Christmas Traditions From Around The World

Have you ever wondered how or even if people on the other side of the world celebrate Christmas? Find out more!

Although most of us in Scotland put up Christmas trees and look forward to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on the 25th, this is a foreign concept to people in some other countries!

In Europe…

In most European countries, such as Poland or the Czech Republic, December 24th is regarded as the main day of celebration.

Many people usually fast during this day and when it comes to close the dinner preparation begins! Although meals vary from region to region, one of the most popular dishes is fried carp and cabbage soup or porridge with mushrooms – we’ll stick to our turkey, thanks!

As well as at home for us, countries such as Switzerland and Germany take great pride in their Christmas celebrations!

During December they play host to beautiful markets, full of little trinkets and unique gifts for your friends or family. Both locals and passers through also enjoy live music and the chance to sample delicacies from around the world!

In Asia…

Christmas traditions in Asia are largely connected with what kind of religion a family may practice.

A small fragment of the population is Christian and their traditions often involve going to their local church service. In Asia, the New Year celebrations are regarded as extremely important and a sacred holiday and so they can often be seen as more important than the ones at Christmas time.

Christmas Day is a state holiday in India and in some non-Christian Korean households they often engage in gift-giving, sending out cards and putting up trees and decorations – they even have their own version of Santa Claus, Santa Haraboji!

In China and Taiwan, Christmas is seen as a private celebration however in some areas, due to Western influence, December 25th has become a public holiday known as ‘Constitution Day’.

Fast Facts

  • Santa is known as 'Sheng Dan Lao Ren' in China.
  • In Portuguese, Merry Christmas is 'Feliz Natal’ or ‘Boas Festas’.
  • In Hawaii, Santa is called Kanakaloka.
  • In Belgium they celebrate with a big family meal on ‘Kerstavond’, meaning Christmas Eve.
  • Christmas takes place in the middle of Summer in Australia.
  • In France, the main meal or ‘Réveillon’ is usually eaten on Christmas Eve.
  • Santa is known as ‘Aghios Vassilis’ in Greece, which actually translates as Saint Basil.
  • Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees in India, a banana or mango tree is decorated.
  • Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families.
  • St Lucia's Day (December 13th) is celebrated in many European countries, including Greenland 

In Africa...

Most South Africans celebrate Christmas and have many similar traditions to Western Europe.

Children in South Africa are told the legend of a boy named Danny, who was killed by his grandmother for stealing Santa’s Christmas cookies. He is believed to haunt popular shopping malls and homes in order to make sure no other children steal Santa’s cookies!

Elsewhere, in the north of the continent, Christmas Day is a public holiday in which citizens roast meat, sing carols and exchange gifts with friends and family.
Coptic Christians in Ethiopia and Egypt celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th, however as they follow their own calendar, it’s actually around the 7th of January for us!

In North America…

In North America, with Thanksgiving falling on the fourth Thursday of every November (it falls on the 2nd Monday of October in Canada) and with the legendary Black Friday sales the next day, the holiday season officially begins in the US quite early!

Americans love to decorate both the inside and the outside of their homes with plenty of ornaments, tinsel and lights!

Most decorations are taken down by New Year’s or Epiphany and other holidays celebrated and considered to be part of the festive season at this time include Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice which usually occurs between the 20th and 22nd of December.

In South America…

Families across South America celebrate yuletide by playing with sparklers and firecrackers and have parties dedicated to eating and dancing. Traditional dishes include turkey sandwiches and sweet bread for dessert.

In some Brazilian cities, despite the warm weather, snow and winter decorations are not uncommon and there are decoration contests in which judges go to houses to determine which is the most beautiful.

Also, on December 8th in Columbia, local neighbourhoods get together and turn their streets into ‘tunnels of light’ and many local radio stations hold competitions for the best display!

In Oceania…
In these parts, like others of the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas occurs slap-bang in the middle of summer. Traditions and decor are pretty similar to those of the United Kingdom and North America.

As with many novelty gifts, Santa is sometimes depicted in typical Australian wear, such as swimming trunks, flip-flops and an Akubra hat!

The popular Christmas Pageant in Adelaide, one of the largest in the world, attracts up to 400,000 visitors per year and Carols by Candlelight, which began in Melbourne, is a great occasion for family, friends and neighbours to come together and sing together outdoors.