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5 Unusual Christmas Traditions Celebrated Around the World

Whether it’s a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken or watching Donald Duck on TV, these atypical Christmas traditions bring much joy to the world.
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Whether it’s a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken or watching Donald Duck on TV, these atypical Christmas traditions bring much joy to the world.

Traditions are the transmissions of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or at least the ones that have been consciously recreated a few times. For many of us, Christmas means a turkey on the table, a decorated tree (real or otherwise) and perhaps a festive wreath on the door. But for some revelers, it could mean a spot of ice swimming followed by some time in the sauna.

Every country has its own quirky traditions that its people associate with the festive period. Here, we give a peek into how some parts of the world celebrate the holiday season.

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ICELAND
Tradition: Placing candy or rotting potatoes in shoes.

Come 13 days before Christmas, Icelandic children will place a shoe beneath their bedroom window in hopes of receiving something from one of the 13 Yuletide-lads. (Read: the Icelandic version of Santa Claus.) Well-behaved children will get little treats such as candy or chocolate stuffed into their shoes. The naughty ones? A rotting potato.

READ MORE: 6 Quirky Christmas Gifts for Food Lovers

FINLAND
Tradition: Ice swimming and saunas.

From sweating profusely in a sauna to plunging into an icy lake, it seems like the Finns love extremities. And there's no better time to indulge in Finland's national pastime, avanto—which translates to "hole in the ice”—than Christmas. The order doesn't matter. In fact, it is common for revelers to switch between the two several times, an activity they believe will help relax their bodies and minds.

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MULTIPLE COUNTRIES
Tradition: Dressing up as Saint Nicholas' evil accomplice, Krampus.

Meet the Krampus: a half-goat, half-demon anthropomorphic figure that accompanies Saint Nicholas on his journeys during the Christmas season. Unlike St. Nic, who rewards well-behaved children, Krampus threatens to kidnap the naughty. This tradition takes place in numerous countries including Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic and Hungary.

JAPAN
Tradition: Crispy, fried chicken from none other than KFC.

Like diamonds on an engagement ring, Christmas day fried chicken in Japan is a spectacularly successful marketing campaign. Every year in the month of December, an estimated 3.6 million people in Japan indulge in dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken. "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!”—or, “For Christmas it's Kentucky!”—is a jingle that has successfully landed buckets of deep-fried chicken onto Christmas dinner menus of the Japanese for the past 40 years.

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SWEDEN
Tradition: Watching Donald Duck on TV.

Every year at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, residents of Sweden sit down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Christmas special: Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas). It recorded its lowest viewing ratings in 2008, with only 36 percent of the public tuning in—and even that raked in over three million views.

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