7 Holiday Traditions Around The World To Try At Home

Written by Angie Arriesgado
featured image for article on holiday traditions around the world

Want to switch up your Christmas holiday activities this year? If you’re bored with the usual activities at home, e.g. putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, and wrapping up presents, then this blog post may help bring on the Christmas cheer! We’ve got a list of exciting holiday traditions from around the world that you and your family can try together!

Iceland’s Jolabokaflod

Bookworms rejoice! If you’d rather curl up in bed with a good book in hand, then this Icelandic tradition is perfect for you. Jolabokaflod, or the “Yule book flood”, is unlike many other Christmas-themed traditions in other parts of the world.  

On Christmas Eve, you and your family exchange gifts. But there’s a twist, there’s a book included in the present! The presents are opened after dinner and dessert. With a new book in hand, the next thing to do is to read it at your favorite cozy reading spot. Of course, with a cup of hot cocoa nearby to keep you warm…

Jolabokaflod is great for both kids and parents alike. It helps parents share their passion for reading. And it helps kids improve their reading comprehension, imagination, creativity, vocabulary, and more.

Tip: If you want something to munch on while reading, check out our recipe for sugar-free chocolate chip cookies.

Norway’s Broom Hiding Tradition

This might be one of the most unusual holiday traditions out there, but hiding brooms on Christmas Eve really is a thing in Norway.

Legend has it that witches come out on Christmas Eve looking for a ride. But they don’t want cars, bikes, or sleds. Nope, these witches are apparently old-school and would prefer riding brooms to wherever their destination is. So, what do Norwegians do? They need to hide their brooms, of course!

So, if you’ve got brooms lying around, you and your family can start participating in this Norwegian tradition right away.

Fun fact: Another of Norway’s holiday traditions (which they share with their neighbor, Finland) is hiding an almond in their Christmas dinner porridge. The person who finds the almond wins a prize! 

Japan’s KFC Christmas Dinner

This Japanese holiday tradition certainly won’t break the bank. Ordering Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner is a big hit in Japan. It all started thanks to the brand’s hugely successful “Kentucky for Christmas” marketing campaign.

KFC Christmas dinners are so popular that people reserve their party buckets well ahead of time. Otherwise, they may wait in line for hours to get their hands on that bucket of finger-lickin’ goodness.

Fortunately, long queues may not be a problem in your local KFC. But better not take that chance – order your chicken buckets early if you want to try this tradition.

Tip: If someone in your family’s not a fan of KFC, you can try making our oven-fried sriracha buffalo wings recipe instead. It won’t have KFC’s 11 herbs and spices, but it’s delicious, low-carb, and easy to make.

Poland’s Oplatek (Christmas Wafer)

To have an authentic Polish experience, you will need to get your hands on oplatek, a rectangular and very thin sheet of unleavened wafer embossed with Christmas-themed images. Fortunately, you don’t need to send someone to Poland to buy them; they’re available on Amazon!

During Christmas Eve dinner (or wigilia as it’s known in Polish), the whole family gathers around the table. The head of the household breaks the oplatek wafer and takes a piece, then passes it to the next family member who also breaks a small piece off. This goes on until everyone gets their share of the wafer. Christmas greetings, wishes, hugs, and kisses are exchanged while the oplatek is being passed around.

Fun fact: Sharing oplatek is such an inclusive tradition that giving a piece to pets and farm animals is customary, too!

one of ireland's holiday traditions include using candles

Ireland’s Candle Tradition

If you want your family to start partaking in this holiday tradition, it’s pretty easy. Just light a tall, red candle and place it by the window on Christmas Eve.

The reason behind this tradition is really interesting. So, according to legend, Irish Catholics started putting a candle by their windows to signify to priests that it was a Catholic home. It was a silent invitation to enter and join the family for prayer. They did this to evade the English authorities, who strictly enforced the anti-Catholic Penal Laws.

Today, the candle symbolizes welcome and friendship to anyone who wishes to visit the home. It’s also a silent prayer for family and friends who cannot make it home for Christmas. Putting a candle by the window signifies ‘connection and remembering’ to many Irish families.

New Zealand’s Summer-y Christmas

It’s uncommon for those in the Northern Hemisphere to have an outdoor barbecue for Christmas because it’s wintertime. But it’s totally doable for those in the Southern Hemisphere!

If it’s too cold outside, you can adapt a Kiwi-style Christmas tradition by having an indoor picnic. Here’s one way to do it:

You can set up blankets and cushions in the living room (feel free to decorate it however you like). For instance, you can use low-hanging soft lights for cozy vibes or use ultra-bright lights to imitate the summer sun.

Many Kiwi families serve a traditional roast lunch for Christmas, which may include beef, turkey, chicken, or ham. You can also add a variety of vegetables, such as roast potatoes and boiled veggies. For dessert, the meringue-based pavlova topped with fresh cream and fruit is a must for an authentic Kiwi experience.

On a side note, several low-carb recipes in our Intelligent Keto eBook will be a perfect addition to your Kiwi-themed Christmas lunch or dinner.

Ukraine’s Kutya Tradition

Want to know if the new year will bring you peace and prosperity? Then try following one of Ukraine’s most popular holiday traditions – grab a spoonful of kutya and throw it at the ceiling. If the kutya sticks, then it means there’s a chance you may have a great year ahead. If not, well, better luck next year.

So, kutya (or kutia) is a sweet wheat berry porridge that is typically served as the first dish (out of twelve) on Christmas Eve dinner. It uses wheat berries (or whole wheat kernels), ground poppy seeds, dried fruits, nuts, and honey. Some recipes use milk instead of water to make it taste even better. The dish may be served warm or cold.

Note: The wheat berries for kutya require soaking for several hours (best to leave it overnight), so keep this in mind if you’re thinking of making this dish at home.

Final thoughts

There are plenty more holiday traditions from around the world, but these are our top picks for traditions that you can start doing at home with your family.

To recap, you may place a candle by the window like the Irish do and hide brooms like the Norwegians. Then break oplatek and throw kutya at the ceiling like Eastern Europeans. Also, try having a picnic in the living room and eating KFC chicken (a combo of Kiwi and Japanese traditions). Lastly, give books as presents to loved ones like the Icelanders!