- People around the world celebrate Christmas differently.
- In Japan, a bucket of KFC fried chicken has become a holiday staple.
- Christmas Eve in Finland usually involves going to the sauna with your whole family.
Christmas is a time of celebration and festivity around the world, and there are many vibrant and unique ways of celebrating the holidays. Of course, every individual family has its own holiday tradition, but many places have common customs.
From rum-soaked desserts to dazzling Christmas markets, here are the many fascinating ways that Christmas is celebrated around the globe.
People in the Philippines celebrate Christmas for five months.
- Dondi Tawatao/REUTERS
The Christmas season in the Philippines lasts for almost half the year. Decorations start going up in September and the holiday fervor doesn’t end until the first Sunday in January. Many people spruce up their homes with paper lanterns called “parols” and eat a huge family meal on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.
Many people in Japan like to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.
- Quality Stock Arts/Shutterstock
In Japan, Christmas is celebrated in a more secular way than in other predominantly Christian countries. It’s actually considered a romantic day for couples, and many Japanese families treat themselves to what has become the traditional Japanese Christmas meal: a bucket of KFC fried chicken.
One Christmas tradition in Poland involves keeping a fish in your bathtub.
Christmas in Poland is celebrated with gift-giving, church services, and watching the wildly popular film, “Home Alone,” according to Why Christmas. Carp is usually the main dish of Christmas Eve dinner in Poland.
Though most people simply buy a cut of fish from the market, it’s considered traditional for the lady of the house to keep a live carp in the bathtub for a few days before Christmas and kill it herself just before cooking. The scales from the carp are considered good luck.
It’s worth noting this tradition is also popular in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and Croatia, according to NPR.
Many Finnish people celebrate Christmas with a crown of candles and a trip to the sauna.
In Finland, one of the main events of the holiday season is St. Lucia Day on December 13. On this date, the eldest girl in each family dons a white robe and a crown of candles before serving her family buns, cookies, coffee, or mulled wine.
On Christmas Eve, many Finnish families visit the sauna to relax or go to cemeteries to remember loved ones. For Christmas lunch, the traditional meal is a porridge containing a hidden almond, though it’s likely this originated in Sweden, according to the University of Helsinki. Whoever finds the almond will have good luck for the rest of the year.
In the UK, stockings are hung from the end of beds.
Rather than hanging Christmas stockings over the fireplace, families in the UK typically hang them at the foot of their beds. Paper crowns are typically worn at Christmas dinner and Christmas crackers – paper tubes that explode with confetti and prizes when pulled – make for lighthearted fun around the holidays. Boxing Day falls on December 26 and is a bit like Black Friday in the US.
Christmas in Croatia means cleaning your shoes and avoiding Krampus.
Many families in Croatia celebrate Christmas with an Advent wreath made of straw or evergreen. The wreath has four differently colored candles that symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love. Children in Croatia make sure to clean their boots and place them by the window for St. Nicholas to fill with treats. However, naughty kids might only receive a few golden twigs from the Christmas monster, Krampus.
Greek people might keep a fire burning during Christmas to ward off holiday goblins.
Greece is primarily a Greek Orthodox nation, and people often attend midnight church services and observe an Advent fast during the holidays. Families might also sprinkle holy water from a basil-wrapped cross to ward off the “kallikantzaroi,” which are evil spirits that creep into homes via the chimney and cause mischief. Keeping a fire burning for the twelve days of Christmas is also a good way to prevent the kallikantzaroi from troubling you.
Christmas traditions in Greece also include unwrapping gifts brought by Saint Basil, munching on treats like baklava and spiced bread, and caroling.
Christmas in Australia is often celebrated on the beach.
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in Australia, you might have to wait until winter weather hits in July – most of the country is bathed in balmy temps during the holidays. Accordingly, Australians frequently celebrate Christmas with a lunchtime barbecue on the beach. Friends and family gather to indulge in prawns, lobster, and sweets before playing a game of cricket or taking a dip.
In Argentina, people celebrate Christmas with fireworks.
