25 Unique Winter Traditions Around The World You Might Not Know About

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It may not, however, be Christmas time. One thing most cultures around the world have in common is a celebration of some kind to brighten the darkest and shortest days of the year. Almost world wide there are special foods, costumes or your best clothing. Often there are dances or rituals to ward off bad spirits and some form of showing gratitude. While the individual celebrations and traditions may differ, they all have in common a look forward into the new year, a light in the middle of winter, and a reason to celebrate. To show how many cultures celebrate the darkest months in different ways, here’s a list of 25 Unique Winter Traditions Around The World You Might Not Know About.


La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil) is a festival in Guatemala held on December 7th where families burn paper mache devils, and larger effigies are burned in town squares. The idea is to burn away the bad for the previous year and start anew. The tradition began in colonial times before the feast of Immaculate Conception, burning out the Devil to make way for Mary, the mother of Christ.

La Quema del DiabloSource: http://www.perceptivetravel.com/ Image Source: youtube.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf428LntzoM)

On the levees that contain the Mississippi River, residents of New Orleans light 30 ft bonfires on Christmas eve. Called The Christmas Bonfires by locals, the fires are usually tee pee shaped, but some people get more creative with shapes like steamboats. While the fires burn, families and friends visit and eat and mingle between the fires.

onfire_on_mississippi_river_levee_stSource: http://www.louisianatravel.com/ Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonfire#/media/File:Bonfire_on_Mississippi_River_levee_St._James_Parish_Louisiana.jpg

In Iceland, children place one of their shoes on the windowsill before bed for the 13 days leading up to Christmas, waiting for a visit and gifts from the Yule Lads, Iceland's version of Santa. The Yule Lads are 13 lads who are somewhat like dwarves and each have their own name. One is called Spoon Licker; you can guess what he's known for. If children have been naughty instead of nice, the Yule Lads will leave rotting potatoes instead of candy.

glaedelig_jul_1885Source: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Note – This is the nice version. Apparently around the start of the 20th century, they started making it nicer for the kids. Even so, there’s also a mythical bad troll woman from the mountains that boils children and a giant black cat that eats anyone who isn’t wearing a piece of new clothing on Christmas eve.


If you find yourself in Wales around Christmas, don't freak out if you see a horse skull attached to a white robe or sheet being carried door to door by people singing. It's just the tradition of Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare). After singing, the group and "horse" are invited inside for ale and cakes.

mari_lwydSource: https://museum.wales Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Kiviak is a traditional fermented winter food from Greenland Inuits. It's small birds (hundreds) called Auks, stuffed, beak feathers and all, into a hallowed out seal carcass. The air is pressed out, and then it's sealed with the fat from said seal to prevent spoiling. Then it's fermented in a rock pile for a few months to over a year. This ferments the Auks so they can be eaten without technically being cooked. While this might seem gross to many of us, it's a clever way to make sure there is food available when there are shortages. It's probably fine if you add some garlic and butter.

kiviak-1Source: http://gizmodo.com/ Image Source: http://foodlorists.blogspot.com/2008/12/kiviak.html

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