Your family may have certain Christmas traditions — decorating the tree, baking cookies, making a gingerbread house, caroling and more. But have you ever thought about the different Christmas traditions around the world? Here’s a quick look at how 10 different countries celebrate the holidays.
While you may have dreams of a white Christmas, that doesn’t happen in Australia. Since the island is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas occurs in the summer instead of the winter. Many families in Australia opt to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas on the beach. Families and friends often organize oceanfront picnics, and churches even sing Christmas carols there.
One of the most delightful Christmas traditions around the world occurs in England. The country celebrates Christmas Day on Dec. 25, just like the U.S. However, the fun starts early as families decorate their houses with strands of bright lights and sparkling displays. Some families collect donations for local charities from visitors who stop to look at their lights.
Christmas traditions around the world take a colorful turn in the Philippines. The country’s unique tradition involves star-shaped Christmas lanterns called parols. The star shape helps people remember the star of Bethlehem, and they make them out of bamboo and paper. These colorful lanterns go on sale in different local markets during the holiday season.
Many families in South Africa hold a “braai” on Christmas day, which is similar to a barbecue. As in Australia, Christmas also occurs in the summer in South Africa, and it’s a great time for families to gather outside or attend one of the many concerts that happen before Christmas Day. A good number of people go to church on Christmas Day as well.
Christmas customs around the world are vastly different from the way Japan observes the occasion. Since Christianity isn’t the dominant faith in Japan, Christmas has evolved into more of a happy and romantic holiday there, instead of a religious one. Couples sometimes celebrate the day the way the U.S. celebrates Valentine’s Day. Another interesting part of the holiday happens at dinner — a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner is KFC fried chicken. So many people eat KFC for dinner that people have to reserve a bucket to eat on Christmas Day.
A unique Christmas tradition around the world in India includes decorating mango and banana trees in colorful lights and decorations. Families choose not to give traditional Christmas gifts like in the U.S. Instead, they eat tons of sweets and deliver more delicious treats to friends and neighbors.
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, since they follow the Julian calendar. Families attend church together to celebrate Ganna, or Christ’s birth. Everyone wears white to this church service, and most Ethiopians choose to wear a traditional garment called a shamma. On Jan. 19, the country starts a three-day celebration called Timkat, where everyone celebrates Christ’s baptism.
Christmas traditions around the world start early in Italy, where the country begins the Christmas season on the first Sunday of Advent. Then, people continue to celebrate at Christmas fairs with fireworks, bonfires and Christmas music. Manger scenes, or presepios, are important in Italy, and many Italians opt to shop for new figurines for their manger scenes at different Christmas markets.
Christmas activities also start early in Sweden, where people begin celebrating the patron saint of light on St. Lucia’s Day on Dec. 13. On that day, every family’s oldest daughter wakes up before dawn and dresses up as the “Queen of Light,” wearing a long white dress and a crown of leaves. The daughter sings “Santa Lucia,” and serves coffee and treats to each member of the family in their bedrooms.
If you always ask for books for Christmas, Iceland is the destination for you. People there have a tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spending the rest of the night reading the books and eating chocolate. It’s part of the Jolabokaflod, or “The Christmas Book Flood.”
However you choose to celebrate Christmas, keep in mind there’s a whole world around you with traditions of their own. This year, try something new from another culture, or share your traditions with a friend from another country. No matter what, you’ll have a delightful Christmas full of old and new plans.