It’s not clear how this tradition started, but some say it’s a warm-weather alternative to sledding or ice skating. It’s so popular in the heavily Christian country that the government has closed down streets in the past to ensure families can skate safely.
A massive goat in Sweden
The town of Gavle, Sweden, marks Christmas by erecting a 42-foot-tall straw goat called the Gavlebocken at the start of the Advent calendar.
The tradition started in 1966 as a way to attract tourists to Gavle, but it has also become a draw for vandals and arsonists. According to Australia’s ABC News, the Gavlebocken has survived only 15 of its 51 years.
Goat hunters have sometimes gotten creative with their tactics. The Gavlebocken has been burned down by vandals dressed as gingerbread men shooting flaming arrows, mowed down by a car and kicked to pieces. In 2010, some would-be thieves reportedly tried to bribe a guard with more than $7,000 to allow them to steal the goat with a helicopter. The plan was thwarted after the guard blew the whistle on the conspirators.
Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan
For many people, Christmas calls to mind roasted ham, eggnog and green bean casseroles. But in Japan, the menu is often centered on one food: Kentucky Fried Chicken. More than 3 million people each year celebrate the holiday with KFC. It’s gotten so popular that families have taken to ordering from the American fast-food chain weeks in advance to avoid having to stand in line for hours come Christmas.
The BBC reports that the tradition was born in 1974, when the company introduced a “Kentucky for Christmas barrel” meant to comfort foreigners who were missing out on a Christmas turkey back home. The custom soon filled a gap for natives as well, becoming a Christmastime tradition in a country where only about 1 percent of the population is Christian.
Hiding brooms in Norway
For centuries, Christmas in Norway was thought to coincide with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. Families still hide brooms during Christmas to keep witches from flying off with them.
Krampus in central Europe
Possibly the most terrifying Christmas tradition is in Austria, Germany and other parts of Central Europe, where revelers dress up like a hybrid demon-goat called Krampus who scares children into being nice — and punishes the ones who refuse.
The tradition of Krampus goes back centuries. According to the myth, Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, rewarded good children with candy. Krampus was his antithesis, walking around with a bristled stick, swatting at the children who were naughty and dragging them to his lair.