What Christmas Looks Like Around the World

USA News


One Christmas tradition in Poland involves keeping a fish in your bathtub.

Poland

Holiday lights in Poland.

AP Images


Christmas in Poland is celebrated with gift-giving, church services, and fasting on Christmas Eve before a 12-dish feast, which usually features carp for good luck. 

Though most people simply buy a cut of fish from the market, according to The Independent, the old tradition was for the lady of the house to keep a live carp in the bathtub for a few days before preparing it for the Christmas meal. 

This tradition is also popular in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and Croatia, according to NPR. 

Many people in Finland celebrate Christmas with a trip to the sauna.

finland santa

Santa Claus is also a big tradition for Finnish children.

Lehtikuva/REUTERS


In Finland (and a range of countries around the globe), one of the main events of the holiday season is St. Lucia Day on December 13.

On this date, the eldest girl in each family sometimes dons a white robe and a crown of candles before serving her family buns, cookies, coffee, or mulled wine.

St. Lucia Day typically kicks off the holiday season in the country. 

On Christmas Eve, many Finnish families visit the sauna to relax or go to cemeteries to remember loved ones who have died before attending midnight mass. 

For Christmas lunch, the traditional meal is a porridge containing a hidden almond — though it’s likely this originated in Sweden, according to the University of Helsinki. Whoever finds the almond will have good luck for the rest of the year.

In the UK, stockings are hung from the end of beds and the monarch gives an annual speech.

queen elizabeth christmas speech

The King or Queen of England gives an annual speech on Christmas Day.

Pool/Reuters


Rather than hanging Christmas stockings over the fireplace, families in the UK typically place them at the foot of their beds, according to BBC America.

On Christmas Day, families break open crackers filled with small toys, jokes, and paper crowns — which are traditionally worn throughout the midday Christmas meal. 

The reigning monarch also gives an annual broadcast speech on Christmas Day, during which they discuss what the holiday means to them. 

Boxing Day, December 26, is also a national holiday in the UK.

Christmas in Croatia can involve cleaning your shoes and avoiding Krampus.

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Santa is sometimes called Djed Mraz in Croatia.

ANTONIO BRONIC/Reuters


Like many places around the world, some families in Croatia celebrate Christmas with an Advent wreath made of straw or evergreen.

The wreath has four colored candles that symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love.

On the night of December 5, children in Croatia make sure to clean their boots and place them by the window for St. Nicholas to fill with treats, according to The Dubrovnik Times. But naughty kids might only receive a few twigs from the Christmas monster, Krampus.

Christmas Eve is typically celebrated with a light, seafood dinner in preparation for the heavier feast on Christmas Day, complete with roasted meats and poppyseed rolls. 

People in Greece might keep a fire burning during Christmas to ward off holiday goblins.

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The Night of Wishes festival is a common Greek Christmas tradition.

ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/Reuters


Greece is primarily a Greek Orthodox nation, and in addition to attending midnight church services on Christmas, families might also keep their fires burning or sprinkle holy water from a basil-wrapped cross to ward off the “kallikantzaroi” — evil creatures that creep into homes through the chimney and cause mischief.

Around Christmas, many Greek cities also hold a festival called the Night of Wishes where people gather to make wishes and release paper lanterns into the sky. 

Some holiday traditions in Greece also include making Christopsomo (Christmas bread) and decorating boats.

Christmas in Australia is often celebrated on the beach.

Christmas in Australia

Christmas takes place during the summer in Australia.

AP Images


Since December is a summer month in the southern hemisphere, most of Australia is bathed in balmy temps during the holidays.

Accordingly, those in Australia frequently celebrate Christmas with a lunchtime barbecue on the beach. Friends and family gather to indulge in prawns, lobster, and sweets before playing a game of cricket or taking a dip.

In Argentina, some celebrate Christmas with fireworks.

argentina Christmas

Fireworks are part of both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve festivities in Buenos Aires.

Marcos Brindicci/REUTERS


In Argentina, many families put up their Christmas trees on December 8 — the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary — and decorate them with cotton balls to look like snow. 

Fireworks are typically launched at midnight on Christmas Eve after a late dinner, and families with children also often light paper lanterns to send into the sky.

Some people continue the festivities and attend overnight parties, so Christmas Day is usually a more relaxed holiday in the country. 

For many in Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January 7.

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Some people in Ukraine celebrate Christmas with caroling.

