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How is Christmas celebrated around the world?

December 24th, 2019

Christmas Celebration

As we approach the most festive season of the year, the world seems brighter and merrier. Beautiful Christmas trees with twinkling lights adorn shops and homes. Windows gleam with tinsel, trinkets and sparkling lights shine from every corner. 

While we’re familiar with the history of Christmas, it is worth remembering that this festival is celebrated differently in various parts of the world.

Don’t be too early!
Russia, Ukraine, and a few other countries in Eastern Europe do not celebrate Christmas on 25 December; instead, the holiday is celebrated on 7 January every year. So, if you wish a Russian friend Merry Christmas on 25 December, you’d be about two weeks early!

Make a clean sweep
In Norway, an ancient tradition has it that witches come out on Christmas Day to find brooms and take to the sky. As a preventive measure, Norwegian families hide their brooms and other cleaning implements for the day. On the day of Christmas men often fire shotguns outside their homes to scare away evil spirits.

Strap on those skates
If you happen to be in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Christmas morning, don’t forget to strap on your roller skates. City residents are fond of attending early morning Christmas mass – and the best part is that they skate to church! On Christmas morning authorities ensure the roads are clear for skaters to roll on unencumbered.

Have a whale of a time
Christmas feasts in Greenland aren’t for the faint-hearted. The Inuit sit down, not for a meal of stuffed turkey, but to strips of whale blubber wrapped in raw whale skin. This traditional dish (Mattack) is considered a Christmas delicacy. Alternatively, you could opt for Kiviak, which involves seal skin stuffed with seabirds, buried and left to ‘cure’ for months before being dug up and served for Christmas. Enjoy!

Reservations for ghosts
If you’re in Portugal, Christmas feasts aren’t just for the living members of the family. As part of their tradition families set aside seats at the table for deceased relatives to join the celebration! 

Predict your love life
In the Czech Republic, Christmas is an excellent time to find out how successful the coming year will be for romance. Unmarried women stand with their backs to the front door, and hurl a shoe over their shoulder. If it lands with the heel facing the door, it is considered bad luck. But if your shoe has its toe pointing towards the door, it is believed you’ll be married within the year.

Also read: Advent Traditions Around the World

Down the chimney
Winter wonderland in England begins in early December. Beautiful Christmas trees with decorations evoke the spirit of the festival, as friends and families unite. Advent calendars and candles mark the countdown to Christmas. And on Christmas Eve, little children leave biscuits and drinks under the tree for Santa Claus and his reindeer. Children believe Santa Claus comes down the chimney and leaves presents for kids who have been ‘good’ all year. A lavish turkey roast lunch usually follows the tradition of opening Christmas gifts in the presence of family and loved ones.

Tonight is the night
Christmas in Spain is all about three things: Christmas greetings, great food, and prayers. Families get together to attend the midnight mass, ‘La Misa del Gallo’, or the Mass of the Rooster. The name Mass of the Rooster comes from the belief that a rooster crowed on the auspicious occasion of the birth of Lord Jesus. A traditional stuffed turkey is enjoyed with family before everybody heads out. Celebrations are on all night with people singing carols and entertaining one another. Their favourite phrase for on Christmas night is ‘Esta noche es noche buena, y no es noche de dormir’. That translates to ‘Tonight is a good night, and it is not for sleeping’!

Fried chicken, anyone?
Christmas may not be a religious holiday in Japan, but the country outdoes itself by focusing on spreading the holiday cheer. Japan is a winter wonderland at this time, with truly breathtaking Christmas decorations. Under glistening fairy lights, families enjoy a Japanese version of fried chicken to celebrate the festival. They have no Santa Claus, but Hoteiosho, which translates to ‘gift-giver’, and is closely associated with the celebration and merriment. 

Trolling along
In Iceland, 13 lads get dressed as trolls and hit the streets 13 days before Christmas, a season known as Yuletide. In a jolly and playful spirit, these mischievous trolls visit children across the country. For each night leading up to Christmas, little ones hang up their best shoes by the window of a Christmas tree waiting to receive presents from the trolls. Dressed in traditional Icelandic costumes that make them look like Santa Claus, these trolls leave gifts for the good kids and rotten potatoes for the naughty ones.

A festive sparkle
In the Philippines, Christmas celebrations start on the Saturday before Christmas Eve with the Giant Lantern Festival held in San Fernando. San Fernando, known as the ‘Christmas capital of the Philippines’, comes alive with festivity and fierce competition. Locals compete to build beautiful origami lanterns illuminated with bright bulbs and candles. People from eleven ‘barangays’ (villages) put in a joint effort to make Christmas in the Philippines come aglow.

Cavalcade of lights
A winter wonderland, Toronto celebrates Christmas with a spectacular show of lights and colours. The annual Cavalcade of Lights marks the beginning of a wonderfully merry Christmas season. At Nathan Phillips Square, 300,000, energy-efficient LED lights sparkle from dusk to dawn. Stunning Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, and figurines of Santa Claus line the streets. Families enjoy ice-skating with a spectacular show of fireworks and share Christmas greetings with loved ones. 

So there you have it – a list of unique Christmas traditions from around the globe. No matter where you are in the world, we hope you have an extraordinary holiday season and a Merry Christmas!