Fried Chicken, Spiderwebs, and Gargantuan Goats

Depending on where you live in the world, your Christmas celebration might not include Santa Claus, reindeer, or evergreens, but rather witches, giant goats, and banana trees. That said, here is a roundup of some of the most interesting, unique Christmas traditions across the globe.

1. A Crispy Christmas

In perhaps one of the most unusual examples of American fast food influencing foreign eating habits, Kentucky Fried Chicken has become a staple of Christmas celebrations in Japan. Although only 1% of the population actually celebrates Christmas, their fried chicken consumption makes up 5% of KFC’s annual global sales. This tradition dates back to a marketing campaign launched almost five decades ago, yet it is still holding strong to this day. 

KFC for Christmas is finger lickin’ good! (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons)

2. A Spin on Classic Decorations

While many dress their homes and Christmas trees with stockings and lights, Ukranians opt for a different, unconventional holiday decoration: spiderwebs. Legend has it there once was a widow who was too penniless to afford Christmas tree decorations. However, when the spiders living in her house became aware of this dire situation, they spent the night spinning a solution. The widow and her children awoke on Christmas Eve to a tree adorned with meticulously crafted spiderwebs. When the morning sunlight struck these webs, they were instantly transformed into silver and gold, and the family could hardly believe their luck! Inspired by this lore, Ukranians have adopted artificial spider webs as both a symbol of good fortune and a perfect addition to any bare Christmas tree. 

Ukrainians often adorn their Christmas trees with sparkling gold and silver spider ornaments and webs. (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons)

3. Light it Up!

Every year since 1931, the city of San Fernando in the Philippines has hosted “Ligligan Parul Sampernandu,” a festival with dazzling lanterns crafted from steel, plastic, fiberglass, and paper. Some lanterns can reach up to 20 feet in size, embellished with thousands of bulbs. Villagers enter the competition portion of the festival to showcase their impressive, electric designs. This festival is said to have put San Fernando on the map, as the city is widely considered the Christmas capital of the Philippines. 

Beautiful designs at Ligligan Parul Sampernandu light up San Fernando’s night skies. (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons)

4. The GOAT

Sweden has an interesting Christmas tradition: constructing a 30-foot tall giant straw “Yule Goat.” More commonly known as the Gävle, this goat is built by various families across the country. In 1966, a national Yule Goat, funded by Harry Ström, was built then burned in 2001 by a 51 year old American tourist Lawrence Jones, calling for a replacement Yule Goat. As of 2021, the Goat has been damaged 37 times. Burning the goat is illegal and the Swedish Court of Appeals stated that the offence carries a three month prison sentence. In 2018, a 27 year old man was convicted and sentenced under the law.

Gävle has been through a lot, but he still stands tall in the face of property damage and arson. (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons)

5. A Summery Christmas

Christians comprise roughly two percent of India’s population (a staggering 24 million people). However, natural Christmas trees are in short supply, given the warm climate. In place of the evergreen conifer, many Indian families adorn banana or mango trees with ornaments. In Christian communities, most of which are clustered in the south, people put oil-lamps on their flat roof-tops to celebrate the holiday season.

6. A Not So Wicked Witch

Though she may not look friendly or inviting, La Belfana is anything but wicked. (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons)

Italy is in no doubt one of the only countries in the world where witches bring candy to children. La Befana, a broom-flying, kindly witch effectively takes over the role of Santa. About two weeks after Christmas, during a celebration known as Epiphany, the witch flies over the dark sky to deliver gifts to the good and ash to the bad. Though La Befana is contradictory to Christian belief, she is featured in some Italian tellings of the Christmas story as an old woman who refuses to give the Wise Men directions to Bethlehem because she is too busy cleaning. As a result of her stubbornness, she is forced to ride a broomstick for eternity. The town of Le Marche in northwestern Italy celebrates her coming every January.