10 Christmas traditions from around the world!

19 Dec 2016

Christmas is an annual religious and cultural festival celebrated around the world in many different ways. As most of the world joins in with the festivities, here are some interesting ways countries indulge – from food and drink to traditions.

1. Venezuela

Christmas traditions Venezuela

Some people also celebrate Santa Barbara's day on 4th December, with full Christmas celebrations getting underway on 21st December and gifts exchanged at midnight on Christmas Eve. Epiphany or 'El Dia de los Reyes Magos' (the day of The Three Kings) is also widely celebrated on 6th January.

Many people paint their houses as part of Christmas decorations as far in advance as four weeks before Christmas Day, and will often wear new clothes for the festive period. Venezuelans believe wearing yellow will bring good luck in the following year.

Venezuelan Christmas foods consist of ‘Hallacas,’ which is a mix of meat (usually chicken, beef, or pork), which is cooked with capers and olives, and sweetened with raisings. The mix is wrapped in plantain leaves, tied with string, and then steamed to make tasty parcels!

2. Norway

Christmas traditions Norway

In Norway, Christmas Eve is the traditional day when presents are exchanged. Santa Claus is called 'Julenissen' in Norway, and he, along with 'Nisse' (small gnomes) are the bringers of gifts, which are placed under the Christmas tree. One of the traditional Norwegian Christmas tree decorations is a 'Julekurver,' which is a small, heart-shaped paper basket.

The Norwegian Christmas tree is most famous, as one of the customs of Norway is the tree gifted to the UK every year. The tree is typically over 20 metres tall and is shipped across by boat some time in November, before being decorated in a traditional Scandinavian style, including 500 bright white lights.

The main dinner is traditionally pork ribs served with 'surkål' (finely chopped cabbage, cooked with caraway and cumin seeds, apple, vinegar, sugar, salt and butter) and potatoes. One of the most popular sweet bread rolls eaten over the Christmas period is 'Julekake' – which has raisins, candied peel and cardamom in it.

On Christmas Eve, rice porridge is eaten as a dessert to the main evening email, and it has whipped cream mixed in! If you find an almond in your portion, you're traditionally given a marzipan pig!

3. Germany

Christmas traditions Germany

Advent is the primary focus of German Christmas celebrations, and many different types of Advent calendars are used. Often they are made from Fir tree branches and decorated with boxes or bags, each holding a small present. Another type is known as ‘Advent Kranz,’ also made from Fir tree branches and adorned with four candles. One candle is lit at the start of each week in Advent.

Christmas Trees are very important in Germany, and are often brought into the house on Christmas Eve. If there are young children in the house, the trees are secretly decorated by their mother.

Like many parts of Europe, in Germany, gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is known as “Erste Feiertag,” or 'first celebration,' and the 26th December is known as "Zweite Feiertag,” or 'second celebration.’

Germany’s Christmas Markets are world-famous; there’s no better place to pick up home-made food, beverages, and decorations, including the superb hand-blown glass ornaments.

For Christmas Dinner, carp or goose is usually the star of the meal, which is common in many European countries, and a popular fruit bread called Stollen is often eaten throughout the Christmas period.

4. France

Christmas traditions France

The Nativity crib is a very popular decoration in French houses, and there are fairs which sell figures for Nativity decorations, too. French scenes also include other town figures like butchers, bakers, police and priests to complete the scene.

Cherry wood yule logs are brought inside on Christmas Eve, sprinkled with red wine to enhance their fragrance, and then burned over the Christmas season.

Father Christmas is known as “Père Noël,” in France, and certain regions depict him being accompanied by a man in black, called “Le Pere Fouettard”

Christmas Dinner is called Réveillon, and is eaten on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, usually after midnight Church Service. The main dish of this meal is typical of European Christmas celebrations, with roast turkey and chestnuts or roast goose served, but more extravagant, exotic foods can also be eaten, which include: oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. A chocolate sponge cake shaped like a log is the traditional French dessert, and it’s known as a “bûche de Noël.”

5. Egypt

Egypt Christmas traditions

The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk, and Advent is the 43 days before Christmas – 25th November to 6th January – during this time, Coptic Orthodox Christians eat only a vegan diet. This is known as 'The Holy Nativity Fast'.

