruits. In the meantime, within the Alps, you will discover candy Bugnes (deep-fried fritters).

Custom dictates the desserts should keep out for 3 days. The three-theme is robust with this European Christmas custom! After that point interval, they’re going to lastly be packed away…if there’s something left on the twenty seventh of December.

Nowadays, not everybody takes to the custom so strictly, however you will be hard-pressed to seek out somebody in Provence who hasn’t nibbled on at the very least a bit nougat or creamy Bûche de Noël throughout this festive season!
— Nadine Maffre, Le Lengthy Weekend

A buche de Noel, or French Christmas tradition
Bûche de Noël, or Yuletide log cake (Picture credit score: Mam_elisa,

Are These Christmas Traditions in Europe Wacky?

These age-old traditions in Europe could sound uncommon to North American readers, however they don’t seem to be so dissimilar from our personal vacation traditions.

As a substitute of a shoe, kids put out a stocking to obtain small presents at Christmas. Whereas Icelanders have Gryla and the Yuletide Cat to maintain youngsters on their greatest habits, Elf on the Shelf tattles on naughty kids to good ol’ St. Nick. And Santa Claus positive does sound so much like Sinterklaas, does not it?

Perhaps these Christmas traditions in Europe aren’t so wacky in spite of everything!

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Germany, a long-standing tradition in Europe
Toys on the market on the Nuremberg Christmas Market (Picture credit score: [email protected],

Study About Extra Vacation Traditions

Find out about enjoyable New Yr’s Eve traditions from Europe.

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Uncover the very best white Christmas holidays for households.

Check out the origin and traditions of Kwanzaa.

Deliver worldwide flavors of Christmas residence with Christmas Around the World: Recipes | Customs.

Train youngsters about how different cultures have a good time holidays with Celebrations Around the World or the Winter Holidays Around the World coloring guide.

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12 Wacky Christmas Traditions in Europe

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