- Marcos Brindicci/REUTERS
Argentinians like to celebrate Christmas with a bang. Fireworks are typically launched at midnight on Christmas Eve after a late dinner. Some people continue the festivities and attend overnight parties. For children, families often light paper lanterns and send them into the night sky on Christmas Eve.
Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated on January 7.
Like many Orthodox countries, Ukraine uses the Julian calendar for their church festivals. This means Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7 rather than December 25. It’s traditional to delay eating Christmas dinner until the first star in the sky is spotted. Caroling in the streets or around the table is also common.
In America, many children leave cookies for Santa.
Families in America often leave cookies and milk out for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve in hopes that they wake up to presents left by him and his reindeer. Those presents are often left under the tree as well as in stockings hung by the fireplace.
Many families also have Christmas dinner complete with ham or roast beef and drink eggnog.
People in Spain open presents on Epiphany.
Rather than unwrapping goodies on Christmas Day, most families in Spain open their presents on January 6, or Epiphany, which is the day that the three wise men are said to have brought gifts to the infant Jesus. Many people also enjoy a seafood feast of lobster, shellfish, crabs, and dish on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
If you’re celebrating Christmas in Jamaica, expect a rum-soaked cake.
Christmas in Jamaica is a time of non-stop celebration, shopping, and festivals. Most towns host a Grand Market, a community fair packed with food vendors, crafts, and music. Jamaicans also drink a sweet ginger drink called sorrel and nibble on rum-soaked fruit cake.
People in Brazil usually get paid double in December.
Christmas dinner in Brazil is usually packed with hearty portions of pork, ham, rice, nuts, and fruits. Brazilians often get a “13th salary” in December, meaning employees receive twice their normal monthly pay. A version of Secret Santa called “amigo secreto” is also popular.
Hanging giant paper lanterns is a common Christmas tradition in India.
Christmas in India is a relatively minor holiday, but is usually celebrated by attending midnight mass and enjoying a huge meal with family. Families might also hang large, colorful paper lanterns shaped like stars outside their homes and decorate mango or banana trees with ornaments or bright fabric.
Father Frost visits Russian homes on New Year’s Eve.
Christmas trees are often still called New Year trees and many families unwrap gifts left by Dad Moroz, or Father Frost, on New Year’s day, according to Wired. Christmas tradition in Russia usually involves a meatless Christmas Eve meal that includes 12 dishes representing the 12 apostles. Diners might also enjoy bread dipped in honey and garlic.
In Latvia, you might have to read a poem before getting your presents.
One Latvian Christmas tradition involves reciting a poem, playing an instrument, or singing a song in exchange for receiving one of your presents. Latvia also claims to be the home of the first Christmas tree – the oldest recorded use of an evergreen tree to celebrate Christmas dates back to the year 1510 in Riga, the country’s capital, though it’s obviously hard to know if it was indeed the first.
Christmas in Kenya is all about connecting with family.
Kenyan families often travel from big cities to smaller villages to see family for Christmas. Many attend midnight church services and indulge in a big Christmas meal of goat, sheep, rice, and chapati flat bread called “nyama choma.” People might also make their beer to enjoy over the holidays.
Christmas in Pakistan is a religious celebration filled with family activities.
Though Pakistan is a predominantly Islamic country, Christmas is celebrated by Christians with caroling and constructing nativity scenes in homes and churches. On Christmas Day, families attend Bara Din celebrations at church. This festive event calls for spending time with family and feasting on delicious food.
Caroling is a big part of Christmas in Romania.
Children often carol house to house in Romania, receiving sweets and traditional cakes called “cozonaci” in return for their efforts. In some parts of Romania, it’s traditional that one person dress up as a goat with a colorful mask and cause mischief amongst the carolers and in other parts, a similar tradition exists but with one caroler dressing up as a bear.
Twigs from fruit trees are also often kept in a bowl of warm water in the hopes that they will bloom on New Year’s Eve.
In France, Christmas markets are a popular place to shop.
Christmas in France usually involves strolling through festive Christmas markets and cutting into a lavishly decorated bûche de Noël cake. An actual Yule log is often burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve after being sprinkled with red wine to make it smell even nicer. In some parts of France, it’s traditional to eat 13 different desserts on Christmas.
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