Christmas! For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, complete with gifts and excitement. For others, it’s a religious celebration. And for others still, it’s a combination of the two. “The holidays” mark an exciting time where the pace of life slows, and time with friends, family, and delicious food comes to the forefront. While some Christmas traditions have global overlap, others are completely unique to certain countries and cultures. We’re taking a look at how Christmas is celebrated around the world.
In the US especially, Christmas means Santa Claus, lots of presents, endless parties. While some people opt to attend church and embrace the religious components of the holiday, many others simply opt into the commerciality. Kids make lists for Santa; adults run around buying gifts for dozens of friends and family members; and kids (or adults, we don’t judge!) leave cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. These traditions are well-represented in movies and TV, but they’re not necessarily universal.
In Poland, a delicious, grand meal takes center stage! The twelve-course meal represents Jesus’ 12 disciples, and brings together family and friends before evening mass. On Christmas day, people again attend church and visit friends.
Christmas Eve is more celebrated than Christmas day, because Christmas day is intended to be a day of worship. On Christmas Eve, parents sneakily decorate Christmas trees to surprise their children. People also exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas morning.
Russia doesn’t celebrate Christmas on December 24th and 25th. Instead, they celebrate on January 7th, and then receive New Years presents from “Grandfather Frost.”
In Norway, the Christmas festivities get an extra day of attention! People here celebrate on the 24th, 25th, and 26th…because why end the fun early?? Julenissen (Santa Claus) and his gnomes deliver gifts on the 24th. The 25th is for relaxation and worship, and the 26th is for fun!
Japan may not celebrate Christmas in either the commercial or religious senses, but it does use the holiday as a time to spread joy and happiness. Japan embraces the trees and lights of the holiday, and even believes in Santa Claus. There’s no gift exchange, but there are plenty of ways to spread holiday cheer.
Music plays a large part in Greece’s Christmas traditions. On Christmas Eve, children sing carols and play instruments, sometimes in exchange for money from onlookers. While there are Christmas trees on the islands, a more classical tradition is to decorate wooden ships. The city of Thessaloniki displays a giant Christmas tree, as well as three large ships, each year.
Christmas in Mexico spans from December 12th to January 6th, and the “Posada” tradition (Spanish for “Inn”) is a major one. Communities might set up a total of nine posadas, in honor of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay. Children move from home to home, singing and asking for a place to stay. Each night, a new home becomes the designated posada, where there will be dancing, singing, and lots of eating!
Do you celebrate Christmas? Let us know some of your cultural traditions!