On 6th January (Coptic Christmas Eve), there is a special service held at church, which can run long into the night. Afterwards, people will go home for the big Christmas dinner to enjoy the end of their fast! Everything contains meat, eggs and butter - all the foods they couldn’t eat during their diet. One of the most popular dishes is called 'Fata' – a lamb soup made with bread, rice, garlic and boiled lamb meat.

On the Orthodox Christmas Day (7th January) people gather their friends and family for parties and festivities, and often gift each other with sweet biscuits called 'kahk.'

6. Brazil

Christmas traditions Brazil

In Brazil, it's common to receive a bonus '13th salary' at the end of the year, so people receive double pay in December to boost the economy!

Secret Santa, or 'amigo secreto' is incredibly popular in Brazil, and people will give small gifts throughout December while using a fake name. On Christmas Day, the secret friend is revealed as the gifs are opened!

When it comes to Christmas Dinner, there is a huge variation as Brazil is made up of people from all cultures and backgrounds. Italian food can be found in São Paulo, Portuguese salted Cod in Rio de Janeiro, and even African cuisine to the North East of Brazil.

More traditional Christmas food is: pork, turkey, pork, ham, salads, and both fresh and dried fruits. Everything is served with rice, which is flavoured with raisins and a good spoon of "farofa" (seasoned manioc flour.) The meal is normally served around 10pm on Christmas Eve, and at midnight, people toast one another and exchange presents.

7. Mexico

Christmas traditions Mexico

In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from 12th December until 6th January, and from 16th December, children often perform nine ‘Posadas,’ which means “inn,” one each day. Houses are decorated outside with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns during the Posadas, and children hold candles – they visit houses of their friends and neighbours and sing a song while asking for a place to stay. On the last day, they are invited in and will eat, play games, and watch fireworks.

One of the games played at Posada parties is piñata – which is a highly decorated animal-shaped papier-mâché jar filled with sweets and hung from the ceiling. Children are blind-folded and try to hit the piñata with a stick until it breaks and the sweets fall out.

Poinsettia flowers are known as 'nochebuena' (Christmas Eve) flowers in Mexico, and are a prominent part of many household decorations. Christmas Eve is called 'Noche Buena' and is a family day, with the final Posada taking place, and Christmas dinner in the evening.

8. Japan

Christmas traditions Japan

In Japan, Christmas is a time to spread happiness, and Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, where couples spend time together and exchange presents, similar to Valentine’s Day.

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so schools and businesses typically remain open on 25th December, however, parties with games and dancing are often held for children.

Fried chicken is one of the most popular foods to be eaten on Christmas day! It’s actually the busiest time of year for restaurants like KFC, with orders placed days in advance!

The traditional Japanese Christmas food is called Christmas cake, but it's usually a sponge cake made with strawberries and whipped cream and is exquisitely decorated – not the heavy fruit cake as found in the west.

9. Hong Kong

Christmas traditions Hong Kong

Every year, Hong Kong hosts an enormous winter party known as 'Winterfest.' Winterfest is famous for its countdown to the New Year, plus firework displays and lights all across the city.

There is a sensational Pulse 3D Light Show in Kowloon, with festive music and imagery to make it unmissable, and with incredible decorations including the famous Statue Square Christmas Tree, Christmas in Hong Kong can be utterly romantic!

Christmas traditions in Hong Kong include sending Christmas cards, many of which are home made using Chinese craft techniques, and decorating the home with poinsettias flowers and Nativity scenes. Streamers and paper chains are also used to decorate homes, churches, and other public places, as is the use of large red and gold letters from the Chinese alphabet.

10. Philippines

Christmas traditions Philippines

Christmas celebrations start early in the Philippines – Christmas carols begin playing in shops from around September, and formal celebrations beginning on the 16th December.

A Filipino tradition is known as the 'parol,' which is made from a bamboo pole holding a lit star lantern. The lantern itself is made of bamboo strips and colourful cellophane paper and is one of the most popular Christmas decorations in the Philippines.

On Christmas Eve, many Filipinos stay up the entire night, often due to the Christmas Eve Mass, called ‘simbang gabi.’ After church, there’s a midnight feast known as ‘noche buena.’ The feast is a huge event, with family, friends, and neighbours all getting involved with the open house celebration.

Many dishes are served, including: lechon (roast pork), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes (bibingka and puto bumbong are traditional Christmas foods), other sweets, and steamed rice.