Christmas Traditions Around the World
I’ve spent the holiday season in three countries and all over the United States, so Christmas has meant coats, flip-flops, and everything in between. But despite many changes in scenery and climate over the years, a few traditions prevail.
I snack on summer sausage and a port wine cheese ball Christmas week because they remind me of my dad, and buy Christmas crackers each December, thanks to my English mum. My husband and I pick out a real Christmas tree, like my family always did – except for a few years in Venezuela when we hung tinsel in the shape of one to stack our gifts under. From my Alabama in-laws, we’ve picked up a Christmas Eve custom of a steak dinner with chess pie followed by a viewing of “It's a Wonderful Life.”
In the spirit of holiday traditions, I reached out to a few Instagram friends to find out how they celebrate in their corner of the world. Like me, some of them have left their birth countries or states, but still carry that heritage in Christmas traditions and memories. Read on for their stories, and tell us how you celebrate in the comments below.
by Katerina from @katerina.decker
I grew up in the Czech Republic, where we celebrate Christmas on the 24th. The whole day is very festive and special. I remember my mom always cooking the whole day, us kids watching Christmas movies and not eating. Not eating? Yes. The reason – if you don’t eat the whole day, until the special Christmas dinner, you’ll see a golden pig.
Well let me tell ya, I have never seen the golden pig but I may or may not have seen the white stars – you know, when you almost pass out from trying too hard.
However, it was worth it because the dinner was always HUGE. The sauerkraut soup – to stay brave for the next year, the pea soup – to be rich, the fish soup – no idea what this one was for, cream of wheat – I am pretty sure for wealth as well (you can never be too sure), the fried fish and potato salad…YUM!
And then the little walnut-candle boats, cutting the apple, eating garlic…SO MANY TRADITIONS! And afterward, we open the presents that Baby Jesus brought us. Just writing about it I am getting excited for this year!
by Karla from @flyfreewildbyrd
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Canada. Especially with the pretty snow-covered trees all lit up and carols playing everywhere. Even though it’s cold in Canada, families bundle up and make their way to the Calgary Zoo to see it all lit up with 1.5 million twinkling lights. The zoo has bonfires roaring all over and we always buy hot chocolate and wander around checking out the animal enclosures, skating pond and Santa exhibit. It’s a tradition for everyone in the family.
Another great tradition here in Canada is going for sleigh rides in the snow. And skating! And more hot chocolate to warm up!
My own family absolutely loves Christmas and we get together on Christmas Eve. We watch Christmas movies, eat as much food as we can and always open all our presents that night. Santa comes early for us!
by Sarah from @fromcincyto
Here in my small hometown of Madison Township, Ohio, one of our community traditions takes place on Christmas Eve. Our volunteer firefighters dress up as Santa and get escorted and pulled around by fire trucks on a handmade, lit-up sleigh around every single street in the township, giving candy canes out and taking pictures with anyone who comes out to the road to see them. You can hear the sirens from streets away and when you hear them coming, everyone rushes out to the road to see Santa!
This is something I have done every single year since I was old enough to understand what was going on, and even now at the age of 24, I always look forward to going to my parents' house on Christmas Eve to take part in this township tradition!
by Katee from @kateeblizzard
Before I moved to Australia, Christmas in New Jersey meant spending time with loved ones while snuggling up by the fire before enjoying a large family feast of Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and everything warm and delicious that you could imagine. Dinner was followed by roaming the streets admiring the lit-up houses while listening to our various Christmas CDs.
Now that I am in Australia, I am excited to begin creating new traditions.
This year I am trading snow for sand, turkey dinner for BBQ Snags, and sitting by the fire for splashing in the sea. To be honest, I am extremely excited about this change of scenery and life. The only thing is, I feel like it's hard to get into the Christmas spirit without the cooler weather. Despite there being Christmas lights everywhere, to me, they seem a bit out of place without a layer of white on the ground as well.
Regardless of the weather, Christmas is a time for friends and family to share their love. Being away from my immediate family is tough but I am excited to celebrate this year with my Aussie family for the first time.
by Sol from @ssolalessa
I was born in Argentina, but I’ve been living in Barcelona since I was nine years old. The Christmases here are nice and I love them, but if you ask me I’d rather spend the holidays in Argentina. One of the main reasons is the weather (in December it is summertime) and the second reason is the food.
I remember when my brother and I were young, we would go to my aunt’s house on the 24th, and while waiting for dinner to be ready we would play in the garden and have fun with my cousins. Later on, my aunt would dress us up like little angels and one of us as a mini Santa Claus.
After a delicious meal, including a lot of meat – welcome to Argentina – different salads, sweets and cakes, Santa Claus arrives at midnight and leaves the presents in the garden or at the garage depending on the year. It was such a cool moment, and we were always so excited about it that we never asked ourselves why my dad and uncle always disappeared a few minutes before 12 a.m. and came back to open the presents.
I don’t know why, and I am not sure if other countries do the same, but in Argentina, it was usual (at least some years ago) to throw fireworks on Christmas night. I was so surprised when we celebrated our first Christmas in Barcelona because no one set off a single firework!