VALENTYN OGIRENKO/Reuters


Like many Orthodox countries, Ukraine uses the Julian calendar for their church festivals. This means some individuals there celebrate Christmas on January 7 rather than December 25, according to the Ukrainian People website.

When the festivities begin, it’s traditional to delay eating Christmas dinner until the first star in the sky is spotted.

Caroling in the streets and Vertep, the Ukrainian puppet theater, are also common holiday traditions.

In the US, children leave cookies for Santa and hang their stockings on the fireplace.

christmas new york

Rockefeller Center in New York City puts up a huge Christmas tree every year.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images


Families in the US often leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in the hopes that they wake up to presents under the tree and in their stockings, which are hung by the fireplace.

Many families also have Christmas dinner complete with ham or roast beef and eggnog.

Cities typically put up lights and other decorations, and it’s common for families to do the same in front of their own houses. 

In New York City, people who celebrate Christmas often look forward to traditions like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. 

People in Spain often open presents on Epiphany.

madrid spain christmas

The Feast of the Epiphany falls on January 6.

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Rather than unwrapping goodies on Christmas Day, most families in Spain open their presents on January 6, or Epiphany, which is the day that the three wise men are said to have brought gifts to the infant Jesus.

Many families in Spain decorate their houses with ornate nativity scenes and enjoy a seafood feast on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

And there’s also an annual Christmas lottery, called El Gordo (“The Big One”), which is the biggest of its kind. The grand event has roots tracing back to the 1800s.

The main celebration in Brazil typically takes place on Christmas Eve.

Brazil Christmas

Fireworks are also a part of Christmas festivities in Brazil.

AP Images


Much of the holiday celebration in Brazil takes place on December 24, when families and friends will often get together for a party that includes ringing in Christmas at midnight. 

The holiday feast, which is typically eaten on Christmas Eve, is usually packed with hearty portions of pork, ham, rice, nuts, and fruits.

A version of Secret Santa called “Amigo Secreto” is also popular for gift-giving. 

Hanging giant paper lanterns is a common Christmas tradition in India.

India Christmas

Star-shaped paper lanterns are a popular Christmas decoration in India.

AP Images


Although Hinduism is the prominent religion in India, the country also has a large population of Christians — which means Christmas is still widely celebrated. 

The holiday is usually observed by attending midnight mass and sharing a meal (and plenty of festive sweets) with family and neighbors.

Like many other festivals and holidays in the country, many towns and cities decorate for Christmas with plenty of lights, streamers, and flowers. 

Families might also hang mango leaves, star-shaped paper lanterns, or nativity scenes outside their homes. Inside, some people even decorate mango or banana trees.

Instead of waking up to presents under the tree, many families in India pack up boxes of sweets on Christmas morning and take them to their neighbors and friends. 

In Latvia, you might have to read a poem before getting your presents.

Latvia Christmas

Decorated Christmas trees may have originated in Latvia.

AP Images


One Latvian Christmas tradition involves reciting a poem, playing an instrument, or singing a song in exchange for receiving one of your presents. Christmas markets that sell foods, drinks, and gifts are also popular in the country. 

The country also claims to be the home of the first decorated Christmas tree, according to Trip 101.

One of the oldest recorded uses of an evergreen tree to celebrate Christmas dates back to the year 1510 in Riga, the country’s capital, though it’s hard to know if it was indeed the first use of the tradition.

Christmas in Kenya is all about connecting with family.

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It’s common for Kenyans to attend a Christmas Eve vigil.

THOMAS MUKOYA/Reuters


In Kenya, families often see family for Christmas. Many attend midnight Christmas vigils and indulge in a big meal that often includes goat, sheep, and rice.

Instead of evergreen trees, those in Kenya sometimes decorate cypress trees or local evergreen trees with lights and ornaments. 

Caroling is a big part of Christmas in many parts of Romania.

Romania christmas

Children perform a holiday season ritual in Bucharest, Romania.

AP Images


Children carol house to house in some parts of Romania, receiving traditional sweets and cakes in return for their efforts, according to Romanian Insider. 

In some parts of Romania, it’s traditional for one person to dress up as a goat with a colorful mask and cause mischief among the carolers. And in other parts, a similar tradition exists but with one caroler dressing up as a bear. 

On Christmas Eve, many families start decorating their trees and hanging mistletoe in their houses for good luck. 



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