Have you ever wondered what Christmas is like somewhere else in the world? Most countries have their own traditions, decorations, and beliefs when it comes to the festive season.
Did you know that Christmas Trees were first popularised in the UK during the Victorian era? Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought the tradition of having a Christmas Tree and decorating it over from Germany as a way of bringing one of his Christmas traditions over to England.
Without further ado, here are five examples of what Christmas looks like around the world.
Like many other countries worldwide, Argentina usually celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. Houses are decorated with light and wreaths, while doors are hung with red and white garlands. Christmas Trees are also popular here and typically decorated by 8th December. Some even put cotton balls on their trees to look like snow!
Some will often stay awake into the early hours of the morning chatting to friends or visiting family, and will often spend Christmas Day sleeping or going to mass in the afternoon.
Argentinians speak Spanish, so to wish someone a Merry Christmas, you would say “¡Feliz Navidad!”
Santa never has to travel far to deliver presents to the people in Finland, as his home in Lapland (or Korvatunturi in Finnish) is in the north of the country.
Everyone’s houses are cleaned to prepare for the three holy days of Christmas: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It’s traditional to buy a Christmas tree from the local market, either on Christmas Eve or the day before. Some people even enjoy visiting their nearest sauna on Christmas Eve!
The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve and will usually consist of a leg of pork with mashed potatoes, mashed swede and other winter root vegetables. Cured salmon is also a popular main meal as well as turkey. Traditionally, dessert consists of a baked rice pudding to be eaten with spiced plum jam. A single almond is hidden in the pudding and whoever finds it will be lucky for the next year!
“Hyvää joulua” is how you would say Merry Christmas in Finnish, and to the Sami people who live in the northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden, you would say “Buorit Juovllat”.
One of the oldest and most traditional decorations to have in a Greek home at Christmas is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across it, and water kept in the bottom. There will be a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross and hung from the wire. Once a day, the mother of the family will drip the cross and basil in holy water and sprinkle it into every room of the house to keep away the bad spirits, or Καλλικάντζαρος (kallikantzaroi). These spirits only appear between Christmas and Epiphany (6th January) and will put out your fires and make your milk go off!
Loaves of ‘Christopsomo’ (Christmas bread) are traditionally kept on tables as decoration. Christopsomo is a round, sweet bread and is decorated with a cross on the top. Families usually make this bread on Christmas Eve ready to eat on Christmas Day.
Some parts of Greece also have households throwing a pomegranate at their front door! The fruit will break and will scatter its seeds around the door which signifies good luck and happiness for the house.
To say Merry Christmas in Greek, you would say Καλά Χριστούγεννα! (Kala Christougenna!)
Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in India however, there are still approximately over 25 million Christians in India.
People will decorate their homes with mango leaves, and will decorate a banana or mango tree instead of a Christmas tree!
On Christmas Eve in Goa, people will hang giant paper star-shaped lanterns between houses and buildings, so the stars will float above you as you walk down the street.
In Southern India, Christians will burn oil-burning clay lamps on the roofs of their homes to show that Jesus is ‘the light of the world’. Tribal Christians known as the Bhil in north-west India will go out every night during the week of Christmas to sing their carols and visit surrounding villages to tell the Christmas story.
Merry Christmas in Hindi is शुभ क्रिसमस (“Śubh krisamas”), in Urdu they say کرسمس (“krismas mubarak”), and in Sanskrit it’s “Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa”. Many languages are spoken in India apart from Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit such as Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, Shindi, and more.
In the Philippines, Christmas is a much-adored holiday and is celebrated for as long as possible! Shops may start playing Christmas songs and selling decorations as early as September.
Some Christmas traditions include having a parol, which is a bamboo pole with a lit star lantern on it, and it represents the star that guided the Wise Men to the birth of Jesus.
Filipinos will also have a ‘Noche Buena’ which is a big open house celebration with friends and family, where anyone can drop by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. There will be lots of dishes laid out, including roasted pig, rice cakes, steamed rice and sweets.
On Christmas Eve, most families will stay awake all night and into Christmas Day. They will go to church for Christmas Eve mass and then attend the midnight feast of Noche Buena.
The Philippines has several widely spoken languages, but to say Merry Christmas in Filipino/Tagalog you would say “Maligayang Pasko!”.
We hope you learned a few facts about Christmas around the world and the different traditions that are celebrated!
Merry Christmas everyone!