Christmas Around the World

Christmas is the most magical time of the year for my family and me. It is not only a time of reflection when Christ was born, but a time to recognize just how much of an impact that tiny baby has made in the world. I love to look back at traditions and appreciate how Christmas is celebrated around the world, so I asked my friends to share their customs and festivities. Enjoy!

“In my family, Christmas ham, secret Santa, and watching Christmas movies especially “Christmas Story” are huge! When decorating the tree, we would hide a small mitten among all the decorations and whomever finds it, wins a gift! We also spend time in the city centre visiting Santa and enjoying the Christmas light displays. During Christmas Eve, my stepfather’s mom would read us a funny / risque story about the 12 days of Christmas, and on Christmas mornings, we have French toast for breakfast before opening the gifts!” – Emily

New Zealand:
“New Zealand ranges from the traditional to very casual beach BBQ’s – but always with yummy food. It’s all about Christmas Day, usually with family”. – Rachel

“Some go to church on the morning, we open presents, enjoy a huge late lunch/dinner with roast meats, roast potatoes, veggies, and dessert like Christmas pudding that’s doused in whiskey and lit on fire! Then it’s all down hill from there 😉 We drink, play games, watch a festive film, maybe go for a walk or to the pub to meet friends and the next day it’s all about eating leftovers and playing with presents. Oh I forgot! There are always a few Premier League games on Boxing Day too so the men tend to sit around and watch football”. – Rachael 

“In my family we go to church at 6pm. The men start chucking the oysters at 7.30pm while the women drink champagne by the chimney. Then it’s dinner with foie gras and capon, cheese and the 13 traditional desserts of Provence. We then go on to the strong liquor, dance and go to sleep really late. The next day, each child reads an excerpt from the Bible and the presents are opened one by one, which takes hours… and then we eat again, and again, and again..” – Anne

India (Goa):
“Alright so the whole family gets together for Christmas. The cousins all walk to church for the midnight mass singing carols along the way while the elders head to church on Christmas day. Food, usually pork, is marinated the night before for 24 hours. Various Indian traditional dishes are prepared, we do a mix of ‘East Indian’ and ‘Goan Dishes’. There’s rice, pork, currries, roast, chicken, fish and beef cooked in various styles. This is usually for lunch. Once everyone has eaten, we pass out. Wake up have tea usually with sweetish bread balls. Dinner is usually left overs from lunch with maybe a few extras, this accompanied with drinking and dancing late into the night. All gifts are opened on boxing day😁 This of course is only our way of celebrating, different communities in India celebrate in different ways😊 And usually we’re about 25-30 people under one roof😁 – Alba

“We have very old traditions but still found in some remote areas of the country where groups of people dressed in costumes and masks visit different houses believed to bring blessings and scare evil spirits away. There is also the tradition of burning a Yule log as a symbol of past years problems. In more modern approach, the family gathers with a festive table, shares and opens gifts, visits other relatives’ and friends’ homes. – Natalja

“In my country we go to midnight mass and drink hot chocolate. Then we go to mass also on Christmas Day. You can have either dinner on Christmas Eve (never meat) or lunch on Christmas Day. In my family we usually have Christmas Day lunch. Basically we spend a couple of days cooking and then we keep eating until Boxing Day haha! There is a beautiful tradition called Presepe, click here to read more!” 😉 – Monica

“Germany is the country of Christmas markets obviously, so we go there a lot prior Christmas Eve and drink mulled wine. It’s also the season where old Christmas movies are on TV from “Home Alone” to other ones that we used to watch during childhood 🙂.   Christmas Eve and 1st and 2nd Christmas Day people visit their families . Gifts are given on Christmas Eve (24th). We love hearty menus like raclette, fondue, goose / deer , potatoes, etc. But there are different traditions. My grandparents used to like the more easy meals like potato salad and sausages (that’s all they had during war times), enjoy time of reflection, and attending church masses depending on own belief.  And of course baking Christmas cookies, writing Christmas cards, playing board games with the families, listening to Christmas CD’s and eating!” – Jasmin 

In Bulgaria it all comes down to the family getting together for dinner on Christmas Eve (24th), church on Christmas Day (25th), and having guests over as we celebrate “name day” for all names after Christ.” – Ina

“For us in Sweden, it’s all about the 24th. Well actually, it starts already on the 23rd, at least in my family, with the tasting of the ham which traditionally is in the oven for hours. We have it late in the evening, with some knäckebröd and aquavit. We still get stockings on the 24th in the morning, then a leisurely breakfast, some more cooking, a traditional lunch followed at 3pm with Donald Duck and other Disney characters for an hour on the TV whilst drinking glögg (mulled wine). Then church and after that a smörgåsbord of food and more aquavit with the traditional snaps songs. After dinner, we open each gift one by one so everyone gets to see what the others have been gifted and before the night is over, we light the real candles in the Christmas tree and hope (and pray) that the tree will not catch on fire!” – Johanna

“In Romania quite a lot of people fast before Christmas (strict vegan fast).  We actually have another Santa (called Saint Nicholas, the protective saint of children, lovers etc) comes on the night between December 5th and 6th and puts small gifts in our boots. On December 24th people go to mass and after we generally have a huge late dinner with mainly pork-based dishes. Then on the 25th there’s another mass and we spend the day eating, watching Christmas concerts (the Vienna one is quite popular). In my family we spend the evening on the skating ring to compensate for the millions of calories we just ate! 🙂 ” – Delia 

“Serbs are very traditional when it comes to Christmas, which is deeply rooted in our Orthodox customs and is fully centered around the family. For us it starts on Christmas Eve (6th Jan since we follow the Julian calendar), which is called Badnji Dan with everyone abstaining from animal products, and eating dinner in candle light. In very old traditions, the father of the house used to wake up at dawn and cut down a young oak tree (called Badnjak) which is burnt as the Yule log. Typically in the larger cities, this is done outside the church grounds and looks like a bonfire. On Christmas Day (7th Jan), the morning starts with church bells ringing. In every household, the first guest to visit the house, brings good luck to the family. The women prepare a special bread called “Cesnica” which is filled with items like corn, grain, rosemary, walnuts and a coin to symbolise health, wealth, good harvest in the new year. Each member tears a piece of the bread and which ever gift they get, symbolizes their fortune, the last piece is for the house. Then its time to eat, and we eat a lot! Pork roast, sarma (cabbage stuffed with minced meat and rice) and plenty of sweet treats are available all day and night long. Before Communism, Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas) brought the kids gifts, however as the communists did not want to associate the holiday religiously, Santa Claus became “Deda Mraz” (Grandfather Frost), and the whole practice of giving gifts and decorating the houses was moved to New Year’s Eve. In MY family, we celebrate 2 Christmases (Catholic and Orthodox), and yes I still believe in the real Santa Claus.” – Marina

Merry Christmas everyone!





Disclaimer: Special thank you to my friends for contributing to this beautiful post and spreading love, joy and the magic of Christmas around the world! 

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