Unusual Christmas Traditions in Europe

December 14, 2022

Most of us who celebrate Christmas have different traditions with family. Some people celebrate Santa while others celebrate Christmas religiously. Some families might open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But what about strange Christmas traditions in Europe, like Santa’s scary opposite? It’s a strange concept to grasp unless you celebrate Austrian Traditions for Christmas. 

Starting off in Austria is certainly a different Christmas experience. A popular Austrian tradition is Krampus, a horned, hairy beast that snatches misbehaving children in his wicker basket, serving as Saint Nicholas’ creepy enforcer. And we thought worrying about coal for Christmas was a punishment. Not particularly on Christmas, but another Krampus tradition in Austria is Krampusnacht (most common around the alpine villages around Salzburg and Tyrol). Krampusnacht takes place on the fifth of December, where dozens of men dressed as the half-goat demons, parade through the streets brandishing sticks and scaring kids and adults with pranks. 

 And yet another scary tradition is The Yule Cat. This tradition is common in Iceland. It is said a giant cat roams the snowy countryside at Christmas time. Traditionally, farmers would use The Yule Cat to make their workers work hard and efficiently. Those who worked hard would receive new clothes. Unfortunately, the ones who didn’t, would be devoured by the gigantic cat-like beast. Today, it is customary for people in Iceland to buy new clothing for Christmas to avoid an unfortunate ending. 

Ukraine’s favorite festive tradition would not be fit for someone with a fear of spiders. While we would decorate with tinsel and stars, Ukrainians decorate trees and homes with formations of spider webs with shimmering dew. This comes from an old folklore legend. According to the legend, a poor widow could not afford to decorate a tree for her children. The spiders took pity on the poor family and spun beautiful webs all over the tree, which the children gladly saw in the morning. This legend also has to do with Ukrainian culture, believing spiders’ webs are lucky. 

 Although these European traditions may seem strange, for many families it is their normal way to celebrate. Their traditions are not so far-fetched as ours though. While Austrian children fear Krampus, Americans fear for coal in their stocking, they are both similar. Getting coal in stockings comes from Krampus. Santa brings gifts while Krampus sometimes hands out coal. Icelander’s receive new clothes for Christmas because of the Yule Cat, and so do many countries. Many countries buy new clothes to start out fresh for the new year that’s just around the corner. And spider webs and tinsel can’t be much different from one another. Though it seems these traditions are very different from ours, they inspired ours. 

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