One of the most magical parts of Christmas (and there are many to choose from) is how it holds a unique meaning for each person. Every country, family, and individual follows their own, special Christmas ritual. Some prefer fancy parties, others like a more relaxed holiday… when it comes to how you will celebrate Christmas, to each their own, would be the appropriate motto!
A big part of how we spend our holidays is influenced by the culture in which we grew up around. Every country has its own Christmas quirks which differ them from the rest, all of them equally special in their own right!
With so much history behind the holiday, it’s no wonder why all sorts of traditions have built up around it. And many of these traditions, even the ones which are quite silly, still exist today!
But, we won’t spoil it for you just yet. Keep on reading if you want to check out some of the oddest, funniest, and most interesting Christmas traditions across Europe!
Let’s begin with one of the oldest traditions on the list, shall we?
Since the 11th century, Sweden’s “Yule Goat” has been a Christmas symbol since pagan festivals were held. The original significance of the Yule Goat comes from legends of a figure resembling a half man half goat creature who is led by Saint Nicholas.
During the 17th century, men began to dress up as these goat figures, pull pranks and demand gifts. Rather than Father Christmas, it used to be common for people to dress up as a goat and give presents to their loved ones.
Now, the man-goat figure is no longer a part of the Yule Goat’s celebration.
The Yule Goat has mostly lost its original folklore significance. Nonetheless, it has remained a major part of Christmas in Sweden as a Christmassy symbol. Since the 19th century, the Yule Goat went from evil lore to being a good and positive Christmas omen.
Now there is the Gävle Goat.
What is the Gävle Goat, you may ask?
Since 1966, a giant goat made out of straw, the Gävle Goat, has been constructed in the same spot, Slottstorget (Castle Square), in central Gävle, Sweden.
People are so invested in this giant straw goat, that there is actually a livestream where you can watch it! The livestream is up beginning on the first Sunday of December, until it's taken down after New Years.
You thought a Christmas goat was weird? Well, check this out.
While many children around the world eagerly await the moment Santa Claus comes down their chimney, children in Austria are raised with what one could call a slight… darker tradition.
Christmas in Austria is the time for the legend of a devilish, beastly creature who lurks around on a hunt for children to scare and punish for their bad behaviour. This creature is known as Krampus.
Not exactly the jolly, festive image one would associate with Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year!
Despite the fact that Krampus seems like a creature more fitting for, perhaps, Halloween, it is widely popular. It is so popular that every year, during the first week of December, people in Austria will dress up as Krampus, wearing terrifying masks, pranking and scaring children!
Hmm. Suddenly a bag of coal doesn’t sound like such a bad punishment….
Surely it can’t get weirder than an anti Santa Claus demon creature. …Right?
Germany proves that yes, actually, it can.
A tradition which is believed to have started during the 16th century, includes hiding or hanging a pickle in your Christmas tree. Yep, you read that right- a pickle!
It might sound weird, but then again, maybe they are onto something… edible ornaments aren’t such a bad idea!
Once the pickle has been hidden, whichever child finds it will be given a special gift. No one is quite sure how the tradition came into existence, although there are plenty of rumours, one of them including a story about two young boys stuck in pickle barrels as prisoners. Whatever it’s origin may be, we are certainly curious!
While most people like to decorate their homes with Christmas lights, ornaments, and wreaths, Ukrainians like to toss in a funky touch by adding cobwebs.
They’re not real cobwebs, however. They are decorations mimicking cobwebs. Still, what do spiders have to do with Christmas, you might be wondering?
Apparently, this tradition traces back to a folktale about a widow who did not have the money to decorate a Christmas tree with her children. The spiders living in her home pitied the woman, so they crawled out during Christmas Eve night and spun a beautiful array of cobwebs all around the tree as decoration.
You’ve got to admit, that makes spiders sound actually kind of cute!
Spider webs are also considered to be a symbol of luck in Ukrainian culture.
In Norway, everyone hides their brooms on Christmas Eve. This is because, according to Norwegian folklore, Christmas Eve is when witches and ghouls arrive to cause all sorts of mischief.
Seeing as witches use broomsticks to get, it is the logical choice to hide all broomsticks so that they don’t sweep by and steal it for themselves!
Another Christmas superstition in Norway involves a gnome by the name of Nisse. Nisse is said to guard all farm animals. The tradition is for all Norwegian children to leave a bowl of porridge outside for Nisse on Christmas Eve. If they don’t, he will play pranks on them!
What do you think of these Christmas traditions? Do you celebrate any of them? Or, maybe you have your own unusual traditions to tell us about!
Either way, our team here at Next Station is wishing you a Merry Christmas! Enjoy the holidays and all of the traditions that come with it- especially the silly ones ;)