9 Pagan Alternatives to Christmas

Christmas is kind of the big granddaddy of Christian holidays, so much so that even many non-Christians celebrate it. Still, just because it's a big one doesn't mean it's the most awesome one. Paganism is full of weird, intense, and even frightening holidays that put Christmas celebrations to shame. One thing is for certain: there are pre-Christian holidays so hardcore, it's hard to call them anything but metal.

Now, let's be clear about one thing - many of the holidays mentioned here are either no longer celebrated, or they are celebrated very differently from how they once were. After all, it's not like human sacrifices are particularly common anymore. It should also be noted that these metal holidays are generally just amazing parties rather than something to actually fear. Just because something is different doesn't mean it's not worth embracing - especially when it's also awesome.

So, if you're tired of stockings and Santa, maybe give a few of these hardcore pagan holidays a try. You might find their celebrations are a little more to your badass tastes.


  • Krampusnacht

    In Germany, Santa has a darker, more distressing counterpart, and his name is Krampus. When children have been bad, Krampus comes around, but he doesn't just leave coal or even take away presents. Oh no - instead he takes birch switches and actually beats bad children with them. If they've been particularly bad, he'll even scoop them up in a sack and take them away so that parents don't have to deal with them anymore. 

    But the holiday doesn't stop there. Every year on the night of December 5th, thousands of people will dress up as the horned, long-tongued, hairy, devil-like Krampus and run around the streets in a parade. This is called Krampusnacht. Traditionally, parents offer these revelers schnaps as a way of keeping them happy and keeping them from taking their kids. Assuming Mom and Dad want to keep you, that is - so be good, or else. 

  • Yule

    When you hear the word Yule, you probably think it's just a synonym for Christmas. However, modern Christmas traditions are made up of many pagan holidays, including one actually called Yule. You can find a version of Yule in many different pagan religions, usually involving trees, feasting, and gift-giving, much as in modern-day Christmas.

    Germanic pagans, in particular, knew that the Yule should be celebrated with lots of alcohol, and toasts were to be drunk to the gods, including Odin, after which there would be poetry and song. Think of it as a rocking concert to worship greater beings during the dead of winter. And, as usual, bonfires, animal sacrifices, and dancing were all involved as well - and with the cold, the bonfires were greatly needed if you didn't want to freeze. 

  • Vetrnaetr

    Summer's end is definitely worth celebrating, or at least the Norse thought so. For the most part, the Norse would take time to worship one god at a time, but Vetrnaetr (also known as Winter Nights) was a time for the worship of many gods, and that meant doing something big. That something came in the form of animal sacrifice, mainly of pigs but also horses. These sacrifices were done in public, and during them, the blood of the animals was drained out and then used to decorate the bodies and clothes of revelers. The blood was supposed to give good fortune, fertility, and special powers in battle, so it was used readily on everything.

    Once this was done, the Vikings would do what any great party calls for: drinking. They would drink, celebrate, fight, and have sex nearly constantly for a period of three days. That's one serious rock-star lifestyle.

  • Samhain

    Most people think of Halloween as a version of All Hallows Eve, but it also has another pagan origin. As the harvest season ended for the Gaelic people, they would celebrate its passing and wish for it to come again by holding a holiday called Samhain. This time was meant to signal an end to the light and a welcoming of the darker part of the year, as well as a sort of festival for the dead and departed spirits.

    People were supposed to get intensely drunk together, sacrifice animals, and pay tribute to ancestors, as well as those recently passed on, with great feasting and celebrating. People would also take the blood of sacrificed animals and sprinkle it around their homes and on one another. As if to top off this whole bloody festival, a man would dress in a cowhide, then circle the town, breathing in the smoke of bonfires to usher in good luck for the dark season. It kind of puts Halloween to shame, doesn't it?