Believe it or not, no two countries celebrate Christmas in the same way. Some choose to spend the festive holiday baking and decorating Christmas cookies while playing joyful tunes. The others prefer to watch the classic Christmas movies with a glass of eggnog and leave a glass of milk, a carrot and also a mince pie out for Santa. Every family has different Christmas traditions and rituals which are related to the celebration of Christmas. They vary widely around the world due to culture, weather and also location. From putting a penny in the Christmas pudding, cracker-pulling contests to hanging stockings above the fireplace – every nation has different festive traditions that have carried across the generations.
Every family has different traditions during the festive period.
Unique Christmas traditions around the world
Here are some of the ways how people celebrate the festive season around the world:
As you would expect, Christmas is a big deal in Norway, and their culture is full of Christmas traditions. They eat traditional Scandinavian food, visit family and friends on Christmas day and also light advent candles on Sundays. Apart from that, some of their Christian traditions are mixed with ancient pagan ones, and they are certainly unique. One of them is broom hiding. This unusual tradition dates back hundreds of years when people believed that witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve and take them to the sky. Therefore, many Norwegian people hide their brooms before they go to sleep.
Christmas traditions in Venezuela
Forget building snowmen or roasting chestnuts – Venezuela’s Christmas tradition in more fun. Every year between 16th – 24th December in Caracas (Venezuela’s capital) something unique happens. The city’s streets are closed, and the locals head to early morning mass on roller skates. As they go, skaters tug on the long pieces of string which dangle out of the windows. Pulling strings tied by kids to their big toes gives them sign that it’s time to get up and put on those skates.
All I want for Christmas is KFC.
Of all Christmas traditions, what screams more Christmas than Christmas dinner at KFC? Forget the Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. Or fish, or goose, if that is what you go for. For many Japanese families, fried chicken from KFC is a popular Christmas Eve meal. In fact, it is their favourite Christmas traditions in Japan. How could this be even possible?
Christmas may not be a religious holiday in this country, but eating KFC food has become a holiday tradition. It is due to smart festive marketing campaign back in the 1970s. Since then, families tuck into KFC to get their buckets of festive fried chicken. It is certainly one of the most unusual Christmas traditions in the world.
Christmas tradition in Ukraine
Did you know that a Christmas tradition in Ukraine involves spider webs? Yes, you have read that right. In addition to sparkly fairy lights and baubles, the Ukrainians decorated their Christmas tree with spider webs – fake ones, though.
This tradition has its origin in an old legend about a poor woman who didn’t have money to decorate her Christmas tree. Spiders heard the kids crying, and they decorated the tree with beautiful webs overnight. When the children woke up the next morning, they found a beautifully decorated tree with sparkling webs. Today, hanging spider web-shaped on a tree remains a symbol of good luck.
Besides, it is a tradition to celebrate Christmas in Ukraine on 7th January. The Orthodox Ukrainians follow the Julian calendar. Moreover, they start to eat their Christmas meal on Christmas Eve but not before they see the first star on the sky.
Christmas traditions in Australia have similarities to American, British and Irish traditions; however, some of them are more laid-back. While for many of us Christmas is synonymous with cold weather and snow, for Australians it’s all about sunny skies and barbecues. In Australia, the summer season starts in December and therefore, you’ll find more people wearing bikini than Christmas jumper on Christmas Day. Shopping centres filled with displays of fake snow and wintery-inspired decorations, even Santa makes an appearance at the beach. Many Aussie families celebrate their Christmas Day with barbecues and then they do outdoor activities. Or they spend the day by the pool. Head to the beach, and most likely you will spot Santa (or Father Christmas as they call him here) catching the waves. That is how the Aussies do it!
Christmas traditions in the Czech Republic
As you probably know, Czech folklore is rich in superstitions and also customs. Some of them are focused on material possessions, while others help young girls in the family to predict if they get married in the next year. In the Czech Republic, the main Christmas celebrations are on 24th December. Traditionally Baby Jesus delivers presents during the Christmas Eve dinner. Once Baby Jesus brought the gifts and dinner is finished, everybody gathers around the Christmas tree to open all presents.
