8 Creepy Holiday Traditions From Around the World

While different cultures have different holiday traditions, some are more unsettling than others. Most of us have used Santa Claus and perhaps the Elf on the Shelf to discourage bad behavior because children know the rules all too well; misbehave and Santa won’t leave you any presents. Turns out, there are some more scary, menacing tactics in certain places in the world to remind people to behave during the holiday. Since travel is the number one wish-list item this holiday season, we want to make sure you’re prepared, just in case you’re planning to spend Christmas in any of these places. While many of these may simply be urban legends, we assume you’d rather be safe than sorry!

Yule Cat

The Yule Cat is Iceland’s way of promoting good behavior. The Yule cat is a carnivorous Christmas monster who will eat you if you don’t give him a proper offering. The only thing the Yule Cat will accept is new clothes, so if you live in Iceland and don’t get any new clothes for Christmas, kiss the holidays goodbye cause your days are numbered.

Christmas Goblins

If you thought that ghosts and goblins only come out during Halloween, you’re in for a  shock if you spend Christmas in Greece. The Kallikantzaroi are mythical goblins, elves, and gnomes that appear during the 12 days of Christmas (the end of December until January sixth).

These evil elves come up to the Earth’s surface during the Winter Solstice and wreak havoc, mischief, and mayhem. According to this article, “The Kallikantzaroi cause mischief, they intimidate people, urinate in flowerbeds, spoil food, tip things over and break furniture.”

Some believe that you can ward off the Kallikantzaroi by marking your door with a black cross on Christmas Eve. Either way, just be glad these guys only stalk the Earth for 12 days each year.

Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd, or the Zombie Christmas Horse, is a Welsh holiday tradition. Imagine Christmas carolers showing up to your door dressed as a monster with a horse skull.

Mari Lwyd is typically celebrated on New Year’s Eve, which marks the festival of light and rebirth, thus Mari Lwyd is the rebirth of a dead horse.  

Mari Lwyd and her group arrive at your door and sing a song, which is a request to be let in for food and drinks. If you don’t wish to let the zombie horse into your house, you must engage in a battle of wits which includes riddles, challenges, and insults, which must be delivered in the form of a rhyme. If you don’t want Mari Lwyd to eat you out of house and home, you better come up with some creative rhyming retorts, quick!


There’s nothing like being caught with your pants down during the holidays! Unfortunately for the Cagner, he’s immortalized in this unfavorable position. This figurine appears in nativity scenes all across Catalonia as well as certain areas in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Guess we know at least one person who’s having a crappy Christmas…


Some kids are deathly afraid of Santa Claus. When you try to take their pictures with the jolly gift giver at the mall, they scream their little heads off. Well, Santa Claus is nothing compared to Krampus.

Sure, St. Nick will might put coal in your stocking if you misbehave, but his evil sidekick, Krampus, abducts naughty children in Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia, takes them to his lair and devours them!


Perchta is another delightful demon who strikes during the 12 days of Christmas; wrong her and she’ll slit your stomach.

According to legend, if you anger her on her feast day (by eating anything besides fish and gruel) or if you’re a misbehaved child, she’ll slit your stomach and stuff it with straw.


No gifts for misbehaved kids is a normal trend on Christmas, but the punishment is a little more harsh in Germany. Clothed in rags and fur to hide his identity, Belsnickel makes house calls in the weeks leading up to Christmas to give children one last warning to behave.

If children don’t heed his warning, they can expect a beating from Belsnickel himself.

Knecht Ruprecht

With all the craziness of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget the origins of Christmas and Hannukah. For kids in Germany, however, there are some steep consequences for forgetting the true meaning of the season.

Knecht Ruprecht visits the kids and asks them to pray. If they oblige, he rewards them with gingerbread. If they’re unable to pray, they can expect to receive some useless junk, and if they refuse,  Knecht Ruprecht beats them with a bag full of ashes.

The moral of the story is, if you’re traveling during the holidays, remember to be on your best behavior! You should be a courteous guest no matter where you go, but if these urban legends are true, someone is always watching during the holidays!

Where are you spending the holidays this year? Let us know in the comments below!