9 Christmas Traditions From Around The World That Showcase How Diverse The Holiday Is

St Mary's Cathedral is illuminated with a Christmas-themed projection in Sydney to celebrate the Christmas season on December 9, 2016. / AFP / SAEED KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

From glazed ham to Elf on the Shelf, American Christmas traditions are something special. But, have you ever thought of Christmas traditions around the world? It’s pretty cool to see how a religious celebration can be infused with cultural food and traditional activities. Even Santa Claus and his outfit might be different than what you are used to.  

Personally, I think these differences are awesome. Every country has unique traditions influenced by so much rich history. It is especially interesting to look at how a country’s geography and climate impact the festivities. After all, many Americans associate the festive Christmas season with a winter wonderland full of snow-capped trees. And we can’t forget about the hot cocoa, cozy blankets, and warm fireplace. Yet, in other countries, beaches and tropical plants are in the spotlight on Christmas. Who says pine trees should get all the fun, anyway?

If you celebrate Christmas and live in America, it is easy to think of common holiday traditions as “normal.” However, it is important to remember that what’s normal for you is not normal for everyone.  It serves as an awesome reminder that our world is beautifully diverse — something that we should totally embrace, even beyond the Christmas season. 

1. Japan

In Japan, the holiday is typically seen as a day of happiness and romance, not religion. Many couples even celebrate the day like an American Valentine's Day. To top it off, as the Huffington Post points out, a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner is KFC fried chicken. You even have to make a reservation if you want to score a bucket on Christmas day.

2. Finland

The Finnish Christmas season starts on the First Advent, which falls on the first Sunday in December. Like Americans, children in Finland use advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. Celebrations usually last until two weeks past the actual holiday.

3. Great Britain

While many British Christmas traditions have been adopted by Americans, there are still many differences. Children place their stockings at the foot of their beds, hoping it will be filled with treats. Paper crowns are just as popular as Santa hats. And then there's Boxing Day on Dec. 26, a popular shopping day for Brits. It's a lot like Black Friday in America.

4. Russia

Russian Christmas tradition calls for two celebrations — once on Dec. 25 and again on Jan. 7. Dinner on this day features 12 different dishes to represent the 12 apostles. It's usually meatless and full of bread, honey, and veggies. Christmas Day usually calls for a main course of meat. As for Santa? His name is Ded Moroz, which translates to "Grandfather Frost." 

5. Australia

For us Americans, it's hard to imagine a Christmas without a wintery touch. But for our friends down under, Australian Christmas traditions are full of beaches, palm trees, and sunshine. Our winter is their summer, after all. Christmas dinner usually involves seafood like prawns and lobsters. Caroling is especially popular, starting a week before Christmas Day.

6. Brazil

Brazilian Christmas dinner is full of Portuguese dishes, rice, nuts, and fruits. Turkey and codfish are the popular meats of choice. Decorations usually roll out in November or earlier. Furthermore, people take part in a gift-swapping tradition called "amigo secreto." It's the Brazilian version of — you guessed it — Secret Santa.

7. India

In India, Christians decorate mango and banana trees. And like most Indian traditions, Christmas celebrations are lively and colorful. Indian Christmas traditions also call for tons of sweets. Trading Christmas gifts isn't common, though. Instead, everyone fuels up on delicious food and brings treats to their friends and neighbors. Awesome. 

8. Philippines

If you thought decor in November was intense, just wait until you learn about the Philippines. Filipinos start celebrating Christmas in September and stop in January. Extravagant decor is a must. Many homes hang up parols, which are lights made of bamboo and paper. A nine-day celebration also takes place (Simbang Gabi) leading up to Christmas Eve. This night, also known as Noche Buena, calls for a huge family celebration with lots of food. 

9. Jamaica

Christmas in Jamaica is full of happiness and joy. On Christmas Eve, every town hosts a "Grand Market" event. This celebration is equal parts festival and market, featuring a medley of shopping, eating, and dancing. A parade called Jonkanoo also takes place. Often, people continue to celebrate at a midnight mass. As for dinner? A typical Jamaican Christmas dinner will include foods like rice, oxtail, chicken, curry goat, roast ham, and rum-soaked fruit cake. Yum.

Image: Pexels

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