Christmas Time Around the World

Christmas traditions around the world

Christmas is celebrated in many different ways around the world, varying by country and region. Many areas of the world have elements in common such as Christmas trees, wreaths, Christmas stockings and the Nativity. Christmas carols are generally sung and stories are often told of figures such as Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost and Saint Nicholas. Christmas greetings are sent along with cards and the giving and receiving of presents. Below is a sample of countries and their traditions.


United Kingdom – ‘Merry Christmas’

The Christmas season starts with advent at the beginning of December and ends with The Epiphany on the 6th January. Many families tell their children stories of Santa Claus or Father Christmas and his reindeers. It is tradition to leave a carrot for Rudolph the reindeer and for Father Christmas a mince pie and glass of sherry to help him on his way as he delivers presents in Christmas Stockings and under the tree on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day is a public holiday and families gather around for traditional Christmas Dinner which generally consists of Turkey with cranberries, parsnips, roast potatoes and finished off with Christmas pudding. The Queen always makes a Christmas Speech and in many households it is very important to watch this.


Japan – ‘Kurisumasu Omedeto’

Christmas celebrations in Japan are very popular although Christmas is not actually a national holiday. Gifts are sometimes exchanged and Christmas parties are held on Christmas day. The Japanese decorate cities with lights and trees and they eat a Japanese Christmas cake which is a sponge covered in cream and topped with strawberries!


Germany – ‘Froehliche weihnacten’

In Germany traditions do vary by regions. On Saint Nicholas Day – 6th December, Saint Nicholas puts goodies in children’s shoes. Saint Nicholas visits children and they have to recite poems or sing a song in order to receive a gift. Knecht Ruprecht accompanies Saint Nicholas and he warns children to be good and polite.

Christmas Eve is when the main gift giving occurs. Children often stay up late into the early hours. Christmas trees are also put up on Christmas Eve; many families stand around the tree and sing carols. Christmas dinner can vary region to region, in many parts of the country carp is eaten along with potato salad and frankfurters.


Pakistan – ‘Barra Din Mubarak ho’

Christmas is celebrated by Pakistani Christians and locals refer to it as ‘Big Day’ or ‘Great Day’. Although December 25th is a public holiday it is not officially designated as Christmas, but as the birthday of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Homes are decorated with Christmas handicrafts and stars are hung on rooftops to signify the Star of Bethlehem. Christians carol sing and collect money which always goes to charity or the church.


France – ‘Joyeux Noel’

Christmas in France is celebrated mainly in a religious manner although they do celebrate with Christmas Fairs, decorations and carols. Children do not hang stockings up but place their shoes by the fireplace so Pere Noel (Father Christmas) can place gifts in them. Families attend midnight mass and decorate homes with the nativity scene.

A long family dinner called a reveillon is held on Christmas Eve this generally includes foods such as oysters, lobster and escargots and traditional Turkey with chestnuts. Good quality wine or champagne is consumed and carols are sung.


Norway – ‘God Jul’

Christmas Eve is the major day of celebration in Norway. Church bells ring between 5 & 6 pm and people then attend church services. The Christmas meal is served in the evening and dishes include Pork Rib, Lamb Rib, and in some areas burned sheep’s head. Rice Porridge is also very popular and generally served on Christmas Day, an almond is hidden in the porridge and whoever finds it gets a gift. For Children Julenissen (Santa Claus) may pay a visit or gifts are left under the tree.

Christmas day is a very relaxed day with lots of people attending church services. Many families will then get together for a large festive meal. Boxing Day is also a day of many festivities and parties.

Christmas is celebrated around the world and even though each country has different traditions, the main aspects such as Santa Claus, food, gifts and the nativity plays a key role.

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