12 Unique Christmas Traditions Around the World
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Every year for a few precious weeks, the world takes on a magical glow. People are merrier, and the winter season is cozier. Indeed, it’s a time of gathering for friends and family, celebrating this occasion with cheer. What time of year is this?
It could only be Christmas!
The time of year for decking the halls, gathering around, getting out your finest serving dishes, filling them with hearty food and celebrating together. Right? It's generally accurate for those in the United States. However, Christmas time looks a little different in every corner of the world. So today we’re going to travel around the world, discovering how different people celebrate this grand occasion from rollerblading to beach visits – feel free to come along!
Celebrating Christmas Around the World
1. Japan Serenades with Chicken
It has only been in the last couple of decades that Japan has taken to celebrating Christmas. There, it’s seen as a chance to spread joy, or even a day for romance, rather than a religious holiday. Perhaps most interesting, however, is that KFC is the Christmas dinner of choice for many! They either opt for takeout and setting up their own Kentucky friend Christmas spread--complete with mashed potato-filled serving dishes--at home, or make reservations to dine at the fast food eatery on the big day!
2. Filipinos Go All Out on Decorations
While Filipinos take the Christmas season seriously, they also treat it as a time to party! Nochebuena ("Good Night") parties light up the country on Christmas Eve, where locals gather, feast, and dance into the wee hours. They don’t go small on decorations either, with the parol--a giant, dazzling lighted star lantern--featuring prominently.
3. Germany Hosts a Christkindlmarkt
In Germany, festive traditions look a lot like doing your Christmas shopping last minute with a mug of mulled wine in one hand and a bratwurst in one of the many sprawling seasonal markets. A Christmas market in Germany is also known as a Christkindlmarkt ("Christ Child Market"); such markets span the country with local artisans selling every gift you could imagine.
4. Venezuelans Rollerblade
Much like all other countries worldwide, many Venezuelans head to mass early on Christmas day. However, not content with walking; they set themselves apart by rollerblading the whole way! This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church safely before heading home for the Christmas dinner of ‘tamales,’ a wrap of cornmeal dough stuffed with meat, often piled mountain-high on serving dishes.
5. Canada Has Thanksgiving for Christmas
Canadians like to decorate their houses with Christmas Trees, lights, and other decorations. There are often Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace, ready for Santa! The main Christmas meal is often roast turkey with vegetables and all the trimmings like mashed potatoes and vegetables.
6. Columbians Light Candles
The Day of the Little Candles, or Día de Veritas, marks the start of Christmas in Colombia. Celebrated on December 7th, it’s a time of gathering for family and friends to light colorful candles and lanterns all over the city. Every time a candle is lit, a new wish is made. You’ll find them lining windowsills and the streets, often arranged in pretty designs, adding a twinkly, warm touch to the city for the day.
7. Australia Hits the Beach
In Australia, Christmas day falls in the middle of their sunny summer, so you'll likely find locals visiting the beach on the big day. There you might see surfers dressed up like Santa and Christmas trees set up on the sand. Following a day of soaking up the sun, they then travel to the barbeque which is lit for Christmas dinner. Local legend also states that when visiting Australia, Santa gives his reindeer a rest and has kangaroos pull his sleigh!
8. Ethiopians Observe a Candlelit Procession
In Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th per the Ethiopian Orthodox Calendar. The celebrations are called Ganna, or Genna, and are mainly religious gatherings, with many masses being held throughout the country. These masses often begin with a special candlelit procession, in which participants wear a thin white shawl called a Netela and proceed around the church three times before the service begins – a spectacular sight to behold. Gift-giving doesn’t form part of their Christmas gatherings. Instead, Christmas is a time for church, games, and, of course, food.
9. Slovakia Throws Pudding (Yes, Really.)
In a rather messy but fun ode to the festive season, Slovakians task the old man in the home with throwing a spoonful of loose pudding onto the ceiling. This sticky pudding is made from a mix of poppy seeds, honey, milk, and bread that’s rolled into palm-sized balls. It’s believed that the amount of pudding that sticks foretells the family's fortune for the new year – the more, the better!
10. Ukrainians Decorate with Spiderwebs
In Ukraine, legend has it that when a family was too poor to afford decorations, the Christmas spider visited and decorated their tree for them. Today, many Ukrainian families put spiderweb decorations on their trees. It’s believed to bring good fortune for the new year.
11. Singapore Shops In the Streets
Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping district is famous for its crowds all year round--but during the Christmas season, it truly becomes bustling and bright, with some of the most impressive decorations in the world lining its streets. Locals travel from all around the city to gaze at the magnificent light display, with families even taking day trips just to shop and enjoy the view.
12. Indians Celebrate with Fruit Trees
Don’t have any fir or pine trees to decorate this Christmas? No problem! Just follow the Indian tradition and use fruit trees instead! That's right. In India, families decorate banana and mango trees for gathering around at Christmas.
And now over to you!
How do you and your family celebrate Christmas every year? Interestingly, what may be a completely normal Christmas day full of happy gathering and serving dishes piled high to you, may seem unusual to others around the world. That said, the spirit of Christmas remains the same of everywhere, no matter the motivation for celebration – it’s always one of community, warmth, cheer, and celebration – Merry Christmas!