World's Wackiest Holiday Traditions

Check out our top 4 picks for the world's wackiest holiday traditions.

Hanging stockings by the fire, waiting for jolly old St. Nick to deliver presents, drinking eggnog and eating turkey, waiting for the New Year's ball to drop in Times Square -- these traditions are such a big part of our American holiday season, we barely bat an eye at them. But our traditions are far from the norm in other countries. From a goat-like monster to a benevolent old witch, and even the skull of a horse, some holiday traditions across the globe may cause you to raise an eyebrow. Check out our top 4 picks for the world's wackiest holiday traditions.



Photo by: Giulio, flickr

Giulio, flickr

Naughty boys and girls in Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia would be wise to perfect their hiding places each holiday season, or they'll be tossed in the sack of Krampus, St. Nick's nasty counterpart. As legend has it, the mythical Krampus keeps St. Nick company during the Christmas season. But while St. Nick dishes out the holiday cheer, Krampus has other plans; he's warning ill-behaved children to shape up.

When a particularly rotten kid crosses his path, Krampus shoves him in his sack to be taken back to his lair and, in a rather twisted twist, eaten. Looking a bit like an evil Satyr or monster goat, complete with horns and mangled fang-like teeth, Krampus appears in towns on December 5th, when locals don costumes and wander streets, terrifying the children -- and a few adults, we'd imagine -- who dare cross his path.

Mari Lwyd
Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd

Photo by: Paul Seligman, flickr

Paul Seligman, flickr

When your doorbell rings during the holiday season in Wales, don't expect to see a gaggle of carolers; rather, you might come face-to-skull with the head of the Mari Lwyd, or Grey Mare, and a small gang of attendees who will, in fact, be singing. The Mari Lwyd is a rendering of a horse and typically consists of a wood or cardboard horse skull, attached to a pole and carried by an individual draped in a sheet and accompanied by a small crowd of revelers.

The Mari Lwyd is brought around on or near the New Year by an ofttimes rowdy group who challenge homeowners to singing contests, and hope to be rewarded with entry to their homes and celebratory food and drink. The tradition is thought to stem from ancient Celtic rites, and is believed to bring luck to all the participants.

KFC Holiday Meal
KFC holiday meal in Japan

KFC holiday meal in Japan

Photo by: rjzii, flickr

rjzii, flickr

Japanese gear up for the Christmas holiday -- which, it should be noted, is not officially celebrated in Japan -- up to 2 months in advance with an unexpected action: making reservations at their local KFC. Yes, that's right. KFC. The marketing geniuses at the corporation have managed to position its packaged fried chicken meals as a great American holiday tradition, stoking a fevered rush for the meals on Christmas Eve in Japan.

The demand for fried chicken is so high at this time, that the company suggests reserving a meal at least 2 months prior to the holiday's arrival. The standard Christmas meal here typically features fried chicken, a salad and chocolate cake. If you plan to join the fray, be prepared to settle in for a wait; lines can wrap out the fast-food joints' doors and down the block.

La Befana
La Befana

La Befana

Photo by: Eleonara Gianinetto, flickr

Eleonara Gianinetto, flickr

Santa Claus (not to mention Mrs. Claus!) has competition across the Atlantic, in Italy, where the kindly old woman known as La Befana delivers presents to children every January 5th, the eve of the Epiphany, when it's believed the 3 Wise Men arrived at the manger of Jesus Christ delivering gifts.

La Befana is a gentle character, bestowed with magical powers, who appears every bit a witch, down to her long crooked nose and broomstick -- which she apparently uses both for transportation and to tidy messy homes. Eh, why not? Much like St. Nick, La Befana delivers Christmas presents to good boys and girls, and lumps of coal to the naughty. Though now tied to Christmas, the tradition of La Befana is thought to date as far back as the ancient Romans' pagan festival, Saturnalia, when people would go to a temple to have their fortunes read by an old woman.

Next Up

Tuscany Should Be Your Next Adventure Travel Destination

Under the Tuscan Sun has given us a certain vision of idyllic Tuscany. But beyond its pretty looks and tasty food, there's outdoor adventure for everyone.

Meet the Yule Lads, Iceland’s Terrifying Christmas Trolls

This cast of seasonal characters (and their mother, and a man-eating cat) make Krampus look like the Elf on the Shelf.

World's Best New Year's Eve Parties

Head to one of the world's finest New Year's Eve celebrations.

Europe's Best Christmas Festivals

Get in the holiday spirit at these great European Christmas markets.

Why This Mexican Town You Probably Haven't Heard of Is Worth a Visit for Day of the Dead

Instead of experiencing the holiday in Mexico City, go a little further off the beaten path for more intimate Noche and Dia de Muertos celebrations in Erongaricuaro.

Most Festive Christmas Cities

'Tis the season to plan a Christmas vacation with the family.

Suite Deals for Travelers

Grab your pals, and make staying in a luxury suite an affordable experience.

Christmas Festivals Around the World

Learn about Christmas celebrations around the world.

Designer-Inspired Hotels

Stay at a luxurious hotel inspired by famous fashion designer.

World’s Spookiest Ghost Tours

Brace yourself for the ultimate, most spooky ghost tours!

More Creepy Content

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.