As Christmas approaches, those who celebrate are breaking out their most-cherished traditions, like decorating a Christmas tree, baking cookies, or lighting Advent candles. The United States borrows from other countries because we are built from a variety of cultures, but there are some that have stayed in their original places. Here are four of the most unique:
Sweden and the Yule Goat
Beginning in 1966, Iceland builds a giant goat that stands in the center of Gavle’s Castle Square. Why a goat? It most likely dates back to pagan beliefs and the worship of Thor, who rode a chariot pulled by two goats. Since the tradition started, people try to burn down the Christmas goat, and they’ve succeeded 29 times, despite the city’s best efforts. Firefighters have even tried fireproofing the structure. The goat was last burned in 2016.
Japan and fried chicken
Christmas is not widely-celebrated in Japan since only around 1% of the population is Christian. However, pretty much everyone will line up to get some KFC. The tradition started in 1974 when the company launched its “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign and sold a fried chicken-and-wine supper for $10. Today, the dinner includes cake and champagne and costs around $40. People will wait in line for up to two hours or wisely order their boxes in advance.
Iceland and the Yule Lads
We have the 12 days of Christmas, but Iceland has 13 days, where each day a different “Yule Lad,” or troll, comes down from his mountain to give presents to good children, and rotten potatoes to bad ones. Each troll has a distinct name, like Spoon-Licker, Gully Gawk, and Stubby. Kids put their shoes on the windowsill for the thirteen days leading up to Christmas and receive little gifts.
Catalonia and the Christmas Log
In Catalonia, or northeastern Spain, the Tio de Nadal tradition is popular. Beginning on December 8, families bring out the tio, or Christmas log, which is often decorated to resemble a friendly cartoon character. The children cover the log at night and “feed” it small bites, so when Christmas comes, he will give them presents like dried fruit and nuts. How this is done is the strange part: the log is beaten with sticks so it “poops” out the gifts. This is clearly not what’s actually happening; children are told to leave them room so the parents can quickly arrange the goodies by the log.