With Christmas fast approaching (have you picked out presents yet for all the expats in your life? We got you!), we thought we’d give you a lowdown on some bizarre Christmas traditions across Europe. Well, bizarre for us and completely normal for them.

Let’s find some of the most bizarre Christmas traditions out there!

1. Austria (and several other European countries) has an anti-Santa

Being from Slovenia, Krampus is a very familiar Christmas character that looks terrifying to just about anyone, not just people who aren’t familiar with this story. Think of him as the Grinch with no sense of humor and definitely not played by Jim Carrey. He’s known to punish children that aren’t exactly well-behaved – we’re not talking getting coal for Christmas. Krampus is the guy that’ll put the fear in your children and scare the naughty out of them. In theory, at least.

2. Barcelona celebrates the pooping log

Also known as the festive very happy-looking log that poops, extremely popular in a traditional Catalan Christmas setting. The thing is, children must ‘feed’ this oddball log thing starting December 8th until Christmas Eve or Day. Then they beat it with sticks until it literally poops out objects like candy, fruit and nuts. They sing a traditional song and it goes something like this – “If you don’t poop well I’ll beat you with a stick.” So much pressure for such a cute looking log.

3. Germany likes to hang pickles on their Christmas trees

Alright, we’ve seen a fair dosage of weird Christmas ornaments. But.. Christmas pickles? Really? It’s a German Christmas tradition, believe it or not. A pickle-like ornament (don’t worry, no real pickles actually hang from the tree) is the last to be hung and it’s usually been passed down through many generations. As it’s green it is very well hidden – the first child that finds it gets a gift along with tons of luck for the next year.

4. Italy has a Christmas witch instead of Santa Claus

Because Santa Claus is way overrated. Italian children get a little visit from a lady called La Befana. She is a witch and legend has it she thought Jesus was her son, but missed the doorbell when Three Wise Men came around. She saw a shooting star and has been searching for Jesus ever since. On Christmas Day, she comes to every house with a child because she believes every child has a Christ. Sweet.

5. France has a law – every letter to Santa MUST receive a response

Okay, okay, so not really a tradition, but receiving a response from Santa Claus is a LAW in France, passed in 1962. All letters to Santa Claus must be responded to with a postcard. The kids fill their shoes with carrots and treats for the Père Noël’s (French Santa Claus’) donkey and in return, they receive a postcard, along with gifts.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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