The 9 quirkiest holiday celebrations around the world

Who says Christmas has to be conventional? Pudding races, turkey parades or encounters with Alpine devils chasing naughty children should be on your calendar this festive season. Read on to unwrap some of the world’s more unusual Christmas and New Year events. 

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Watch the turkey parade at Fête de la Dinde in France

If you need more inspiration for plucking, stuffing and roasting than a Julia Child cookbook can provide, make your way to the Fête de la Dinde (Turkey Festival) in Licques, a petit village in the Trois Pays region of France. Held over a weekend in mid-December (December 10 t0 11 in 2022), this is a festival with all the trimmings – turkey dinners, markets, tastings, you name it.

On Sunday, locals gather to watch Christmas dinner gobble past in the turkey parade where the region’s finest birds shake a tail feather through the streets to the jaunty melodies of brass bands. Licquoise liqueur served piping hot from a cauldron gets everyone into the festive groove.

A man in a scary mask stares at the camera Revelers during Krampulslaufen don terrifying costumes and stomp through Austrian streets © Rudi Brandstaetter / Getty Images

Get terrified at a Krampus Run in Austria

Horned, hairy and for kiddies pretty scary, Krampus rocks up at nightfall in towns throughout Austria’s Alps in December at the Krampuslaufen which translates to Krampus run or the Krampus parade. In Alpine folklore, Krampus is the antithesis of good ol’ St Nick. He’s a nasty piece of work who punishes misbehaving children by whipping them with birch rods, scaring them senseless and occasionally stuffing them into sacks and tossing them into the nearest icy river.

There’s less of the whipping and drowning nowadays, but seeing 60 odd Krampusse clad in shaggy goat skins and ghoulish masks on a cold winter’s eve is still frightful. Track down these devils in disguise by listening for the clattering of bells and the screams. Most parades around Austria are held on Dec. 5 or 6, although some cities like Salzburg holds a Krampus run over several nights leading up to St Nicholas Day.

Hit the beach in a Santa hat this Christmas at Bondi, Australia

‘Tis the season for team skimpy bikinis and skin-tight bathing suits with a Santa hat (you’ll even see surf lifesavers doing it). Join the high-spirited revelers on Sydney’s Bondi Beach on 25 December this year. In fact, it’s become a local tradition to slather yourself in high-factor sunscreen and head out with the surfers and backpackers for beach picnics and festive dips in the Pacific that are, like, totally awesome.

NorwayIt’s an icy dive for Norway’s brave New Years bathers © Cultura RM Exclusive/Louise Adby / Getty

Swim in icy waters at Nieuwjaarsduik in the Netherlands

What could be more… um, refreshing than a New Year’s Day dip in the North Sea? Whether you think they are brave or stark raving bonkers, you can’t help but admire the 10,000 Dutch who strip down to their bathers on 1 January for the shivering Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s dive) – at the Hague’s seaside resort of Scheveningen. Join them if you dare to jump into the briny blue – not forgetting your orange bobble hat, of course.

Ring in the new year in style at Nochevieja in Spain

Are you wearing red underwear, señoras y señores? Because you should be if you want the New Year to be a lucky one, say 47 million Spanish nationals. Just bear in mind that for the lucky boxers or bra to work its magic, it needs to be a gift from a loved one.

Few cities can throw a fiesta like Madrid and Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) here is a cracker. Make sure you have 12 grapes ready to gobble (the de-pipped Aledo variety is ideal) as the Real Casa de Correos clock strikes midnight. In true Madrileño style, party all night and then head over to Chocolatería San Ginés for hot chocolate and churros to sweeten your hangover.

Singing christmas tree during christmas time, Werdmühleplatz, Zürich, Switzerland.Shoppers listening to the Singing Christmas Tree in Werdmühleplatz, Zürich © Moment Editorial / Getty Images

Be mesmerised by the Singing Christmas Tree in Zürich

Think you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all? Not like this one you haven’t. The Singing Christmas tree in Zürich on Werdmühleplatz is actually a podium as big as a house. Look closer and you’ll see that what appear to be giant red candles are actually choir singers clad in red beanies and scarves. Choirs take their place on the twinkling tree to belt out carols and gospel classics at 5:30pm daily from late November until 23 December.

See a lucky pig crowned at Klosters, Switzerland

The snow-globe-pretty ski resort of Klosters in the Swiss Alps celebrates New Year’s Day with a pig race. It’s a step up from the usual Swiss custom of giving marzipan pigs as luck-bringing gifts. Some 2000 people turn out on the town’s Bahnhofstrasse to watch the trotters in action at the Hotschrennen.

The chosen 10 are no ordinary pigs – they’ve been carefully trained to ignore the edible temptations and negotiate the obstacles placed in their path. The first to cross the line is crowned the Glückschwein (lucky pig) and becomes the mascot of Klosters for the year ahead.

Two women dressed in costume - one as an elf, one as a Christmas tree - run over an inflatable with holes while carrying plates with Christmas puddingRacers attempt to carry a Christmas pudding while dressed in costume over a variety of inflatables in Covent Garden © SOPA Images / Getty Images

Get a team together for the Great Christmas Pudding Race in England

Imagine trying to balance a Christmas pudding on a paper plate while running. Got it? Right, now picture yourself wearing an XXL Santa costume while racing with said pudding over inflatable obstacles and down bouncy slides, with someone spraying whipped cream in your direction every so often.

Teams of six battle for the prized pudding trophy in the name of Cancer Research in the UK at the Great Christmas Pudding Race in London’s Covent Garden in early December. 

Marvel at the speed of the Reindeer Racers in Norway

The bite of snow, the thunder of hooves and skijoring Run, Rudolph, Run-style can only mean Tromsø’s Reindeer Racing Championships, taking place in early February. Sure, Christmas is long gone by then, but up here in the icy wilderness of the Arctic Circle in Norway, it feels eternally festive. Wrap up warm for subzero temps and join the Sami people to cheer and whoop as the specially trained reindeer pull skiers at speeds of up to over 37mph.


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