That ain't Santa - Crazy Christmas traditions from around the world

Cape Town - There really is more to Christmas than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Banting Santa, and snowmen.

South Africans know that most Christmas paraphernalia does not really apply to us - we do not have a white Christmas and the only thing we roast on open fires red juicy meat. 

But like Mzanzi, many countries embrace Christmas in a unique ways too; with straw goats, rollerskates and pulling children's toes, explains Hipmunk

READ: Kruger National Park sets new festive season day-visitor entry system

If you would like to try one of these lesser-known world traditions this Christmas, have a look at these...

Vienna, Austria

Austrian families have been taught be Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon beast who goes around hitting children with sticks for being disobedient throughout the year. 

The name originates from the German word for "claw" explains Hipmunk. Krampus was created as an opposition to St Nicholas, the favourable figure that rewards children with gifts and sweets.

The Viennese Krampusnacht Festival usually takes place on 5 December, where young people dress as Krampus for a fun party. 

Caracas Venezuela

While the rest of the world is cosying up and slowing down for Christmas, Venezuelans in the capital Caracas are lacing up their roller skates for a ride through the town between 16 and 24 December. The streets are blocked off for residents roller skating to Mass.

READ: The best festive season accommodation options on the Wild Coast

Children go to bed early and tie a string to their big toe and dangle the other end of the string out the window overlooking the street - for skaters to tug at their toe strings..

Christmas eve is known as Nochebuena where families have a feast after midnight mass in the early hours of the morning. 

Gavle, Sweden

In this Swedish town, the biggest straw goat in the world is built over the Festive Season. The tradition started in 1966 by Stig Gavlen, who decided to upgrade the Swedish straw tradition to a maxi version. 

The aim was to give restaurant and shop customers a reason to visit the town. 

READ: MyCiTi extends hours to shops and beaches during festive season

The first goat was over 40 foot long and at midnight on New Years Eve it was set alight. Ever since then, vandals try to burn the goat, which has had to be rebuilt many times over the years. 


Cardiff, Wales

According to Hipmunk, joining in Welsh traditions in Cardiff could bring you very good luck. But, you have to be witty and creative. 

The Mari Lwyd pre-Christan tradition has villagers decorate horse skulls with bells and ribbons before wrapping it in a white blanket and carrying it on a pole.

READ: SA border-crossing break to make the most of this summer

In olden times, singing processions would follow the Mari Lwyd (Welsh for “grey mare”) from door to door and challenge people to rap-like rhyming battles, throwing insults to and fro. 

When the battle is over, called 'pwnco' in Welsh, the singers and processions are invited inside homes to enjoy a refreshment. 

A photo posted by John Isaac (@squiresurf) on


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