Christmas is a time filled with cherished traditions that bring joy, warmth, and togetherness to households around the world. From decking the halls with twinkling lights to gathering around the table for a festive feast, these customs have been passed down through generations, serving as a reminder of love and gratitude during the holiday season.
Whether or not you are Christian, or even believe in God, the Christmas season is one that many people around the world celebrate in one way or another. But because the ideas and traditions of Christmas vary so much, I thought it might be fun to check out what different countries around the world do for the holiday.
So let’s get into our list of Christmas traditions from around the world.
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France is widely known for its food and delicacies. People in the Provence region even go so far as to serve a sumptuous feast of seven main courses and 13 desserts at Christmas. Among the most popular festive dishes are: Fougasse (pancakes), nougat with honey and pistachios, pumpkin pie and dried fruits.
In Italy many children get two sets of gifts – one on the 24th of December and a larger gift on the 6th of January. On this day, Italians celebrate Epiphany Day and according to popular belief, a witch called La Befana arrives in the night to fill good children’s stockings with sweets, while naughty ones get chunks of black coal.
In Japan, Christmas is considered the “Festival of Love”. It is not uncommon to see couples spending a romantic evening together, while singles will be out partying and looking for the love of their life. One Christmas tradition that shocks many people is the tradition of eating KFC on Christmas Day. Japanese people pre-order their KFB meal starting in November and eat their set meal of chicken, a side (usually a gratin) and a dessert with a souvenir plate to commemorate the tradition.
Read Also: What to Do in Japan in Winter
One Christmas tradition that seems quintessentially British is Christmas crackers. Crackers look like giant Tootsie rolls that make a bang when pulled apart. They come with a paper crown, joke, or little gift inside. Fun fact, when I first read Harry Potter and it mentioned Christmas Crackers with a joke inside I pictured some saltines… Now they’re a little more common in the US, but still nothing compared to the UK.
Read Also: Bookish Holidays and Literary Traditions
On Christmas Eve more than half of Sweden watches a Disney Christmas special on TV. Each year, the Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas) is screened on TV1, Sweden’s main public channel. The tradition started because for many years Sweden only had 2 TV channels. Because this was their one chance to watch Disney cartoons or American tv most of the nation tuned in. Even now when Sweden has a plethora of channels to choose from, the program remains a favorite, and apparently, last year cell phone usage dropped 28% during the special’s air time, proving how important it is to Swedes.
As you probably know, Americans love decorating their houses for Christmas with lights, blow up décor, and festive signs. Apparently, we spend $6 billion on decorations every year.
This is less a tradition and more a fact about how Christmas affects China. While only 1% of the countries population celebrates Christmas, the majority of the world’s decorations are made there.
Because it’s summer in Brazil during Christmas, Santa apparently wears a lighter suit and delivers presents using a ladder or trampoline.
The Christmas lottery in Spain, nicknamed El Gordo, is usually is one of the largest jackpots in the world. The lottery has been going on for over 200 years and is read out each year near Christmas. The winning numbers are sung apparently sung by orphans on national TV. If you find yourself in Spain during the holidays check out at to do in Valencia for Christmas.
Australians celebrate Christmas at the beach with family to barbeque. If you watch Bluey, you know of Veranda Santa and their pool parties.
Germans visit their neighbors and friends before Christmas to have a look at their Christmas tree. During their rounds they drink Schnaps.
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven barangays (villages) take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern.
Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a meter in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six meters in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns.
A beast-like demon creature that roams city streets frightening kids and punishing the bad ones – nope, this isn’t Halloween, but St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice, Krampus. In Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls, while Krampus is said to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack. In the first week of December, young men dress up as the Krampus (especially on the eve of St. Nicholas Day) frightening children with clattering chains and bells.
Perhaps one of the most unorthodox Christmas Eve traditions can be found in Norway, where people hide their brooms. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. To this day, many people still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house to stop them from being stolen.
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