Just as different cultures celebrate their versions of the Thanksgiving holiday, there are also variances in the way other countries celebrate the Christmas season. In the United States, Christmas is celebrated by decorating buildings with festive lights, adorning Christmas trees with ornaments, exchanging presents between friends and family, and gathering at events such as Christmas parades.
It is hard to imagine the holidays being celebrated any other way, however holiday traditions take on many forms. Here are just a few of the varying types of Christmas celebrations that occur around the world.
Christmas Celebrations Around the World
- Australia: December 25th actually falls in the middle of summer vacation for Aussies. This means that a lot of Christmas festivities are celebrated outside, such as the famous Carols by Candlelight ritual. During this yearly tradition, celebrators gather at night under candlelight to sing their favorite Christmas carols.
- France: While celebrating the holiday season begins on December 5th in France, the most important day of celebration is actually Christmas Eve. Each December 24th, French citizens sing carols and church bells ring throughout the countryside. Christmas Day is reserved for church activities and feasting on their customary dish, buche de Noel, which is a cake filled with sweet buttercream.
- Holland: Just as the United States awaits the arrival of Santa Claus, the children of The Netherlands wait for Sinterklaas on December 6, which is St. Nicholas Day. The story behind Sinterklaas is that the bishop travels by ship from Spain and brings presents to all the children. Families celebrate St. Nicholas Eve with a feast and a traditional “letter cake,” which is a pastry shaped into the first letter of the family’s last name.
- China: The Christmas tradition in Chinese is Sheng Dan Jieh, which translates to “Holy Birth Festival.” Like the United States, families put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with lanterns and flowers. One of the biggest symbols of the Christmas season is red paper chains, which symbolize happiness.
- Germany: Germany is very cold in December, but that doesn’t stop the Germans from celebrating the holidays. They make a traditional Advent wreath with four colored candles on forth Sunday before Christmas. Traditional food is made during the holidays, such as sweet loaves of bread, spicy cookies referred to as “lebkuchen,” and cakes with fruits on the inside.
- Sweden: Christmas festivities in Sweden begin on December 13, which is referred to as St. Lucia’s Day. Each year, the eldest daughter dresses up as the “Queen of Light” by wearing a long white dress and a crown of leaves. She then goes room to room to serve her family coffee and treats in bed.
- India: In October and November, Diwali is celebrated with parades, music, colorful lights, and firecrackers. Palm trees or mango trees are decorated with lights, and some attend Christmas Eve services that have plays, pageants, and/or speakers. One of the well-known “Christmas flowers,” the poinsettia, grows wild in India and blooms in time for the Christmas season.
While Christmas and holiday celebrations vary around the world, the one thing in common is that everyone wants to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. If you find yourself wanting to veer out in a different celebratory direction, try incorporating one of holiday traditions into your yearly festivities!