Wonderful Christmas Traditions You’ll Find Around The World

Wonderful Christmas Traditions You’ll Find Around The World

It’s that wonderful time of year! So to celebrate, deck the halls, jingle those bells and see how Christmas is celebrated around the world.

England

Did you know that the tradition of sending Christmas cards originated in England? Originally designed to get people to use the services of the Post Office more during the 1840s, the act of sending Christmas cards to loved ones became monumentally popular from the 1860s, and soon it was commonplace throughout Europe.

Mistletoe is hung in doorways for festive kisses, and carolers come to doorsteps bringing good tidings of great joy. Scents of warm mince pies and spiced mulled wine waft through homes. Pine and fir trees are decorated with baubles and tinsel, and the Queen delivers her special Christmas Message on Christmas Day. Advent calendars build anticipation of the big day, and Christmas trees are kept up for the twelve days of Christmas.

A traditional English Christmas meal includes… The classic Christmas roast! Roast turkey with stuffing, potatoes roasted in goose fat, brussel sprouts and roasted chestnuts, honey-glazed carrots and parsnips, bread sauce, pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon), and to finish the meal – Christmas pudding, with a silver coin hidden inside that is said to bring good luck to the person who finds it.  It’s common to pour a type of alcohol, such as brandy, over the pudding and then set it alight before it’s served; a very dramatic way to conclude the meal! Christmas crackers are usually ‘cracked’ before the meal starts, revealing paper Christmas hats, a charm or novelty item, and a riddle or joke. Mince pies filled with dried fruit mince are also enjoyed through the holiday season, as well as some delicious mulled wine.

Where does Santa leave presents? Children leave out stockings by the fireplace so Santa can fill them with treats and sweets. And as he’s travelled such a long way, a mince pie and glass of milk is left out for him, along with a carrot for Rudolph.

Say it like a local: Merry Christmas!

Christmas tree with stockings hanging up over fireplace. Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash
In England, families hang up their Christmas stockings over the fireplace so Santa can visit during the night and fill them with treats and sweets

Australia

While the Northern Hemisphere is wrapping up to keep cosy during a white Christmas, Australia is celebrating the holidays with warm sunny days! Santa ditches his hot and stuffy classic red outfit for bathers, and is often depicted surfing or lounging on the beach. Reindeer are replaced with kangaroos and many traditional Christmas songs have a quirky Australian spin on them; think ‘Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute, kicking up the dust, esky in the boot,’ as an Aussie version of Jingle Bells.

Carols by Candlelight, a concert held in Melbourne on Christmas Eve at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, is televised around the nation and is a tradition for many families to watch local celebrities sing popular Christmas carols; both traditional and ‘Aussie’ ones. Each city and town usually has their own version of carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas, too.

Christmas day is then usually spent with family, and is often outdoors at the beach thanks to the warm Aussie weather in December.

A traditional Australian Christmas meal includes… Aussies tend to celebrate with a big lunch on Christmas day. While ‘classic’ Christmas fare, such as glazed ham, roast turkey and plum pudding are common to see at Christmas lunch (thanks to the English influence and ancestry of Australia), many Aussies take advantage of the sunshine and load up the BBQ for Christmas. Prawns, salads and local seafood are popular on the Christmas lunch menu, with beer and white wine flowing. Pavlova, a dessert made from meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit, is a popular Christmas-time dessert.

Pavlova. Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash
Pavlova is a popular Aussie Christmas dessert, made of whipped cream, meringue and fruit

Where does Santa leave presents? Children either leave out chairs or hang up stockings for Santa to leave their presents, otherwise they’re simply put under the Christmas tree for children to find the next morning. Sometimes families leave out a mince pie and a beer for Santa to indulge in during his long night of gift-giving.

Say it like a local: Merry Christmas, mate!

France

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, France is lit up with festive Christmas markets adorned with fairy lights and selling handmade gifts, vin chaud (mulled wine), gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, toys, nativity scenes and Christmas decorations, as revellers soak up the cheery atmosphere. The biggest and most famous of these markets is ‘Christkindelsmärik’, located in Strasbourg, and offers many local Alsatian Christmas handicrafts and delicacies.

French children celebrate ‘Advent’, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, with an advent calendar – each day a ‘door’ or ‘window’ is opened to reveal a treat, making the countdown to the big day extra exciting. A midnight mass is held on Christmas Eve for families to attend, and a massive Christmas feast –  Le Réveillon – is also held on Christmas Eve.

A traditional French Christmas meal includes… It varies from region to region, but it’s common to have smoked salmon cooked with butter and lemon, oysters, a ‘Plateau de fruits de mer’ (a seafood platter), and foie-gras for Christmas dinner entrée. Main dishes include turkey and white fish served with vegetables, and the meal traditionally concludes with a whopping 13 desserts; a Christian tradition that represents Jesus and the Apostles and usually consists of fresh fruits, nuts and sweets.

