Christmas traditions around the globe

13 December 2015


Christmas. It’s not celebrated in every culture, but when it is, it’s definitely not often always done the same way. Learn some of the interesting ways Christmas is celebrated in different countries around the world.


Peru, South America

Peruvians enjoy Christmas predominantly on the eve of the 24th December, known as ‘Noche Buena’, or Good Night! Tradition dictates that most families will go to church before heading home for an epic midnight feast.  Champagne and firecrackers kick off the evening at midnight before a large turkey dinner with local trimmings. There are, and of course, plenty of presents thrown into the mix as well. Other typical local Christmas side dishes may include Arab rice, mashed sweet potato with marshmallows and spiced apple puree. Christmas day is spent often relaxing with family and recovering after the previous night’s food and festivities.

Japan, Asia

While not officially a public holiday in Japan because of a small Christian population, Christmas is still honoured by many. And their tradition could be one of the wackiest- or tastiest?! The Colonel plays an iconic part today in the modern day Japanese Christmas. That’s right- Kentucky, Fried, Chicken. In 1974, KFC launched a marketing campaign called ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ which has since stuck. When foreigners couldn’t come across turkey to eat, they opted for KFC, which sparked the Colonel’s brilliant marketing idea to create a specific Christmas meal. Consisting of cake, champagne and of course copious amount of chicken, many Japanese order months in advance to avoid the sometimes two hour waits! Check out one of the television commercials here 


While not the only country in the world having a hot and certainly not white Christmas, the Aussies are known for swapping the mulled wine for a cold beer, often served on the beach. Australians generally commence celebrations on Christmas Eve then have their big family affairs on the day of the 25th December. Roast lunches and dinners are enjoyed, usually with turkey, ham, plum pudding or for many an abundance of fresh seafood. The iconic Bondi Beach every year gets flooded with locals escaping their hot apartments and backpackers having picnics, a surf and a few cold tinnies. Many Australians still funnily enough enjoy fresh Christmas trees and follow typical traditions as though they were in negative temperatures...probably a result of getting too much sun across ‘silly season’!

The Netherlands, Europe

Thought Christmas only came once? Not for those lucky Dutchies. Sinterklaas and his controversial sidekick, Zwarte Piet, come to town on their steamboat and white horse on the eve of the 5th December, giving good Dutch boys and girls presents. Zwarte Piet translates to Black Pete, who is Sinterklaas’ servant, which every year strikes the debate about whether it is racist. It’s told to children he is covered in soot from the chimneys, but tradition says he was intended to be a Moor from Spain. It’s a widely debated topic worldwide every single year, but most Dutch dress up and enjoy the celebrations in good spirits. The Netherlands also has the more traditional Christmas Day as Australians and Americans know it on the 25th, although people like to treat the two days separately- the first being more about a fun day for children.

Brazil, South America

Christmas in Brazil shares similarities with the Peruvians and the Aussies. Like Peru, the Brazilian families gather on the 24th at night to celebrate, give presents and then have a big feast at midnight. Then, the 25th is usually spent eating leftovers with your family for lunch. The food is almost always accompanied with rice cooked with raisins.  Like Australia, they embrace the warm climate and it isn’t uncommon to see some families spending Christmas at the beach. However, Santa Claus still wears winter clothing and fresh Christmas trees are also common. Something unique to Brazil and only a couple of other countries worldwide is the 13th salary. The lucky workers of Brazil receive their salaries twice in December. This is seen as a reward and also to help boost the economy over Christmas time.

Czech Republic, Europe

Single woman in the Czech Republic? Never fear, your fate will be decided for you over Christmas. Tradition has it that in the Czech Republic, an unmarried woman should throw a shoe over her shoulder towards a door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, it is said she will be married within the year! And if it doesn’t? Well, then you can chow down your feelings (but only once the first star appears in the sky!) on fried carp.

Vietnam, Asia

Although mostly a Buddhist country and therefore Christmas isn’t an official public holiday, Christmas is still one of the main celebratory festivals in Vietnam. Children in Vietnam excitedly anticipate Santa, leaving their shoes in front of their doors on Christmas Eve in the hopes of receiving goodies on Christmas morning in them. The Vietnamese don’t often get time off work for Christmas time so it is more about enjoying the decorations, festivities and creating their own take on the more traditional Christmas cultures.

Finland, Europe

Suffer from a bad back or need your luxurious king bed to get some shut eye? Too bad – if you live in Finland! You might embrace tradition and spend Christmas Eve sleeping on the floor. This is so that the dead can ‘use’ your bed for the evening.  Christmas is a time of remembrance for the Finnish. People may visit relative’s graves or leave your house’s sauna vacant for ghosts to enjoy after sundown.