Unique and unconventional Christmas traditions and celebrations around the world

Christmas can mean many things to different people. But what are the most unique traditions and celebrations that you can experience around the world? Read on.

Unique and unconventional Christmas traditions and celebrations around the world

1Here are some great Christmas destinations, with a twist.

Icelandic Christmas reading marathons

For all the book nerds out there, here are some statistics: A total of 97,829 books were sold at the Icelandic Publishers’ Association book fair in Reykjavík in 2023, around 50% of them were children’s books. You may think that’s an astonishing statistic, but it soon becomes clear why the Icelanders are such voracious readers, especially their children.

One of their more endearing and introvert-proof Christmas traditions is the Yule book flood (Jólabókaflóðið in Icelandic). Traditionally, everyone in Iceland must receive at least one book for Christmas. Once the wrapping paper was removed and titles discovered (hopefully with delight), the new book owners are obliged to take these freshly printed pieces of art to bed on Christmas Eve and read them for as long as their hearts desire.

The tradition began during World War II, when harsh restrictions on imports left the Icelandic people with few gift options come Christmastime. Because the restrictions on imported paper were a lot more lenient, books became the obvious gift of choice — a tradition that hasn’t flagged in the 70+ years since.

Access from: Milano Malpensa, Bergamo, Venice Marco Polo, Vienna and Ljubljana airports

The Icelandic way is the introverted way.

2The Icelandic way is the introverted way.

The Wren Boys of Ireland

Ireland takes its Christmas festivities very seriously, including the ones that are objectively weird. Chief among them the Wren Boys.

The tradition of the Wren Boys takes place on December 26th, otherwise known as St. Stephen’s Day and involves the hunting of a fake wren (a type of small bird) and popping it on top of a pole. The Wren Boys, dressed in straw suits and wearing masks then walk through the local town or village, playing marching and traditional irish music, trying to find this precious Christmas prize.

Two of the more notable Wren Day celebrations take place in Miltown in Clare and in Dingle in Kerry. We won’t say any more, we’re simply going to share this delightful YouTube video, showing one such occasion. Sometimes, images are better than words to describe something as unique and fun as this.

Access from: Milano Malpensa, Venice Marco Polo, Vienna and Zagreb airports

You can expect lots of music and cheer in Ireland during Christmas.

3You can expect lots of music and cheer in Ireland during Christmas.

Best Japanese Christmas dish? KFC, of course!

You’ve read that title right! In the land of incredible culinary variety and prowess, the Japanese people make a very particular exception for Christmas. On the 25th of December, they indulge into a big bucket of some good old Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But where does this weird tradition come from? Well, the reason is probably one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever created. In 1974, KFC Japan launched an advertising campaign that was so successful the entire country now considers it a sacred tradition to share a bucket of fried chicken with their family on Christmas day.

How successful was this campaign? According to figures released by KFC Japan, they pulled in 6.9 billion yen (roughly US$63 million) from December 20 to 25 in 2018. Whoever was involved in the campaign back in the 70s hopefully got a big fat promotion for such results!

Access from: Milano Malpensa, Venice Marco Polo Vienna, Ljubljana and Zagreb airports

This is what great marketing can achieve.

4This is what great marketing can achieve.

Sweden really loves this Disney character

A couple of names may have gone through one’s mind reading this title. But believe us when we tell you we were just as surprised as you are going to be in a minute. Apparently, there is only one hero in the Swedish Christmas tradition, and that is the one, the only, Donald Duck.

Since the 1960s, every Christmas Eve, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the Swedish national television broadcasts a specific episode Disney TV episode, known as Kalle Anka och Hans vänner önskar God Jul (translation: Donald Duck and His Friends Wish you a Merry Christmas). It is presented by Jiminy Cricket and features several full cartoons as well as scenes from various Disney movies.

You’d think that after more than 60 years the Swedish people would be more than done seeing Donald Duck and Disney cartoons, but you’d be mistaken. The Donald Duck Disney broadcast is the most viewed TV programme in Sweden of the past decade by a wide margin. The stats: In 2023, 3 411 000 viewers saw it out of a population of 10 538 026. Impressive!

Access from: Milano Malpensa, Bergamo, Venice Marco Polo and Vienna airports

Donald Duck is a Swedish national hero.

5Donald Duck is a Swedish national hero.

Christmas down under

We who live in the Northern Hemisphere sometimes forget that season are completely inverted for those who live in the Southern Hemisphere. What does that mean in practical terms? Well, Australians have their “summer vacations” set out for the end of December. Which brings many interesting and creative Christmas traditions to light.

One of them is of course the attire. One cannot simply walk around in a winter coat when there’s 40°C outside. Which means that Father Christmas will bring his cheer to you in shorts or even a bathing costume, ready to hit the waves at the beach. If you’re from Sydney, you’ll be joining Santa at Bondi beach, potentially playing a game of cricket while handling him a beer instead of the traditional cookies and milk.

In addition to having a different beverage of choice, you may enjoy some different entrées to the traditional Christmas roast. Expect lots of shrimp and prawn dishes, all done on a barbecue outside. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, as you will surely burn, if not applied regularly.

Access from: Milano Malpensa, Bergamo, Venice Marco Polo, Trieste, Vienna, Ljubljana and Zagreb airports

Christmas in swimsuits? Say no more!

6Christmas in swimsuits? Say no more!

Join the Christmas festivities and make your Christmas just as weird!

Even for those of us who love our Christmas traditions, a small change of scenery may be beneficial for our undying appreciation for the Christmas spirit.

Werther you’ll be joining the Icelanders and Swedes in their quiet contemplations, enjoy some fried chicken like the Japanese, or dive into the outdoor partying of the Irish and Australians, you should always travel to your destination in style.

GoOpti offers care-free and comfortable transfers from your home address to the airport (and back!), so that you can focus on choosing and then wrapping your Christmas presents in peace. Book your next Christmas holiday abroad and secure the airport transfer you need to get there with GoOpti.

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