Worldwide Christmas Traditions

Christmas is celebrated all around the world, but it’s not all about tinsel and turkey for everyone! Here are a few traditions from different countries, how many of these did you know?

 

Czech Republic

  • Santa Claus arrives on 5th December and gives out baskets of small presents that may include chocolate and fruit, the main presents are usually opened on Christmas Eve.
  • Some people fast on Christmas Eve in hope that they will see a vision of the ‘golden pig’ appear on the wall before dinner, which is thought to bring good luck.
  • Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve and consists of fish soup, fried carp and potato salad, as well as other goodies such as biscuits.
  • There is a superstition in Czech Republic that if you throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas day, if the toe points towards the door, you are to be married soon!

Dominican Republic of Congo

  • Christmas is more of a religious festival not commercial, most people will not exchange presents.
  • Christmas Eve is important in churches as they have big musical evenings with lots of choirs and a nativity play. They start at the beginning of the evening and may not be finished until around 1am! (Some even go on longer with singing until dawn!) Christmas Day service then starts at 9am.
  • For Christmas dinner, families try to have a better meal than normal, if they can afford it they may have meat such as pork or chicken. The rest of the day is then spent relaxing, perhaps sleeping after a busy Christmas Eve!

 

Egypt

  • Christmas isn’t celebrated on 25th December but on 7th January.
  • For 43 days before Christmas, they have a special fasting consisting of a virtually vegan diet. They don’t eat anything that comes from animals such as meat, milk, eggs and cheese, this is called ‘The Holy Nativity Fast’. If people are too weak or ill then they are excused from the fasting.
  • On their Christmas Eve (6th January), churches offer services that run from around 10am to about midnight.
  • After the service is finished, families go home to eat a big Christmas meal, filled with all the things they have not been allowed to eat during fasting. One popular dish is ‘Fata’, a lamb soup which includes bread, rice, garlic and boiled lamb meat.
  • On Christmas Day families and friends come together and take ‘kahk’, special sweet biscuits to give as gifts.

Greece

  • On Christmas Eve children go out singing carols in the streets. If they sing well they may be given money, nuts or dried figs to eat to eat.
  • Christmas trees aren’t common, instead people have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across the rim. There is a wooden cross that hangs from the wire with a sprig of basil is wrapped around it. There is water kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive, and once a day someone dips the cross in some holy water and sprinkles it around every room in the house.
  • Having a fire burning throughout the 12 days of Christmas is thought to keep the ‘Kilantzaroi’ (the bad spirits) away.
  • Christmas dinner normally consists of lamb or pork. It is normally served with vegetables, salads, spinach and cheese pies.
  • A traditional table decoration is known as ‘Christopsomo’ which is a round sweet loaf and the crust is decorated with whatever the family do for a living. E.g. fishermen’s would be topped with fish.
  • Santa brings gifts to the children on 1st January.

Jamaica

  • Radio stations play Christmas carols all through festive period.
  • Lots of people paint their homes and hang new curtains especially.
  • Most people spend Christmas at home with friends and family members.
  • Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee, saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, and freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea.
  • Traditional Jamaican Christmas dinner consists of fresh fruit, sorrel and rum punch, meat, chicken, curried goat, stewed oxtail, rice, peas and traditional Jamaican fruit cake. 

Haiti

  • Generally people decorate their homes with decorations and Christmas trees, and will start to look for Christmas trees at the start of December.
  • On Christmas Eve, children placed their freshly cleaned shoes filled with straw under the tree in hope that Santa will remove the straw and fill with presents.
  • Sometime on Christmas Eve people’s houses are open with the lights on until 3am and children are allowed to go out, the older siblings looking after the younger. Children of all ages are allowed to drink ‘Anisette’ which is a slightly alcoholic drink made from anise leaves and sweetened with sugar.
  • Some people go to Midnight Mass, and when returning home will eat the main meal known as ‘revillon’, which starts in the early hours and usually lasts until the dawn.
  • Christmas Day is quiet with people relaxing and sleeping off the celebrations from the night before. 
  • Since the earthquake in 2010, people cannot celebrate Christmas like they used to but many charities have been set up to help people.


Japan

  • Christmas in Japan is not known as religious festival but more as a celebration spreading happiness.
  • Christmas Eve is known as a romantic day, couples often exchange gifts, taking walks, looking at Christmas light displays and going for a romantic meal (very similar to Valentine’s day in the UK)
  • Christmas day is not a holiday in Japan so shops and businesses are open.
  • Parties are arranged for children which involve games and dancing.
  • Japanese Christmas cake is a sponge cake with cream and strawberries decorated with trees and flowers and figures of Santa.
  • Fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas Day so restaurants such as KFC are very busy.
  • New Year is celebrated over 5 days from 31st December to 4th January.