Christmas Traditions from around the World
As well as the wonderful Christmas traditions we enjoy each year, there are many more fun festive activities taking place all over the world this season to learn about.
With the Christmas holiday upon us, it truly is the season to be jolly! Here at Jooki, we love Christmas time and taking part in holiday traditions — old and new. Christmas traditions can be enjoyed year after year as a family, and taking part in your favorites is a sure way to feel festive! From rocking around the Christmas tree to festive baking, we’re fortunate to have a whole host of Christmas traditions to enjoy here in the US.
Classic Christmas Traditions
Some of our favorite Christmas traditions take place at home, and it’s great to listen and sing along to both classic carols and contemporary Christmas songs while we enjoy the festivities. Music is an integral part of Christmas, whether at home, traveling for the holidays, or as part of school or community activities in the Yuletide season.
Christmas traditions don’t have to be anything grand, either. Some of the most timeless family traditions include baking holiday cookies, writing to Santa Claus, and decorating the Christmas tree along with the rest of your home. And after another fun-filled Christmas themed day is done, there’s nothing nicer than curling up as a family with a story.
Christmas Traditions from around the World
However, we’re not the only ones who can boast some wonderful yuletide traditions. Across the world, different places favor many other fun Christmas traditions that are enjoyed as a family, community, or whole country.
Finding out about Christmas traditions in other countries around the world is a great way to engage children in learning about different cultures. In fact, learning about different traditions this holiday season can be a fun yuletide activity in itself! And who knows, maybe you’ll even incorporate parts of another country’s tradition into those of your own family.
Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Ligligan Parul, meaning Giant Lantern Festival, is held every December in the Philippines in the city of San Fernando. Each giant lantern or parol contains thousands of spinning lights, lighting up the sky and symbolizing the Star of David. You can read more about it here and check out some beautiful photos of the festival with your children.
The Icelandic Yule Lads
We’ve all heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, but how about 13? In Iceland, families celebrate a wonderfully funny tradition each year involving a visit from a legendary Yuletide Lad every night for 13 days. The folklore states children should leave their shoes by the window, ready for a visit from one of the Yuletide Lads, who are each essentially troll-like and mischievous, wholly different from the Santa Claus we know and love.
If children have been good, they should find candy or a small gift in their shoes the next morning. If they’ve been naughty, they might instead wake to find them filled with rotten potatoes! That sounds like a good enough incentive to be nice over naughty if ever we heard one!
Christmas Eve Dinner, Portugal and Brazil
Families in Brazil and Portugal traditionally gather together on Christmas Eve for a late celebratory dinner. They then toast Christmas and exchange gifts at midnight. Many also attend midnight mass, Missa Do Galo, or Rooster Mass, where communities can gather together and exchange Christmas wishes.
Often, after the midnight mass service, people gather in a town square and enjoy fireworks.
Advent Calendar Making, Switzerland
In Switzerland, it’s traditional for families to make their own advent calendars together, to mark the beginning of the holiday season. Children and adults can get creative with their designs and choose to include a small treat or gift with each calendar day. Often, there is a bigger gift on Christmas eve, to finish the calendar.
Las Posadas, Mexico
Holiday celebrations in Mexico are marked in large part with a vibrant Christmas festival called Las Posadas. This festival runs from 16th to 24th December and is a religious tradition to commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Children are the center of Las Posadas, dressing up and leading a nightly procession with candles. Carols are sung, and often musicians make up part of the procession too.
January Celebration, Ukraine
In Ukraine, Orthodox Christians — who equal just under half of the population — have their own Christmas traditions with both activities and special food. They hold a Christmas celebration on 7th January every year, which involves a parade through their town singing Christmas Carols. Residents dress in traditional Ukrainian costumes for this and often play instruments too.
The dish kutya, made from wheat, honey, and ground poppy seeds, is usually enjoyed on Christmas Eve. A tradition for many families is to throw some of it at the ceiling. The legend being, if it sticks, there will be a fruitful harvest the following year.
Rice Porridge, Finland
On Christmas morning, it is traditional for families in Finland to eat a festive porridge made from rice and milk, topped with cinnamon or butter. Traditionally, one bowl will have an almond nut hidden in it, with the one who finds it “winning.”
We imagine a few families place almonds in all of their children’s bowls, though, so as not to risk any of them feeling left out on Christmas morning!
Christmas Eve Dancing, Denmark
The Danes used to celebrate Christmas as jól, meaning brighter days, as the winter solstice happened shortly after. Since Christianity came to Denmark, Christmas Day has been celebrated as such, but some traditional Danish customs remain.
One is placing decorations called nisse around the house. According to old folklore, these are mythical creatures, a little gnome-like in appearance, who are thought to ward off any danger or bad luck.
Then, on Christmas Eve, many families in Denmark place their Christmas tree in the middle of their room at home and dance around it while singing carols. This also sounds like a lovely way to keep warm in the winter season, as well as celebrate Christmas!
The Krampus, Austria
In Austria, the mythical creature Krampus brings a new meaning to the naughty or nice list. Part goat, part demon, The Krampus is believed to hunt for wicked children in December, so watch, out kids! For most Austrian families, we’re sure the legend of Krampus is more fun than feared — perhaps a little like our Elf on the Shelf, who keeps an eye on the children in the run up to the holidays!
Austria celebrates the Krampus legend in early December with a street procession the night before the traditional Feast of St Nicholas.
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? We’d love to hear them! Head on over to our Facebook or Instagram and share yours.