Have you ever wondered how a child in Japan or a family in Brazil celebrates Christmas? While we might hang stockings by the fireplace and dream of a white Christmas, celebrations can look quite different on the other side of the globe. So our guide to Christmas around the world has been presented to you.
It’s fascinating to think that while some customs may intersect, each corner of our vast world brings to the holiday season its own unique traditions and festive flair.
One fascinating fact is that in Sweden, locals celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day on December 13th with processions featuring young girls adorned in lights. This ushers in the holiday spirit well before Christmas Day itself.
Imagine uncovering more such captivating rituals from countless cultures! Our blog post will serve as your sleigh ride across continents, exploring varied yuletide customs that illuminate Christmastime around our planet.
Prepare for a journey through international holiday cheer—no passport is required!
How Christmas Around the World is Celebrated
[Video Credits @LONDON.CITYTOUR]
Christmas is celebrated with unique traditions and customs all over the world. Let’s explore how people on different continents celebrate the festive season, from Europe to Asia, North America to South America, and Oceania to Africa.
Christmas in Europe: Germany, France, England, and Norway
Christmas in Europe is a magical time filled with unique customs and joyful celebrations. Different countries have their own special ways of marking the festive season.
- In Germany, towns come alive with Christmas markets. The air smells of mulled wine while people shop for gifts and decorations.
- Angel ornaments are popular for tree decorating in German homes. They add to the holiday spirit with their beauty.
- Many people enjoy traditional holiday desserts like stollen, a fruit bread, and lebkuchen, which is similar to gingerbread.
- France glows with the charm of festive markets during Christmas. The streets dazzle with lights and decorations, creating a warm atmosphere.
- A special dessert called bûche de Noël, shaped like a log, is a highlight at French Christmas dinners.
- Families burn an actual Yule log made out of cherry wood to keep the tradition alive.
- England sparkles with beautifully decorated Christmas trees. They stand tall in homes and city squares.
- Carol services fill the air with music as people sing together in joyous harmony.
- A delicious treat served is Christmas pudding topped with brandy butter, which delights everyone’s taste buds.
- Norway presents a hearty traditional dinner on Christmas Eve. Dishes like pork ribs or lutefisk grace many tables.
- Nisse, a mythical creature from folklore, plays a part in Norwegian celebrations. Children leave treats to please these friendly spirits.
Christmas in Asia: Philippines and Japan
In the Philippines and Japan, Christmas is a blend of old customs and new traditions. Both countries celebrate in ways that are special to their cultures.
- The Philippines kicks off the season in September, making it one of the longest Christmas celebrations in the world.
- Cities and towns come alive with festive lights and decorations, signaling that Christmas time is here.
- Filipinos attend several masses before Christmas Day, showing their deep religious roots.
- On December 16th, a nine-day series of early morning masses called Simbang Gabi begins.
- The Giant Lantern Festival is a big event where colorful lanterns called parols light up the night sky.
- Family gatherings on Christmas Eve for Noche Buena are full of joy and delicious food; everyone shares a midnight feast.
- Filipinos honor Spanish traditions from long ago while creating new memories each year.
- Japanese people enjoy decorating their homes with Christmas trees, just like in many other places.
- Fried chicken, especially from KFC, has become a popular meal at Christmastime thanks to clever marketing strategies!
- Couples often treat December 24th as if it’s Valentine’s Day, sharing gifts and going on romantic dates.
- Strawberry shortcake sweetens up Christmas Day for many families across Japan.
- Although not a national holiday in Japan, people still take time to spread happiness during this time of year.
Christmas in North America: USA and Canada
Moving from the vibrant celebrations in Asia, let’s travel to North America, where the USA and Canada have their own unique Christmas traditions. Here’s how people in these countries celebrate this joyful season:
- In the USA, many families decorate their homes with bright lights and Christmas trees. Kids write letters to Santa Claus, hoping for presents on Christmas morning.
- Cities come to life with festive decorations. New York City shines with its giant Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
- Folks gather to watch parades like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which marks the start of the holiday season.
- The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a famous show that attracts thousands each year.
- Leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve is an American tradition that children love.
- Many Americans go to church for midnight mass to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
- On Christmas Day, gathering around a big meal with family is central. This often includes turkey or ham, stuffing, and lots of sweet treats.
- Canadians love their outdoor Christmas light displays. Houses are often covered in colorful lights that sparkle against the snow.
- In Canada, some people go ‘mummering’ during the holidays. They dress up in costumes and visit neighbors who try to guess who they are.
- Church services are important for many Canadian families. They might attend midnight mass or special services on Christmas Eve or Day.
- A traditional Canadian Christmas dinner can include roast beef or goose, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and pies for dessert.
- Boxing Day on December 26th is a big shopping day in Canada with lots of sales.
Christmas in South America: Brazil and Argentina
Christmas in Brazil and Argentina shines with unique traditions. The warm December weather adds a special touch to the holiday celebrations.
- In Brazil, people enjoy setting up traditional nativity scenes that show the birth of Jesus. These are often large and detailed.
- Papai Noel, also known as Father Christmas, is a beloved figure. He brings gifts and joy to children.
- Rio de Janeiro hosts the world’s largest floating Christmas tree. It lights up on December 14th and is a sight to see.
- A main event happens on Christmas Eve in Brazil. Families gather for a huge feast to celebrate together.
- “Amigo Secreto” is a fun gift exchange game Brazilians play during Christmas. It’s like Secret Santa, where everyone gets a surprise present.
- Fireworks light up the sky at midnight on Christmas Eve in Argentina. People love watching them together.
