Christmas traditions from around the world

Christmas isn’t just about a man in a red suit and his 12 reindeers. One of the greatest things about having students from all around the world is discovering new traditions.

So, sit back with a glass of eggnog in hand and enjoy a few of them:


Yule Lads aren’t just mischievous characters made up for the hit Netflix show ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’. In Icelandic tradition, 13 Yule Lads take turns in visiting children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. On each of those nights, they leave a little gift in the shoes of well-behaved children. But beware if you’ve been naughty – you will get your shoes filled with rotting potatoes and some harmless tricks played on you.


No tinsel here! If you visit Ukraine at Christmas time, you’re likely to see cobweb-like decorations covering the Christmas trees.

According to an old folk tale, there once lived a poor widow who couldn’t afford to decorate a tree for her children. A few resident spiders took pity on the family and spun beautiful silky patterns shimmering with dew. The widow and her children awoke to silver webs covering the tree with a magical twinkle.


If you think sprouts are bad, think again. One of Greenlandic Christmas dishes is kiviak – a delicacy made by wrapping raw flesh of little auks (a type of arctic bird) in sealskin, and burying it for several weeks until it reaches an advanced stage of decomposition.

Czech Republic

Christmas is the perfect time for fortune-telling. All you need to make this old Czech tradition come to life is a shoe. Simply toss a shoe over your shoulder with your back to the door. If it lands pointing at the door, you will soon be married. Shoe points in the opposite direction? It’s single life for at least another year!


According to Italian folklore, Befana the Witch visits children on January 6 to fill their stockings with candy. There are no sweet treats for the naughty though – they get a lump of coal instead.

Hopefully you won’t find any rotting potatoes or lumps of coal this Christmas. Happy Holidays!