10 Strange Christmas Eve Traditions From Around the World

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Mince pie and a glass of milk for Santa, Christmas PJs, and advent calendars – there are so many Christmas traditions we take part in, without a second thought.

If you’re staying in student accommodation, you’ve certainly met tons of international pals by now, but have you ever wondered what Christmas traditions are like around the world? From evil demons to a festive sauna, there is so much inspiration you can draw for your own holiday celebrations. 

Or why not start a completely new Christmas tradition with your flatmates? For some inspo, we’ve put together a list of 10 strange Christmas Eve traditions from around the world – which ones will you be trying this year?

1. Beware of Krampus, the Austrian Christmas Demon

strange christmas traditions austrian krampus

Waiting for Santa is always so exciting – admit it, even as a grown-up the magic of Christmas Eve doesn’t quite wear off. 

But if you grew up in Austria, chances are you’d be a bit more cautious around Christmas Eve, as Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, as he’s known there, comes with an evil demon accomplice – Krampus. Krampus not only wanders the streets in a search of badly behaving children, but he’s quite mischievous as well.

During December you can expect terrifying masked figures wandering the streets, and they scare children and adults alike. 

Dare to bring this tradition to your student flat? You can order a Krampus mask from here, and even assemble a full-on outfit – scary! 

2. Find Out If You’re Getting Married Next Year With This Chezch Tradition

christmas eve traditions around the world red shoes

This one is for all the single ladies out there, who want to find out if they’re about to meet the love of their life next year. 

Of course, you might not be rushing into marriage but it’s always good to know something positive is on the way – as long as you trust your shoes to predict it!

On Christmas Eve, gather your flatmates who are staying in the accommodation over the holidays, and prepare your best shoe (yes, you only need one). Then stand with your back to the door and take turns tossing the shoes behind your back.

If it lands with the toe facing the door – love is on its way. 

If it lands with the heel facing the door, you may be staying single but that just means all the more time to catch up on these Netflix movies you have on your list!

3. Deck the Student Halls With Spider Webs, Just Like in Ukraine

ukraine strange christmas eve traditions

If you saved some Halloween decorations, now is the time to put them back in use – we love upcycling! 

In Ukraine, having spider webs on the Christmas tree is pretty normal, the tradition was inspired by an old tale of a poor woman who couldn’t afford to decorate for Christmas. But when she woke up on Christmas morning, she found a gentle spider had covered her tree in a fine, sparkling web – how lovely!

Break the rules this Crimbo and add some spider webs to the bog-standard tinsel, baubles, and ribbons when decorating your studio. If you want that “extra” touch, look for the silver glitter webs, or have a little DIY project yourself!

4. Roller Skate for Christmas Like They Do In Caracas

strange christmas eve traditions caracas

Roller skating peaked over the first lockdown, thanks to the popularity of TikTok trends and well… all that spare time and sunny weather.

If you brushed up your skating skills this year or bought a pair of roller skates on a whim, Christmas might just be the time to put them in use.

In Caracas, Venezuela the preferred method of traveling to church for the Early Morning Mass on Christmas is by skating. They’re taking this tradition extremely seriously with many roads in Caracas being closed until 8 am to ensure a smooth slide for worshippers.

So, if you’ve got a pair of skates under the bed in your accommodation, why not take them out for some Christmas fun?

5. A Sauna for Christmas? Finland Says Yes

christmas eve sauna in finland

Here is one tradition, that, unfortunately, you might not be able to recreate this Christmas, due to local lockdown rules, but we thought it was so cool, we just had to add it to the list!

Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, Finns take a hot sauna, which is also believed to be the home of the legendary “sauna elf”. After a long, relaxing stint in the sauna, Finns then proceed with the Christmas Eve celebrations – how cool is that?

6. Buy Some New Clothes to Please the Icelandic Yule Cat

yule cat in greenland

This Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition is definitely one of the stranger ones around the world. If you’re imagining a sweet, fluffy kitten purring under the Christmas tree – well, you couldn’t be more wrong!

The Jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is not all soft and cute, but rather a giant, vicious cat-monster, and its favourite Christmas snack are humans, who don’t have new clothes to wear. Time for some quick online shopping perhaps?

The tradition dates back to the 19th century and was likely meant to encourage shepherds to finish sheering their sheep before the winter arrived. The Yule Cat can be pleased with an offer of wool, and so a cosy new sweater is a perfect gift. 

7. Christmas Eve KFS Just Like In Japan

japanese kfc for christmas eve dinner

If you’re staying in student accommodation over the holidays, you’ll love this strange Christmas Eve tradition, coming all the way from Japan.

Instead of hours of sweating and trying to cook up a storm in your shared kitchen, why not opt for a KFC, just like they do on Christmas Eve in Japan? Whether it’s a Box Meal for 1 or the ultimate Party Bucket you can all chip in for, KFC and Deliveroo will have you sorted. 

In Japan, thanks to Japanese ovens and some clever marketing, having a KFC on Christmas Eve is a popular tradition, and you’d actually have to make a reservation if you want your Christmas chicken fix. 

When you arrive at the KFC restaurant for your holiday meal, you’ll be welcomed by a Colonel Sanders statue wearing a Santa outfit (it suits him, right?) and the chicken comes in special Christmas packaging, so extra!

8. Befana, The Helpful Italian Witch

befana the italian christmas witch

If you were born in Italy, your Christmas presents would not be brought by a cheerful Santa with rosy cheeks and love for cookies and milk, but rather by an old witch with her shoes all tattered and torn. Not to worry though, she has all the good intentions and brings gifts and candy, how kind!

The legend says Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men, a few days before the birth of baby Jesus. She gave them shelter for the night, as she was known to have the most pleasant house in the village. In the morning they asked her to join them on their journey, but Befana declined, saying she was too busy with housework. As the Three Wise Men departed, she regretted her decision and tried to search for them and the baby Jesus, taking a bag with gifts with her. To this day, she is still searching for the little baby, and on her way, she leaves the good children toys and candy, while the bad ones get a piece of coal.

If you want to welcome La Befana in your student home, why not decorate the tree with a little witch ornament, so she knows she’s welcome to stop?

9.  Feast for The Dead In Portugal

christmas dinner in portugal

The traditional Christmas feast in Portugal is called the consoda, and during it, families will sometimes set extra places at the dining table for the relatives who passed away or leave crumbs on the hearth.

This heartwarming Christmas Eve tradition ensures good fortunes for the household, and it’s a wonderful way to remember everyone we love. 

While it might not be the most cheerful of Christmas traditions, it has a deeper meaning, and if you decided to include it in your holiday, we are sure it would bring you the warmest of memories.

10. A Pre-Christmas Clean-Up in Guatemala

strange christmas eve traditions around the world

Have you been putting off cleaning your student accommodation as the deadline season approached? But, what if we told you, that cleaning before the holidays is a Christmas tradition in Guatemala?

Guatemalans believe the devil and other evil spirits live in the dirt and darkness, and so in the week before Christmas, they collect all the house rubbish, pile it up outdoors and add an effigy of the devil on top. Then the whole heap is set on fire. 

Now, you should definitely avoid the setting-stuff-on-fire part, but a good clean up before Christmas Eve is a wonderful tradition to start with the flatmates. 

Staying in your student accommodation this Christmas? Read our blog on how to make the most of it, whether you’re planning to spare some time for self-care or grab some online deals – you have to please the Yule Cat, after all, right?