- Argentinians decorate their Christmas trees with cotton balls to look like snowflakes because it doesn’t snow there in December.
- Parties go all night long after midnight mass in Argentina. Friends and families dance, eat, and have fun until the sun comes up.
- Both countries enjoy barbecue during the festive season. People cook outside because of the nice weather.
- In Argentina, families might stay at these parties until New Year’s Eve! It’s part of their holiday tradition.
Christmas in Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
In New Zealand, the pōhutukawa tree holds significance during Christmas. It is a vital tradition for the Māori people.
- In Australia, it’s summertime during Christmas.
- Australians often celebrate by going to the beach or having a barbecue.
- The Carols by Candlelight event, held on Christmas Eve in Melbourne, is a cherished tradition.
- Many Australians also enjoy decorating their homes with native flowers and plants.
- In both countries, Christmas Day falls in the middle of summer vacation, so many families use this time to travel and explore the great outdoors.
Christmas in Africa: South Africa and Kenya
In South Africa, Christmas is celebrated with a ‘braai’, or barbecue, and the warm weather allows for outdoor activities. People put up decorated artificial trees in their homes due to the lack of natural Christmas trees. The warm and sunny weather adds a unique element to their Christmas celebrations. Kenyan Christmas traditions include church services, nativity scenes, and gatherings with family and friends.
Both countries embrace the spirit of giving and sharing during the holiday season. South Africa experiences the summer season in December, making outdoor activities and gatherings common. The Christmas season in Kenya is a time of joy and celebration, with communities coming together to enjoy the festivities. These traditions showcase the rich cultural heritage of these African nations.
- In South Africa, people celebrate Christmas with a ‘braai’ (barbecue) due to warm weather.
- They put up decorated artificial trees in their homes, as there are few natural Christmas trees available.
- Warm and sunny weather brings a unique twist to their Christmas celebrations.
- Kenyan traditions include church services, nativity scenes, and gatherings with family and friends.
- Both countries embrace the spirit of giving during the holiday season.
- The summer season in December makes outdoor activities popular in South Africa.
- The Christmas season in Kenya is a time of joy and celebration where communities come together.
- These traditions reflect the rich cultural heritage of these African nations.
Unique Christmas Traditions Around the Globe
From celebrating with a trip to the sauna in Finland to keeping a fish in the bathtub in Poland, Christmas traditions around the world are as diverse and unique as the cultures they come from.
These traditions offer a fascinating glimpse into how different countries and communities celebrate this festive season.
Celebrating a trip to the sauna in Finland
In Finland, people celebrate Christmas with a unique tradition: a trip to the sauna. Saunas are an essential part of Finnish culture, and many families have their own saunas at home.
After enjoying the warmth of the sauna, it is common for people to take a refreshing dip in an icy lake or snow. This tradition brings families and friends together during the holiday season while also embracing the natural elements of Finland.
Keeping a fish in the bathtub in Poland
In Poland, it’s a Christmas tradition to keep a live fish in the family bathtub. Why? To ensure its freshness for the Christmas Eve feast. The fish, usually a carp, is bought several days before Christmas and kept in the bathtub as part of preparing for this special celebration.
This unique tradition symbolizes the anticipation of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. For many Polish families, keeping a fish in the bathtub is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to their household during this joyous season.
Many people in Poland still cherish this long-standing custom.
The fascinating holiday traditions around the world make Christmas an enchanting time full of diverse customs and celebrations. Let’s take a look at another intriguing practice from elsewhere on our global tour.
Eating fried chicken on Christmas in Japan
In Japan, eating fried chicken on Christmas has become a widespread tradition. The concept originated from a successful marketing campaign by KFC in the 1970s, promoting fried chicken as a holiday meal.
Over the years, this tradition has taken root so deeply that people often consider it an essential part of their Christmas celebrations. As a result, many individuals pre-order their KFC meals weeks in advance.
Not only KFC but also other fast-food chains have adopted this practice and offer special fried chicken meals during the holiday season.
Hanging giant paper lanterns in India
Decorating for Christmas in India involves a unique tradition of hanging giant paper lanterns. These lanterns are not just any ordinary decorations; they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
The vibrant display symbolizes hope and joy during the festive season, creating a visually stunning experience. Entire communities gather to put up these handmade lanterns, enhancing the celebratory atmosphere with their brightness and creativity.
This tradition captures the essence of togetherness and festivity as families and neighbors unite to light up their surroundings with these beautiful displays. The visual impact of the colorful lanterns adds an extra layer of magic to Christmas celebrations in India!
Lighting up the beach in Australia
In Australia, Christmas means enjoying the warm weather with picnics and barbecues on the beach. Families and friends gather to celebrate under the open sky, often lighting up the beaches with colorful decorations and fairy lights.
It’s a unique experience that blends traditional Christmas spirit with the beauty of nature, making it a memorable celebration for all.
The festive atmosphere at the beach creates an ambiance of joy and relaxation, where everyone can come together to share in the holiday cheer while soaking up the sun. Both locals and tourists alike adore the unique touch that Australia’s combination of sun, sand, and sea adds to Christmas.
In conclusion, Christmas around the world is celebrated across the globe with pure happiness. From unique traditions like visiting a sauna in Finland to enjoying fried chicken in Japan, each culture adds its own flair to the holiday season.
Understanding these diverse customs can provide a deeper appreciation for the richness of global celebrations and promote cultural understanding. How might you incorporate elements of these international traditions into your own holiday festivities? Embracing diversity and embracing new customs can bring joy and connection during this festive time.
Let’s celebrate Christmas around the world in 2023!