If you thought that there was only one way to celebrate Christmas,
you either haven’t read this article yet, or you have read it but
failed to grasp the lessons learned. If that’s the case, we forgive
you and would encourage you to read this article again, preferably
multiple times from multiple computers if you know what we mean. In
any event, there are plenty of interesting and unique ideas that
different countries incorporate into their festivities. As the title
suggests, some of the traditions are cute, some are truly
weird, and more than a few are downright fun. So sit back,
relax, and enjoy this list of 7 countries that put their own spin on

Sinterklaasavond – The Netherlands

When you think of
Santa Claus, the image of a fat, jolly man in a red suit who rides a
flying sleigh guided by 9 reindeer. Pretty wholesome stuff, no? But
in the Netherlands, it’s a bit more…um…complicated? So
basically, their version Santa (who also dresses in red and has a
beard, but is noticeably slimmer), rides on a horse and arrives on
December 5th (the day before St. Nicholas Day) and sticks gifts into
the shoes of good Dutch children. Oh, and he’s accompanied by
Zwarte Pieten, his team of Moorish “helpers” from Medieval Spain
who stuff bad kids into sacks and whisk them away. It involves
blackface and…well, would you look at the clock! I best hurry and
move on to the next item on the list in order to meet the deadline.

2. Ganna –

If you’re going to
play sports on Christmas, which one would you choose? Duh, ice
hockey. But what if you live in a country that doesn’t get ice? We
suppose you let out a disappointed sigh and conclude that street
hockey will suffice. That’s precisely how they celebrate in
Ethiopia. Because Ethiopian Christians are Orthodox, they celebrate
Jesus’ birth on January 7th, the day they call Ganna (meaning
“birth” in Greek.) The name of this hockey-type game is also
called ganna, either because ganna also happens to mean “street
hockey” in Greek (which would be an incredible coincidence!) or
because somebody just decided, “Let’s celebrate Ganna by playing
a game. But what should we call it though? How about…ganna?” And
everybody else agrees that he just killed two birds with one stone.

3. Virtual Yule
Log – America

The idea of lighting
some logs on fire and gathering around the fireplace is a mighty cozy
idea on a cold winter night. Plus, you get to set something on fire,
so that’s kind of badass right there. But in America, the weirdest
recent tradition is to replace the old fashion (and practical) way of
doing it with footage of a yule log burning on a flatscreen TV. There
are YouTube videos dedicated to this. You can just sit there for
hours watching it and pretend that it makes you feel nice and toasty.
It’s the American way.


4. Elf on the
Shelf – All over Europe

Quick, what’s the
best way to make sure your children aren’t acting like nasty little
jerks during the Christmas holidays? Of course, the only acceptable
answer is, “Place a little elf figurine on the bookshelf for the
purposes of behavior management.” The elves know exactly what
Little Billy and Sue are up to and will most certainly report back to
Santa Claus if anybody acts naughty. You would think that the kids
would use the strategy of “let’s just go to a different room
where the elf can’t see us and cause trouble there,” but you’d
be giving them too much credit.

5. Spiderwebs –

No matter where you
celebrate Christmas, there’s a good chance you decorate a tree with
ornaments and whatnot. But in Ukraine, the Christmas trees stand out
from the rest thanks to the sparkling spiders and cobwebs found on
them. According to the Legend of the Christmas Spider, a poor widow
and her children decided to grow a tree from a pine cone. But once it
reached an appropriate size, it occurred to them that they lacked the
means to actually decorate it. A posse of spiders took pity on them,
as spiders are wont to do. So while the family slept, these
eight-legged joy-bringers worked some of their webby magic and made
the tree look festive for the holiday! Hooray!

6. Nisse –

In spite of what you
might have heard, Santa doesn’t deliver presents to boys and girls
everywhere in the world. For instance, he bypasses places like Saudi
Arabia, where the locals obviously don’t celebrate Christmas. But
you might be surprised to discover that he also stays away from
Denmark. Why? That is the nisses’ turf. Nisses are gnome-like
fellas who deliver the Christmas presents. But there’s a catch:
they expect the Danish household to provide them with a generous
serving of risengrød, a sweet rice porridge. Those who meet this
fairly reasonable demand receive good luck in the new year. But if
you fail, the gnome won’t hesitate to troll you.

7. Jolabokaflod –

If you don’t speak Icelandic, Jolabokaflod is just a series of random keystrokes. However, if you are familiar with this language, you are nodding and stoically saying, “Yep. I understand what that means.” Rather than force you to sign up for Icelandic lessons in order to decipher this mystery, we will just go ahead and make your life easier. It means “Christmas Book Flood.” This might sound like a tragic consequence of global warming, but rest assured, it’s far more innocuous and boring than that. Simply put: On the night before Christmas, family members exchange new books with one another and spend the rest of the evening reading in silence. Eerie, Icelandic silence.

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