Where is Christmas celebrated across the world and how? Key International traditions

Hasn’t this year flown by? In the blink of an eye, it’s going to be Christmas – again. Not that we mind, of course. It’s always nice to spread a little holiday cheer, right? Everybody celebrates Christmas in their own unique way. Have you ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated across the world? Here are a few key international traditions.

Australia

In Australia, it’s very hot at Christmas time. However, that doesn’t stop them from celebrating! They simply change things around a bit. You’ll notice that they change Christmas carols that talk about snow and cold weather so that they are more fitting. They also say that Santa changes his clothes when he arrives in Australia so that he’s not too hot. He supposedly also gives his reindeers a rest using kangaroos. There’s even a traditional Australian carol about it.

Belgium

Different regions of Belgium have different traditions. However, they mostly believe that Santa, or ‘Sinterklass’ brings them presents on the 6th of December. They leave their shoes out, as this is where Santa’s pet horse (no reindeer for Belgium) leaves them.

Belgian Sinterklaas - ABC Translations

[Belgian Sinterklaas]

China

Only 1% of people are Christians in China, so it’s mainly celebrated in the bigger cities. It’s rare for a Chinese person to have a tree, but those that do call it a ‘tree of light’ and decorate it with paper flowers and lanterns. Santa is known as ‘Sheng dan lao ren’ (Traditional: 聖誕老人, Simplified: 圣诞老人; meaning Old Christmas Man)

Costa Rica

Christmas here comes at the start of the holidays, so it isn’t unusual to spend Christmas on the beach. Tropical flowers are the traditional Christmas decorations over here. Everybody goes to midnight mass, and they make sure they wear their best clothes. In Costa Rica, the gift bringer is often ‘Niño dios’ (Child God, meaning Jesus) or ‘Colacho’ (another name for St. Nicholas).

Egypt

Only 15% of Egyptians are Christians. They don’t celebrate Christmas on 25th December either, but on 7th January, when people often take ‘kahk’ (special sweet biscuits) with them to give as gifts. From 25th November up until their Christmas Eve, Christians eat a vegan diet. These days many non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, and most major supermarkets sell Christmas trees, Christmas food and decorations.

Egyptian Kahk biscuits - ABC Translations

[Egyptian Kahk (sweet biscuits)]

Ghana

Christmas in Ghana goes on for much longer – usually from 20th December to the first week in January. Many people have fireworks and parties, but they all celebrate it in their own unique way. Over 66 languages are spoken in Ghana and all these language groups have their own traditions and customs!

Japan

In Japan, many people do send Christmas cards and presents. However, they look at it more as spreading joy and happiness, rather than a religious festival. They will usually celebrate Christmas Eve more than Christmas day. Santa is known as サンタさん (santa-san – Mr Santa) or サンタクロース (the transliteration of Santa Claus).

Jamaica

Christmas is a special holiday for Jamaicans. They love listening to carols and will often spruce their homes up in time for the big day. Red wine and fruitcake are the traditional Christmas foods of Jamaicans.

Sweden

Sweden celebrates Christmas Eve with a huge feast, but this isn’t the part of Christmas they celebrate most. St Lucia’s day on 13th December is their main event, where children dress up as Saint Lucy who died as a Martyr for her faith. They retell the story as told by monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

Swedish Children dressed as Saint Lucy - ABC Translations

[Swedish Children dressed as Saint Lucy]

These are just a handful of places that celebrate Christmas in their own way. In Norway, they see Christmas as a time where spirits may emerge from the dead. In Venezuela, everybody heads to church wearing roller blades on Christmas Eve. No two countries celebrate Christmas in the same way – hurrah for diversity!

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