Every family around the world has a different take on the holiday season. Some gather as a family for a baked ham and presents, some go caroling, and some just huddle together in a sweater so ugly it looks like a Christmas elf threw up all over it for a family picture. Regardless of what traditions you find normal or weird, there are 5 Holiday traditions that stand out the most to us. In the spirit of the season, we have decided to share with you the top 5 Holiday Traditions that Stand Out.

  1. KFC in Japan

If you were to spend a year in Japan, you would find that Christmas isn’t a normal holiday tradition. However, their tradition on December 25th centers around KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken is loved so much in Japan, to taste the Colonel’s special recipe for the holiday season you must place your order months ahead of time.

How did this begin? In 1974, KFC wanted to give a Christmas meal to foreigners that was close to resembling a dinner of a traditional holiday. Not only was it embraced by the culture, but four decades later it is #5 on our Holiday traditions that stand out.

  1. Cemetery Tradition (Finland)

Not every tradition that stands out is unusual. For example, in Finland, it is a common tradition to gather at the burial sites of loved ones to honor their memory on Christmas Eve. Many of the churches and cemeteries that are visited hold a brief service involving hymns and reflection.

Family members will light candles and lay lanterns on graves of departed loved ones. For those that have family buried too far away to visit, there is often a special section for them to commemorate loved ones. This heartwarming tradition was born in the 20s, when the graves of WWI soldiers were decorated with candles as a show of respect and remembrance.

  1. Yule Lad

Ah, another holiday tradition that touches the soul… Rather it touches the sole. In Iceland, children place a shoe in their windowsill. At night while the kids sleep, 13 magical Yule Lads travel from the nearby mountains to place gifts inside of the shoes.

Unless your naughty, then you get a potato. On a side note, the original Yule Lad holiday tradition had a darker tone, and parents would use the night-time activity for scaring children into being good little boys and girls. Got to love family time, right?

  1. Hogmanay

In Scotland, Hogmanay (New Year’s) celebrations take the wheel while Christmas takes a backseat. December 25th is seen as a day of quiet reflection in Scotland. However, Hogmanay is a joyous and rather loud celebration of the new year. The holiday tradition that stands out the most about this day is the ‘First-footing’. When midnight hits, and the calendars are officially on January 1st, everyone awaits the arrival of the year’s first visitor.

The reasoning of this is simple, the first person to cross the threshold of your home is considered to be the predictor for the next years fortune. Men with dark hair are considered to be good luck, blonde haired men or women are thought to bring bad luck. The first-foot is traditionally supposed to come baring gifts of coins, bread, and whiskey.

  1. Mari Lwyd

In Wales, during late December to January, receiving a knock at your door may yield an unusual visitor. This visitor comes with a horse’s skull that is elaborately decorated, attached to a long wooden pole, and cover by a sheet or blanket. This is Mari Lwyd, or the Grey Mare, and her revelers of plenty (a party of 5 or 6). This isn’t a time to fear, however.

It is a time of celebration as they sing and engage residents in rhyming contests. If the Mari Lwyd and her friends win the competition, they gain entry to the home or pub of the defeated. The very presence of Mari Lwyd in your home is said to bring good Luck.

These 5 holiday traditions are certainly some strange, and exciting ways to spend celebrating Christmas and New Year’s. They offer family gathering and remembrance, respect, luck, and love. Though they stand out to us, these holiday traditions are waited for throughout the year.

We would love to hear about your family’s traditions, and any strange traditions that you feel stand out above all else.