Christmas Traditions Around the World
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Christmas Traditions Around the World

How does the rest of the world compare with how the United States celebrates the holidays?

Christmas Traditions Around the World
Public Domain Pictures

I recently saw the Frozen short ‘Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’ and fell in love with it, but it also got me thinking. If everyone in Arendelle can celebrate the holiday season in different ways, I wonder how countries around the world celebrate Christmas?

1. Philippines

Every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city of San Fernando (the Christmas Capital of the Philippines) hosts a giant lantern festival. People compete to make the best ones and most measure almost 20ft!

2. Greece

In Thessaloniki (Greece’s second largest city) a large three-masted ship is lit up every year in addition to a Christmas tree. Caroling is primarily done on Christmas Eve and is popular with children, especially boys, as they can be rewarded with small amounts of money, nuts, candy, and dried figs.

3. Costa Rica

Because of Costa Rica’s tropical climate, many people there decorate for Christmas with tropical flowers. Apples are popular too. The entire month of December and into January hosts fiestas, parades, rodeos, street parties, bull runs and choral and dance festivals.

4. Brazil

Christmas plays called ‘The Shepard’s’ are popular, and in the Brazilian versions of the play, there's also traditionally a shepherdess and also a woman who tries to steal the baby Jesus. Midnight mass on Christmas Eve is attended by many people. Secret Santa is popular. It is traditional to give small gifts all through December using a pretend name, which is revealed on Christmas.

5. Japan

Christmas is not seen as a religious holiday in Japan, but has become more popular in the last few decades. Christmas Eve is celebrated among couples the way Valentine’s Day is in the Western world. Fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas day. Another Japanese gift bringer (in addition to the adoption of Santa) is Hoteiosho, a Japanese god of good fortune from Buddhism and not really related to Christmas.

6. Egypt

As most of the 15% Christian population in Egypt identifies as Coptic Christian, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th. They fast for a month before, calling this the ‘Holy Nativity Fast’, which is basically a vegan diet. Christmas is sometimes celebrated as secular holiday for the nonreligious in Egypt, and has become commercialized.

7. Nigeria

Family is very important during Christmastime in Nigeria, and most families travel to wherever older relatives are to celebrate. Christmas parties, which are usually held on Christmas Eve, can last all night long. Artificial Christmas trees and other decorations are common. Playing with firecrackers is a fun activity that most children partake in.

8. Russia

During the time Russia was considered communist (beginning in 1917 and ending in 1991) Christmas was banned. Christmas is smaller there even today, and most celebrate it on January 7th as they are Russian Orthodox. The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.

9. Finland

In Finland people believe that Father Christmas lives in the north part of the country, called Korvatunturi, which is north of the Arctic Circle. Everyone tries to be at home for Christmas, including fishermen who try to get their boats into the harbor by December 21st, which is St. Thomas' Day. Santa is also known as Joulupukki--as it was traditional that there was a Yule Goat who was scary and asked people for presents (not giving them away).

10. India

Of the 2.3% Christians in the country, most live in Mumbai or Goa. Midnight mass is very important, as most identify as Catholic. Instead of Christmas trees, banana or mango trees are often decorated. Giant paper lanterns in the shape of stars are put out on Christmas Eve. Caroling is also popular.

11. New Zealand

For Kiwis, Christmastime comes in the middle of summer vacation. Parades with floats and bands are common. Santa wears sandals here, by the way, and people visit the beach on Christmas. In addition to traditional Christmas trees, the Pōhutukawa is also used. The Pōhutukawa is also important in Maori culture and is a large tree with red leaves.

12. Hong Kong

Christmas markets and carol singing are popular in Hong Kong. There is a huge winter party known as ‘Winterfest’ that involves the shops, theme parks and other attractions. ‘Winterfest’ is not limited to Christmas, as it also features a New Year’s countdown, lights, and fireworks. Sending Christmas cards are common.

13. Lebanon

In Lebanon, 35% of the population follow a form of Christianity called Maronite Catholic. The Nativity crib is more popular than Christmas trees, and Nativity scenes built in people’s homes are based around a cave instead of a stable. Sugared almonds and strong coffee are given to guests during this time of year. Even non-Christians enjoy the big parties held in major hotels in the capital of Beirut.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about these other countries traditions as much as I have! I love that Christmas is a time of year when people from all over the world can come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, even if it is in different ways. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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