Australia boasts a plethora of cherished Christmas traditions, including adorning the Christmas tree, baking festive cookies, and unwrapping gifts. More contemporary practices involve indulging in Christmas movies and partaking in the whimsical tradition of The Elf on the Shelf. However, the ways in which Christmas is celebrated worldwide might just surprise you.
As you delve into the customs of other nations, you may find inspiration to incorporate some into your own festivities while perhaps opting to skip others. Imagine waking up to discover mischievous Father Christmas leaving rotten potatoes in your shoes or enjoying a Christmas dinner featuring Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, these are genuine Christmas traditions observed in various parts of the globe.
From celebrating Christmas by the beach with fresh seafood in New Zealand to savoring hot porridge that wards off the cold Finnish winter, the diversity of global holiday traditions is truly eye-opening. Moreover, the intriguing Christmas trivia gathered here is bound to captivate your family during the holiday season.
In Japan, where Christmas isn’t a national holiday, approximately one percent of the population celebrates with a unique and delicious twist. Rather than opting for a traditional turkey dinner, families head to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken. This tradition, originating from a successful 1974 marketing campaign titled “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” has persisted, with some enthusiasts even ordering their boxes months in advance or enduring long lines for the “finger-lickin’ good” food.
On Christmas morning, Finnish families partake in a tradition of consuming rice and milk porridge topped with cinnamon, milk, or butter. The one who discovers the hidden almond in the pudding is deemed the winner, although some families playfully cheat by hiding extra almonds to prevent disappointment. To conclude the day, it is customary for families to unwind together in a sauna.
In Denmark, Christmas Day, originally a celebration of brighter days before Christianity arrived, is adorned with superstitious characters called nisser, believed to offer protection. On the evening of December 24, Danish families place their Christmas tree in the center of the room and engage in a festive dance around it while singing carols.
The Christmas season in Norway, known as julebord, commences on December 3, filling local bars and restaurants throughout the month. Families celebrate Little Christmas on December 23, each with their own rituals that may include decorating the tree, constructing a gingerbread house, and enjoying risengrynsgrøt (hot rice pudding).
In Ireland, a tall red candle is left in the front window overnight, symbolizing a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the holiday season. Traditional Christmas fare often includes homemade roast goose, accompanied by vegetables, cranberries, and potatoes.
A Christmas table in Barbados is incomplete without a baked ham adorned with pineapple and sorrel glazes, a rum cake, and Jug Jug—a dish inspired by the Scottish influence, combining pigeon peas, guinea corn flour, herbs, and salted meat.
On Christmas Eve in Poland, families partake in the tradition of sharing oplatek (an unleavened religious wafer), with each person breaking off a piece while exchanging Merry Christmas wishes. Dinner often commences with the appearance of the first star in the night sky, and an extra setting is traditionally left at the table in case of uninvited guests.
Sinterklaas, the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, is celebrated with children placing their shoes by the chimney or back door. They wake up on Christmas morning to find treats such as gingerbread men, marzipan, and chocolate letters.
Portugal and Brazil:
In Brazilian and Portuguese households, Christmas Eve dinners often extend until 10 p.m. At the stroke of midnight, families exchange gifts, make toasts, and wish each other a Merry Christmas. Midnight mass, known as Missa Do Galo (Rooster Mass), is an opportunity for neighbors and extended family to come together, often followed by fireworks in the town square.
Alpine countries like Austria incorporate the legend of Krampus, a devil-like creature, into their St. Nicholas festivities on December 6. Children provide lists of their good and bad deeds, with good children receiving sweets, apples, and nuts, while those who misbehaved may anticipate what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.
In South Africa, Christmas traditions vary by region and culture, but many families gather for a holiday cookout known as braaing. Marinated steaks and boerewors sausages take center stage, followed by the customary dessert of malva pudding served with custard. Traditional fir Christmas trees are adorned with diverse baubles, including hand-beaded African ornaments.
Throughout Mexico, members of the Church stage Pastorelas (Shepherd’s Plays) to recount the Christmas story. The Mexican Christmas season begins early in December with Las Posadas, a religious march reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph. Vibrant red poinsettia flowers are used in holiday decorations across the country.
These global Christmas traditions offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of festive customs, making the holiday season a truly global celebration.