Christmas Traditions from around the World

Christmas Traditions from around the World

In the UK Christmas evokes memories of Asda adverts, never ending tins of Quality Street, the Eastenders Christmas special, paper hats and poor jokes.

But Christmas means different things in different nations, with celebrations typically reflecting local culture. Consequently many British expats will be experiencing new festive traditions this year. What can they expect?

Here we take a look at Christmas traditions from around the World!

Christmas Traditions in Germany

Although traditions vary from region to region, and have altered over time, as a nation Germany takes Christmas seriously and it really is an incredible place to spend the festive season. From the very first day in December families begin preparing. Four Sunday’s before Christmas Day many households construct an advent wreath out of pine or fir branches. The wreath is designed to hold four candles and every Sunday leading up to Christmas an additional candle is lit.

In many areas of Germany the 6th of December is Saint Nicholas’ Day and children must leave their shoes lined up neatly by the front door or fireplace so that token gifts and sweets can be left in them. Traditionally Christmas trees are not put up or decorated until the morning of Christmas Eve, with Christmas presents being exchanged later that day. German Christmas markets (where treats like the ginger bread Lebkuchen and handcrafts are sold) are also hugely popular.    

Many of the UK’s Christmas traditions originate from Germany, including Christmas trees.

Christmas Traditions in China

As the proportion of Christians in China is relatively small Christmas is not a national holiday but it has acquired public holiday status in some areas, most notably Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Christmas Day is known as Sheng Dan Jieh, or the Holy Birth Festival, while Father Christmas is Dun Che Lao Ren, or Christmas Old Man. Christmas trees are referred to as ‘trees of light’ and are decorated with red paper chains, flowers and intricate lanterns. Houses are similarly decorated with paper lanterns.

Christmas Traditions in Spain

In Spain the Christmas season kicks off on the 8th of December with the weeklong observance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. After this the build-up is relatively slow until the days immediately before Christmas, when homes and churches are decorated with evergreens and nativity scenes. Christmas celebrations don’t officially end until the 6th of January and the Feast of the Three Kings (or the Feast of the Epiphany). Banquets and parades are held across the country while the Kings (los Reyes) bring children a second lot of presents!

Christmas Traditions in France

In some regions of France, primarily to the East and North, Christmas celebrations begin on St Nicholas’ Day with la fête de Saint Nicolas, but for most Christmas Eve is the most significant day on the festive calendar. When Catholicism was more widely and actively practiced the vast majority of families would attend la Messe de Minuit, or Midnight Mass, on Christmas Eve. Mass would then be followed by Le Réveillon, a special feast, and a visit from Père Noël – Father Christmas. Although these practices are not as popular as they once were they still form an integral part of Christmas celebrations for many French families and carol singing remains a huge part of seasons festivities.

Christmas Traditions in Australia

Unsurprisingly one of the main differences between Christmas in Australia and Christmas in the UK is the weather! As December the 25th falls in the middle of Australia’s summer many of the nations festive activities take place outside, including eating Christmas dinner. By far the most popular activity in Oz is Carols by Candlelight, where people gather together outside to give carol concerts.

Although some families put up Christmas trees many decorate their homes with Christmas bush and Christmas bellflower as well as ferns and palm leaves. And as a real white Christmas isn’t an option Down under Australians have created one in confectionary form. An Australian white Christmas is made of coconut oil, fruit and rice krispies and is commonly eaten during the holiday season.

Christmas Traditions in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands children can expect a visit from Sinterklaas, a kindly bishop, on St Nicholas’ Day. Sinterklaas arrives on a white horse, dresses in red robes and carries a sack filled with gifts. On the eve of St Nicholas’ Day families enjoy a large meal and a letterbanket – a cake made into the shape of the first letter of the family’s surname.

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