This post is also available in: Français
Around the World in 9 Holiday Traditions
You probably know of some Christmas traditions from where you live but there are so many variants around the world, and many don’t celebrate Christmas but have other beautiful traditions and stories.
By Gabrielle Labourier
It might not seem like it just yet, but the holidays are just around the corner! December and January are some of the most holiday-filled months in the year for most people! It would be impossible to go through all the holiday traditions that exist, but we’ll still take you on a journey of the imagination and share some of the wonderful holiday traditions that occur around the world in this merry season!
Can you guess where Santa wears sandals? You probably know of some Christmas traditions from where you live but there are so many variants around the world, and many don’t celebrate Christmas but have other beautiful traditions and stories.
During the evening of the 5th of December in Czech Republic, children are very excited and wait for St Nicholas to arrive. 3 adults dress up as Nicholas, Angel, and Devil. St Nicholas checks if the children have been good all year and asks them to sing a song or to recite a poem and gives them a basket of presents or sweets but if they’ve been naughty, the devil gives them a lump of coal or some potatoes.
Just like certain countries celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, Iceland celebrates 13. During the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, Icelandic kids are traditionally visited by the 13 Yule Lads who come by once the kids have gone to sleep and left their shoes by the window. The Yule Lads will then leave candy if the children have been good all year or they leave socks filled with potatoes if they’ve been naughty!
Similar to the Czech Republic, the most important day during December for Dutch children is the 5th of December, when St. Nicholas brings them presents! In the Netherlands, major celebrations are held on the 5th December, on St. Nicholas' Eve and not on St Nicholas Day. Children are told that their behaviour is logged in a big book and that they get presents if they’re good but if they misbehave, they get sent to Spain! People also enjoy holiday cookies called pepernoot which are made with cinnamon and spices.
New Zealand also celebrates Christmas but differently as it falls in the middle of summer for them! Families will usually have barbecues or go camping and gather for a big meal with seafood, meat and vegetables, all barbecued! They sometimes replace the western Christmas tree with a Pohutukawa, a local tree which blossoms during Christmastime and they decorate either tree with lights, baubles and more! Many towns have Santa parades with floats decorated by local businesses and Santa usually wears sandals. Christmas carols like in many other countries are very popular and carollers can be found across the country.
In the UK, Christmas is a time to be with family, everyone usually helps to decorate the tree and to hang mistletoe and holly. Most towns will hang up Christmas lights and often have a big “switch on” event in November that people will attend to mark the start of the holiday season. Many towns will also have Christmas markets inspired by German traditions. Children will often have nativity plays and carols at school in December.
Kids write their letter to Father Christmas with the presents they’d like, and he traditionally leaves them in stockings hung on the chimney. A big Christmas meal is eaten and ends with Christmas pudding which you either love or hate!
Christmas happens during summer in Argentina, so the weather is warm, and traditions are different than in the northern hemisphere. Advent is also celebrated so festivities will often begin early in December. Houses are decorated with lights and wreaths of different colours and garlands are hung on front doors. Christmas trees are also present in Argentinian tradition and are decorated on or by the 8th of December, the Immaculate Conception celebration. A nativity scene will be found by the Christmas tree and is important decoration in religious families. Celebrations take place on Christmas eve and include mass, a big family dinner and then fireworks at midnight!
Hannukah also known as the Festival of lights is celebrated differently in many parts of the world but originated in Jerusalem hundreds of years ago. The eight-day festival has some variations around the world but has the same foundation everywhere and the dates vary from late November to late December. A big family dinner is eaten on the first night and after dinner the whole family lights a menorah, lighting a new candle each night until the 8 are lit. the lighting ceremony also includes songs and blessings and the children open gifts and play with traditional toys like the dreidels and get chocolate coins called gelt.
One of the most important holidays in China is the New Year also called the Spring Festival, which occurs between late January and early February and marks the end of winter. Traditions will differ across the country but will often include a big, annual, family dinner, usually at or near the home of the oldest family member. Families will do a thorough clean of their house to get rid of any ill-luck and to make the space open for good fortune. Decorations will also be hung on doors and windows, and firecrackers are often lit. Older people will give younger, unmarried family or friends a red envelope with money they will then keep under their pillow for seven nights to symbolise luck.
Many American Christmas traditions originated in Europe but now have slight variations. You find many similarities with Europe such as carolling services, turkey dinner and decorating a Christmas tree but they also have some original traditions. For example, making and decorating gingerbread houses is a family-friendly activity kids always love, and adults will often drink eggnog. Some even decorate their trees with popcorn threaded on a string, one of their unique traditions! Many suburban neighbourhoods will have heavily decorated houses with hundreds of Christmas lights which families go around to see at night.
Author : Gabrielle Labourier