Chrismas has become a universal celebration and even some countries that are largely non-Christian will have some sort of festivities.
A lot of Christmas traditions have become universally adopted without us knowing where they came from. Most countries that celebrate Christmas will include things like:
- Christmas Cards
- Christmas Turkey
- Santa Claus
- Christmas Tree
- Christmas Crackers
Some countries that have slightly different Christmas traditions to us are:
Netherlands – where St Nicholas (called Sinterklaas) arrives from Spain by boat on the last Saturday in November with his helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who is there to punish bad children.
Greece – A wooden cross covered in basil is used to keep away naught elves that come to make mischief like turning milk sour. In Greece gifts are not shared until the 1st of January.
Poland – Gifts are shared on St. Nicholas day, which is the 6th of December. Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve and usually consists of 12 courses.
Spain – the celebrations begin on the 8th of December with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, although presents are not given until the 6th January (Twelfth Night), which is when the Three Kings brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
France – Christmas celebrations often start on St Nicholas day, the 6th of December. The children receive Christmas gifts. It is claimed that the first ever Christmas tree appeared in the Alsace region in the 14th century. Children’s shoes are placed in front of the chimney on Christmas Eve for ‘Père Noël’ (Father Christmas) to fill with sweets.
Italy – A nativity scene called a ‘presepe’ is displayed in churches and town squares and is often the most important of the Christmas decorations. ‘Babbo Natale’ hands out presents to children on Christmas Day, although in many families gifts are exchanged only on Epiphany, the 6th of January.
Germany – The Christmas tree is usually only put up on Christmas Eve, although Christmas lights and decorations are put up earlier.
Norway – Christmas celebrations start on Santa Lucia’s Day, 13 December. Christmas Dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve followed by the much anticipated visit from Julenisse (Santa Claus) with the presents.
Iceland – Children leave their shoes on the windowsill in the hope that the Juletide Lads will fill them with goodies. Christmas celebrations in Iceland start on Christmas eve with Philippines – A special star-shaped Christmas lantern, the ‘paról’ made out of bamboo and paper is made to signify the star of Bethlehem.
Brazil – A ‘presepio’, a nativity scene is often set up in front of churches. The ‘Papai Noel’ travels from Greenland bring presents to Brazilian children on Christmas Day.
A lot of countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa share British customs and traditions but have modified them to incorporate the weather, although there are still many families in these countries that will sit down to a full roast turkey dinner in spite of the weather.
Whatever tradition you follow, we really hope you have Christmas Crackers on your festive table.