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Christmas traditions for pets around the world

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As the holiday season approaches, people from different corners of the globe are preparing to celebrate Christmas in their unique ways. While many Christmas traditions are deeply rooted in human customs, some cultures go the extra mile to ensure that even their furry, feathered, and finned friends get to enjoy the festive spirit. In this article, we’ll take a whimsical journey across the world to explore the weird and wonderful Christmas traditions for pets in various cultures.

Japan: A Feast for Feline Friends

Photo shows a collection of designs for the “Neko no Hi” in Japan when celebrating Christmas eve. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

In Japan, Christmas isn’t only about decorating trees and giving gifts. For cat lovers, it’s an opportunity to celebrate with their beloved pets in a unique way. On Christmas Eve, Japanese cat owners participate in the tradition of “Neko no Hi” (Cat Day), where they offer special treats and gifts to their feline companions. According to Japanese folklore, cats bring good luck, and this tradition aims to express gratitude to these furry family members (Japan Talk). It’s a heartwarming example of the strong bond between pet owners and their cats during the holiday season.

Venezuela: Roller-Skating to Mass

Venezuela takes an unconventional approach to celebrating Christmas by incorporating pets into their traditions in an extraordinary way. In the capital city of Caracas, it’s customary for families to roller-skate to the early morning Christmas Mass. While it’s not explicitly a pet tradition, many locals bring their dogs to join in on the festive roller-skating procession (Telegraph). This unique blend of religious tradition and active holiday spirit brings an entirely new meaning to the phrase “rolling into Christmas.”

Sweden: A Porridge for the Little Creatures

This is a decorative photo design of a “Tomte,” the mythical creature who cares for animals during the Christmas season in Sweden. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

In Sweden, Christmas is a time for generosity, and it extends not only to humans but also to the creatures of the forest. On Christmas Eve, Swedish families place a steaming bowl of “julgröt” or Christmas porridge on their doorstep as a gift to the “tomte,” a mythical creature who cares for the animals (Swedish Nomad). This act of kindness is a heartwarming reminder of the importance of sharing the holiday spirit with all living beings, no matter how small or elusive.

Guatemala: In the Company of Pets

Guatemalan Christmas traditions are rich and diverse, and they extend to pets as well. In the days leading up to Christmas, many households participate in “La Quema del Diablo” (The Burning of the Devil) tradition, where they construct an effigy resembling the devil and set it on fire to rid the house of evil spirits. But in some regions, families also include their pets in this ritual, believing that it can help protect their furry friends from harm (BBC). It’s a unique and meaningful way of involving pets in a cleansing and protective tradition.

Spain: A Catalonian Tradition of the Caganer

In Catalonia, Spain, a rather unusual character makes an appearance in nativity scenes during the Christmas season. The “Caganer” is a figurine that depicts a person, often in a traditional Catalonian hat, in the act of defecation. While it might seem odd, the Caganer has a symbolic role in the nativity scene, representing fertilization and good luck for the coming year (Culture Trip). Some pet owners take this tradition a step further by incorporating their pets into the nativity scene, often depicting them in amusing poses alongside the Caganer. This whimsical practice adds a playful twist to the holiday celebrations.

Finland: A Visit from the Joulupukki

In Finland, the Christmas tradition centers around “Joulupukki,” which translates to the Christmas Goat or Yule Goat. This mystical figure, traditionally associated with Christmas, has transformed over the years and is sometimes depicted as Santa Claus. However, in some regions, the Yule Goat is still believed to be a separate entity, and it is customary for children to leave food and treats for the Yule Goat, just as they do for Santa Claus (Finnish Nomad). This delightful tradition highlights the charming and varied customs that the holiday season brings to different parts of the world.

Christmas is a time of diverse traditions, joy, and celebration. It’s heartwarming to see how various cultures include their pets in these special moments, from Japanese cat feasts to Venezuelan roller-skating dogs. These traditions not only reflect the deep bonds between humans and their pets but also add a touch of uniqueness and whimsy to the holiday season. As we embrace the magic of Christmas, let’s not forget that the spirit of the season can encompass all creatures, great and small, making the festivities even more special for families around the world.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She has been a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.


“Japan’s Cat Day – Neko no Hi.” Japan Talk,

“Christmas traditions from around the world.” The Telegraph,

“Swedish Christmas Traditions.” Swedish Nomad,

“The Guatemalan Christmas tradition that involves setting things on fire.” BBC,

“10 weird and wonderful traditions from around Spain.” Culture Trip,

“The Finnish Yule Goat: From Fertilizer Spirit to Xmas Symbol.” Finnish Nomad,


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