Where does Santa leave presents? French children often leave their shoes by the fireplace so that ‘Pere Noël’ can fill them with small treats.

Say it like a local: Joyeux Noël

New Zealand

Like its neighbour Australia, Christmas in New Zealand falls in the summer holidays, so BBQs, beaches and bathers are all common for Christmas! Many towns and cities around the country hold Christmas Parades, with the largest in the city of Auckland, where communities can sing carols, watch floats, and children can meet Santa.

As well as the traditional pine tree, New Zealanders have their own version of a Christmas tree – the Pohutukawa Tree – found virtually everywhere along the NZ coast. Blooming with bright red flowers in the summer months, the tree is naturally very festive, and is practically synonymous with Christmas in New Zealand.

Pohutakawa Tree on beach in New Zealand
Thanks to the bright red flowers, the Pohutakawa Tree in New Zealand is certainly festive!

Fun fact: Thanks to international date lines, New Zealand is one of the first places Santa visits on his long journey to deliver gifts.

A traditional New Zealand Christmas meal includes…  Very similar to Australia, Kiwi’s often opt for a traditional British Christmas feast with ham, turkey and all the trimmings for lunch, but often throw a BBQ into the mix, with salads and cold drinks. Plum pudding finishes off the meal alongside a pavlova; Australians swear that the pavlova is their invention, but the sweet meringue dessert had its humble beginnings in Kiwiland.

Say it like a local: Meri Kirihimete! (the Māori language)

Germany

Germany certainly takes Christmas seriously! Like France, Germany embraces the countdown to December 25 with advent calendars and Christmas markets; most German towns have their own version of a Weihnachtsmärkte, offering handmade crafts, delicious festive food and of course, glühwein; the famous German mulled wine that’s sure to warm your bones on even the coldest of winter evenings.

Germans have been decorating Christmas Trees – or ‘Tannenbaums’– for more than 400 years. Originally this was with bright red apples and gingerbread, but these days it’s common to see candles, lights, baubles and wrapped chocolates, with an angel topping the tree.

A traditional German Christmas meal includes… Expect to see meats such as rabbit, goose or duck served up for Christmas dinner, accompanied by potato dumplings, cabbage slaw and sauerkraut, and apple, prune or chestnut stuffing. The most famous German Christmas food though comes in the form of dessert; Stollen. A cross between a pastry and a fruitcake, and shaped in such a way to represent Baby Jesus wrapped up, Stollen is so popular that you’ll often find versions of it in supermarkets around the world in the lead up to Christmas.

Where does Santa leave presents? It’s not just Christmas Day that Santa is special in Germany; children leave out their boots in front of their bedroom doors on the night of 5 December in the hopes that St Nicholas will pay them a visit and leave a small gift for them. However, only nice children will receive a gift – naughty children may find a lump of coal instead!

The rest of the presents are usually opened on Christmas Eve with family, after a modest Christmas dinner is eaten. Family then spend Christmas Day together feasting.

Say it like a local: Fröhliche Weihnachten

Greece

Along with Easter, Christmas is one of the most important dates of the year for the Greek Orthodox Church, and in a country that’s renowned for tradition and religious observance, you’ll be sure to find plenty of unique celebrations here.

The 12 days of Christmas are celebrated in Greece, beginning on Christmas Day right through until January 6. During this time, homes often keep a fire burning to ward off evil spirits, known as ‘Kallikantzaroi’, who may try to enter the houses to create mischief and mayhem.

A traditional Greek Christmas meal includes…  Avgolemono – or lemon-egg chicken soup – is enjoyed throughout the year, but is usually served as the first meal Greek’s enjoy after the church service on Christmas Eve. Cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and mince meat are also on the menu, as is ‘Christopsomo Bread’ – translating to ‘Christ’s Bread’ and adorned with the Cross of Christ. The star of the meal is a pork dish, rather than turkey, and dessert includes baklava and delicious shortbread biscuits covered in icing sugar known as ‘Kourabiedes’.

Greek kourabiedes biscuits
Kourabiedes are a common Greek Christmas biscuit, often made with almonds and covered in icing sugar

Where does Santa leave presents? In Greece, it’s not Santa who brings you presents, and they’re not brought on Christmas Eve! Greece’s version of Father Christmas is Agios Vasilis, who is said to have died on January 1 hundreds of years ago, which is why presents are delivered on New Year’s Eve and left under the Christmas tree.

Say it like a local: Kalá Christoúgenna

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Many traditional Christmas songs have a quirky Australian spin on them; think ‘Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute, kicking up the dust, esky in the boot,’ as an Aussie version of Jingle Bells.

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