How Other Cultures Celebrate Christmas

How Other Cultures Celebrate Christmas

Christmas is a delightful time. There's so much fun, from holiday parties to tree lighting to eggnog and presents. It's the time of year when everyone's best sides come out, as there's so much laughter and giving. Christmas happens all around the world, not just in the United States. It's exciting to look at the holiday in other parts of the world, with various customs and traditions different than our own.

More than 160 countries celebrate Christmas, so it was challenging to narrow down which ones to discuss, but we picked a few that you'll find charming. Whether you're just curious or want to add new traditions to your family's Christmas season, this is the page for you.


To start, we've picked Germany. You may or may not be familiar with the tradition of hiding a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree, but it's a common practice in Germany that dates back to the 16th century. Whichever child in the house the pickle first gets a gift. So this year, add a pickle ornament to your Christmas decorations and give a gift to the child that finds it first to store in their backpacks for when school starts up again after the holiday break. Kids love treats under the tree, especially sweet ones, so they have special snacks in their lunch boxes. No doubt with what Santa brings this year, the kids will be stuffing duffle bags with their takeaways.


Next up on our list of exciting Holiday traditions is Caracas, Venezuela, where city folk head to mass Christmas morning on roller skates. Much of the city's streets close off traffic to make way for the eager Church-goers.


Christmas Breakfast looks slightly different in Finland, where folks eat traditional porridge. The cook hides an almond in the porridge, and whoever finds it wins! Another exciting holiday tradition in Finland occurs on Christmas eve and has a relaxing, cleansing tradition. It's customary in this part of the world to gather together to take a sacred sauna—everyone takes part in the sauna, even the family's ancestors.


Iceland is an exciting place to spend Christmas; the legend is that a giant cat roams through the countryside during the holidays. The story goes that farmers used to warn their laborers that if they worked hard, they would get new clothes, but if workers didn't, they would meet their fate—the cat would eat them.

South Africa

We all look forward to the delicious feast of Christmas time. In South Africa, folks look forward to a special meal—fried caterpillars, the Pine Tree Emperor Moth. The caterpillars are said to provide good luck for the coming year.

New Zealand

In America, the typical Christmas tree is the balsam fir, a sturdy, good-smelling pine. The Kiwis take a different approach - it is customary to celebrate the pōhutukawa, a stunning tree native to New Zealand. The branches of the pōhutukawa are not straight like the balsam fir but rather gnarled and intricate. The bright-red blooming branches make for beautiful home decorations, and the tree is on the holiday cards and decorations throughout the season. As Christmas takes place in the New Zealand summertime, families and friends dine on fresh seafood, seasonal vegetables, and meat to celebrate with a cookout.

The Philippines

In the Philippines, the Giant Lantern Festival, or Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, occurs the Saturday before Christmas. The festival features stunning displays of illuminated kaleidoscopes of colors that light up the night sky. Indeed this is a festival worth traveling for, as eleven villages partake and compete for who has the most elaborate lantern. Another perk of attending the festival is that you won't need winter coats, as the temperature ranges from between 77°F - 91°F. So break out the women's shorts—it's going to be a balmy Christmas!


The following Christmas tradition makes us smile. In Japan, a new off-beat tradition has popped up because Christmas is essentially a novelty in the country. Instead of a Christmas ham, look forward to Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner. Who doesn't love a unique take on the traditional holiday?


In Sweden, folks forego the reindeer in leu of an equally cute four-legged creature - the goat. Goats as a Christmas symbol date back to long-ago pagan festivals. The tradition now includes the construction of a massive, 42-foot goat made of straw, known as the Gävle Goat. The goat goes up the first Sunday of Advent and stays up until after the New Year.

Across the globe, folks find different ways to celebrate this glorious time of year. The common theme is that Christmas is a beautiful time to gather with loved ones and enjoy each other's company. There's nothing like an excellent excuse to get together and eat delicious food while celebrating bonds with loved ones. The world is your oyster with these exciting traditions. No matter where or how you spend Christmas, take heart, knowing that you are part of something bigger.


Related Articles