Christmas Around the World

At TranslationsInLondon we always take an interest in what happens in other cultures and languages than our own. 

With festive cheer aplenty and the cold nights of Noel drawing ever nearer, We have been looking into some of the more ‘bizarre’ or surprising traditions from Christmas around the world, hopefully getting you into the festive spirit and helping you learn a thing or two along the way! 



This is perhaps one of the best known Christmas festivities celebrated through Central European, countries such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to name but a few! Krampus has also permeated our modern-day pop culture world, with the 2015 American comedy/horror film and plenty of portrayals in TV shows.

Krampus is a horned, half-demon half-goat companion of Saint Nicholas, who punishes naughty children that have misbehaved. Somewhat similarly, across many German-speaking communities in Europe, there are legends of the Belsnickel. The Belsnickel is another companion of St. Nick, who resembles a man, wearing furs and a terrifying mask with a long tongue. It is said he visits the naughty children to deliver coal and lash them, similar to a figure in France named Père Fouettard (Father Whipper).

Gävle goat (Gävlebocken)

Gävle goat (Gävlebocken)

The Gävle Goat is a traditional Christmas display erected every year in Gävle, Sweden. It’s a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure and is made of straw. It’s become famous for being destroyed and burnt by attacks during December. The goat was first erected (and burnt down) in 1966. Since then, the goat has been, unfortunately (but amusingly) destroyed 37 times, with only 13 successful ‘survivals’.

Three notable destructions in recent memory are 2001, 2005 and 2009.

In 2001, a tourist from Cleveland, Ohio was arrested after his burning of the goat. He was ordered to serve 18 days in prison and pay 100,000 SEK (around 9,800 EUR). However, it turned out he believed that the long-running vandalisation was a completely legal Christmas tradition, not knowing that the intention was to NOT have the goat burned.

In 2005, the Goat was burnt by two unknown vandals, who, dressed as Santa Claus and a gingerbread man, fired a flaming arrow at the goat, causing it to ignite!

Lastly in 2009, hackers were able to shut down the video feed of webcams watching over the goat, allowing vandals to get in and set the goat alight undetected.

You can enjoy said livestream at christmas every year, from this link:

Since 1959, Sweden also has a tradition of, on December 23rd at 3pm, gathering the family together to watch Kalle Anka cartoons (Donald Duck). The hourlong show presents around 12 Disney classics from the ‘30s – ‘60s, with a usual audience turn out of around 50% of the population. Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas) is therefore a tradition known by almost all Swedes.

The KFC Christmas meal

The KFC Christmas meal

In Japan – largely thanks to their “Kurisumasuni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign from 1974, people all across Japan hold the tradition to eat a bucket of KFC’s Christmas chicken.

Despite Christmas not being a national holiday in Japan (with roughly 2.5% of the Japanese population being Christian) an estimated 5 million Japanese enjoy a Christmas chicken dinner, with hour-long queues on Christmas eve, many resort to pre-booking their meals weeks or months before Christmas to ensure their delivery. Supposedly, it’s the ‘Americanness’ and simplicity of the message rather than any religious associations with the holiday that make it appealing.

With KFC reporting their largest sales volume on Christmas eve every year, Fried Chicken and Christmas have become synonymous in Japan, with a $40 option, which includes cake and champagne – so you can chow down in style this Christmas!

Xmas and the festive season around the globe is celebrated in many different ways and we’re going to continue to dig deeper into how other cultures and languages celebrate various events in upcoming blog posts. 

Seasons greeting from TranslationsInLondon, we hope you have a wonderful festive period. 

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