Foretelling the future
On Christmas Eve, unmarried girl in the family can find out if she will get married in the next year. The only thing she needs to do is to throw a shoe over their shoulder towards the door. If the tip points towards the door, the girl will marry within a year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, she will remain single for at least another year.
Also, another old tradition says that the family should place fish scales under the tablecloth on Christmas Eve to bring wealth to the house. Similarly, carrying a fish scale in your wallet all year ensures that money will not run out.
Traditions are important for the Guatemalans, especially burning the devil before Christmas arrives. Every year on 7th December at 6 PM, the locals build bonfire outside their homes. This annual Guatemalan Christmas traditions started back in the colonial times. The people in Guatemala believe that the devil lives in the dark and dirty corners of their homes. Therefore, before Christmas, they sweep up; collect rubbish and pill up household items outside. After that, they place a devil statue on top of the pile and set everything on fire. The tradition of burning the devil burns the bad from the previous year.
Nowadays, many people realize the negative environmental impacts of this event. Therefore, many of them are replacing the trash burning with breaking devil piñatas. It is a much safer and more environmentally friendlier tradition.
Christmas traditions in the UK
Today, Christmas pudding is a typical Christmas dessert served not only in the UK, but also in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and in the British colonies.
From sending a card, decorating the tree to well-loved Christmas carols, many of the traditions in the UK are very similar to those in different countries. However, some of them are unique.
Traditional Christmas crackers are a big part of Christmas celebration in Britain. The paper-covered tubes shaped like a large sweet with a paper crown, a small toy, and a riddle add a bit of pop to Christmas dinner. Along with wearing Christmas sweaters and eating mince pies, there is another unusual British tradition.
Christmas pudding is the traditional end to the Christmas dinner in the UK. And, as you can expect, there are many superstitions around it. From stirring the pudding mixture and making a wish while mixing to putting a coin to the pudding for luck to the person who finds it – these little rituals are packed with good cheer.
Every year on Saturday before Christmas Eve, the winter festival in the Philippines lights up the sky. The city of San Fernando, the Christmas capital of the Philippines, holds a colourful festival which celebrates the Christmas spirit. As the name suggests, the Giant lantern festival focussed on a contest of massive giant lanterns is full of vibrant colours and also materials. Besides, teams from eleven villages building vibrant lanterns are breaking the record in size. This unique festival showcasing art and electrical engineering draws crowds from all over the world.
Christmas traditions in Slovakia
According to tradition, if you fast whole day until dinner, you will see a little golden pig in the evening. And it will bring you good luck!
If you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in Slovakia, you will be surprised how many unique Christmas traditions this small country has. With no Santa Claus, no turkey and the TV on all day on Christmas Eve, Slovaks celebrate Christmas certainly differently. Even though 24th December is a working day for many Slovaks, it is the most important day of them all. TV channels show famous fairytales from early morning and, therefore, it is a tradition to leave the TV on in the background the whole day.
The Slovaks also traditionally buy a carp from big tanks in front of shops before Christmas. The strange part about it? They buy them alive a few days before Christmas Eve and keep them as pets until it is time for the feast. Yes, you have heard right!
In Slovakia, Christmas Eve is a day of fasting and followed by a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Many families wait until the first star appears on the sky, and then they sit down to eat dinner. Slovaks have traditional meat-free supper, a carp usually. Besides, the Slovaks also have various fortune-telling superstitions such as no one should get up from the Christmas table before they finish the dinner because it brings bad luck and death in the family. We do put money under the table cloth to have a prosperous next year. We also put an extra plate for an unexpected guest who might appear during the dinner, or because we believe that the spirit of a person who passed away could dine with the family. As you can tell, we are quite superstitious during Christmas.
Besides, you will not find children searching for Santa. It is because Baby Jesus brings presents during Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the twinkling tree. When kids hear the bell, it is a sign that Little Jesus delivered presents, and it is time to open them. At midnight, many families attend the Midnight Mass. The next couple of days are traditionally spent with their relatives, even if long-distance travel is necessary.
No matter how you choose to celebrate this festive season, Christmas tradition and rituals surely add a little bit of magic to our lives. We hope that we’ve inspired you to add different customs to make your Christmas even more special!
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