Deputy Culture Editor - Travel


Ever wondered about all the wacky, wild, and wonderful Christmas traditions of countries around the world? Check out our quiz to take a virtual trip around the globe this holiday season.

It’s officially Christmas, so the scrooge inside me is being forced to submit to the “Christmas spirit”, one mulled wine at a time. I am normally quite proud of my misery, cursing anyone who dares utter the words to a festive song any time before 20 December. Yet this year, on the morning of 1 December when I’d typically be begrudgingly opening a cheerful door on an advent calendar, I found myself feeling a flicker of excitement. And when I walked down the street, blinded by enough Christmas lights to illuminate the International Space Station, I clutched my chest. In true Grinch style, I tried to fight it, but I actually felt warm inside… I actually felt the Christmas Spirit. My god! What was happening to me? But after such a shitty year with barely anything to look forward to, I found myself feeling jovial about the prospect of Christmas. My university flat is now adorned with paper snowflakes and I’ve plotted a night to eat cookie dough and watch Christmas films with my boyfriend – truly unheard-of jolly behaviour in my grumpy life!

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 situation this year, one of my favourite things in the world has been practically non-existent, and that’s travel. Exploring the delights of new cultures and places is so important, thrilling, and interesting, and it’s been heart-breaking watching the world slow to a grinding halt in this regard. So, with my newfound joie de vivre, I thought it would be fantastic to “sort-of'' travel around the globe this winter time, discovering Christmas traditions of other cultures in a slightly different way to the boots-on-the-ground approach I normally take. This year, we’re going virtual! I’ve taken much pleasure in discovering the various Christmas traditions of people all around the world, and will share some of them now – from the wacky-and-wonderful to downright wild, these fantastic and bizarre rituals have got me pondering which ones I’d like to try with my own family this year, just for a change.

For a bit of Christmas fun with friends, why not print this article and work through the quiz to unearth the hidden gems of Christmas in other cultures? (Answers at the end of the quiz)

1.     In which country does St. Nicholas (affectionately named Sinterklaas) traditionally arrive by boat from Spain?

a)     The Netherlands

b)     Sweden

c)     Switzerland

2.     In Greece, what plant is wrapped around a wooden spoon decorated with a cross, and used to sprinkle water around the house to keep away the Killantzaroi (mischievous goblins)?

a)     Holly

b)     Ivy

c)     Basil

3.   True or false: Polish tradition says animals can talk and people can tell the future on Christmas Eve?

a)     True

b)     False

4.     Norwegian children must leave a certain food out for Jul Nisse, (the mythical creature who guards farm animals), or else he plays tricks on them. What food is this?

a)     Chocolate

b)     Porridge

c)     Fish

5.     In Greenland, what is a traditional Christmas food?

a)     Suaasat – traditional Greenlandic soup made from rice, onions, potatoes and either reindeer, seal, whale or seabird

b)     Caribou – reindeer liver eaten raw

c)     Kiviak – the raw flesh of an auk penguin, wrapped in sealskin and placed under a rock for several months until it has decomposed

6.   On Christmas day, which country tucks into deep-fried caterpillars for their Christmas meal?

a)     China

b)     South Korea

c)     South Africa

7.     Austrian children live in fear of Krampus, the Christmas devil. What do they believe he shall do if they are naughty?

a)     Kidnap their parents

b)     Beat them with branches and maybe drag them to hell

c)     Not deliver any presents

8.     Due to a campaign in 1974, what do most Japanese families eat on Christmas Eve?

a)     Sushi

b)     KFC

c)     Pizza Hut

9.     What is hidden in German Christmas trees on Christmas Eve, which results in a small gift if found first?

a)     A pickle

b)     A silver star

c)     An orange

10.  What is left in the stockings of naughty children in the United Kingdom?

a)     An angry note

b)     Coal

c)     A wet sock

11.  In South Africa, children are told the story of Danny, a young boy who angered his grandmother by eating the cookies that had been left for Santa. In rage, what did she do?

a)     She killed him and now he haunts houses at Christmas

b)     Whip him with a dishcloth and chase him out of the house

c)     Burnt all his presents in front of him

12.  How do people travel to Christmas mass in Venezuela?

a)     Dressed all in white on the backs of donkeys

b)     One big conga line

c)     On roller skates

13.  In the Ukraine, what do people decorate their trees with?

a)     Cobwebs

b)     Wool

c)     Candles

14.  Throughout December in Catalonia, children feed a log that the family keeps in their home and cover it with a blanket, so it doesn’t get cold. What do they then do on Christmas Eve with the log?

a)     Put it outside to join the reindeer

b)     Beat it with sticks until it poops out presents

c)    Burn it in the hope that St. Nicholas will see the smoke and deliver presents to the house

15.  In the Czech Republic, what do single women do in order to predict whether they shall be married the following year?

a)     Stand at the door and throw a shoe behind them, and if the toe points towards the door they shall be married

b)     Throw a flower into the river; if it floats, they shall be married

c)     Sleep with a fire burning; if it still lit by morning, they shall be married

How many do you think you got right? Check the answers below to see!

Q1: a) The Netherlands

Q2: c) Basil

Q3: a) True

Q4: b) Porridge

Q5: c) Kiviak

Q6: c) South Africa

Q7: b) Beat them with branches and maybe drag them to hell

Q8: b) KFC

Q9: a) Pickle (or pickle ornament in modern times)

Q10: b) Coal

Q11: a) She killed him and he now haunts houses at Christmas

Q12: c) On roller skates

Q13: a) Cobwebs

Q14: b) Beat it with sticks until it poops out presents

Q15: a) Stand at the door and throw a shoe behind them, and if the toe points towards the door they shall be married


1 reply on “Christmas cultures quiz!”

Molly says:

The German pickle is an American invention! Germans do not have that tradition. It’s not confirmed why the myth exists, but even if for some reason it had been a tradition at some point, it’s not a German Christmas tradition today, and hasn’t been for generations. Germans of all ages and places are confused when told about this custom.

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