Christmas traditions around the world – YOUR PICTURES

Christmas tree on the Red Square, Moscow, Russia - photo by Pavel Zemlyansky. Christmas traditions around the world

Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year to everyone! We’ve had a great response to our Christmas photo challenge in which we’d asked you to send us photos and briefly describe Christmas traditions in your countries. Thanks to you we have managed to collect interesting Christmas traditions from 18 countries! Have a look the the fabulous pictures we’ve received!

Christmas traditions around the world

Flag of Norway .
Norway (“God Jul!”).

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1st December begins most to embellish a bit until Christmas, the hanging lights outside in the trees, and stars light hung in the windows. Most people decorate the Christmas tree on 23rd December and put Christmas presents under it. In the morning of 24th December, we get the Christmas stocking on the bed with Christmas caramels and Christmas magazines. The most common dinner on Christmas eve is pork, sauerkraut, sosisser (small sausages) and meatballs (meatballs of pork) for dessert is the cloudberry cream or rice cream with red sauce. After dinner we open Christmas presents, both adults and children receive gifts. On Christmas Day we eat a late breakfast with lots of Christmas food: meat, liver pate, herring dishes, cheeses and more. At Christmas we visit family and friends and have julepartys (Christmas parties).” (Gry Nordvik Karlsen)

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Italian flag .
Italy  (“Buon Natale!”)

 

“Christmas is a very significant celebration in Italy. There are many traditional dishes for the holidays, especially sweets. In the south of Italy the cuisine is always excellent. We decorate balconies and trees with lights, balls and flakes. At midnight we eat panettone and drink spumante.” (Antonio Tanz Ciriello)

Christmas sweet carrellate - photo by Lorenzo De Donno. Christmas traditions around the world.

“This type of cake is called carrellate. Is a typical Christmas dish of my land, Salento (.the “heel” of the Italian “boot”added by HHH). It’s a fried sweet, covered with colourful sprinkles” (Lorenzo De Donno).

 

“This photo (below on the left) was taken in front of the Basilica della Santa Casa, Loreto. Christmas tradition, for us, consists of creating a nativity scene and a Christmas tree as in many other parts of the world” (David Maccaroni).

In Italian folklore it is Befana, a witch on a broomstick, that brings children presents on the night of 5th January, although the American version of Santa Claus, Babbo Natale, is also present in the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas. The photo on the right was taken on Piazza Navona, Rome by Erminio Cerro.

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Germany flag .
Germany (“Frohe Weihnachten!”)

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Hilde Jüngst – Christmas decoration at the Christmas market on Marienplatz, Munich, Germany. Christmas traditions around the world.“In Germany, Christmas is the most important festival of the year on which the whole family comes together. The pre-Christmas period corresponds to the four weeks before Christmas Eve and begins on the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday in December. You meet friends on the Christmas market for mulled wine. On each Sunday of Advent a candle is lit.” This photo shows Christmas decoration at the Christmas market on Marienplatz, Munich. (Hilde Jüngst).

Christmas market in Koblenz, Germany - photo by Simon Clarke Photography. Christmas traditions around the worldThis image was taken on a trip to Germany for the Christmas markets. And the Germans really know how to do Christmas!. The markets are for eating and drinking, having fun and being with family and friends. Glühwein (mulled wine) flows freely and people fill up on waffles, crepes and all manner of good foods. Each market having areas where you can just enjoy each others company. And no one drunk and fighting!. Each stall you visit sells things to do with Christmas…. tree ornaments, general Christmas decorations and everything in between. Wood, china, chocolate! You name it. And each town you travel through it’s always lit up with white/golden lights…. no tacky Santa’s and multi coloured snowmen here. Unlike UK markets where it’s more about what they can sell you as a gift. If you really want to see Christmas as it should be and start the festive season off with a bang…. go to Germany”. (Simon Peter Clarke).

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Flag of Mexico .
Mexico (“Feliz Navidad!”)

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Chiles en Nogados - photo by Amy - My Food Stories. Christmas traditions around the world“The top Mexican Christmas tradition is the Posadas where family and friends perform a play with a unique song asking for a place at an Inn before the baby (Jesus) is born. Chiles en Nogados is another Christmas tradition in Mexico. The recipe originated back in 1821, when the victorious Mexican General Augustin de Iturbide stopped in Puebla, and a community of nuns prepared this dish to honor him on Mexican Independence Day.  It’s a popular dish to share during Christmas time.” (My Food Stories).Christmas sparlkers in Mexico - luces de bengala  - photo by Kid World Citizen. Christmas traditions around the world .

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“In Mexico, there are lots of life-sized Nativity scenes, and on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve night), kids hit a star-shaped piñata and also play with luces de bengala (sparklers).” (Kid World Citizen).

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Flag of the Netherlands .
Netherlands (“Vrolijk kerstfeest!”)

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Marjan Smeijsters - Santa Claus. Christmas traditions around the world “Most Dutch people do not see Christmas as the primary moment in December for giving each other gifts. This happens on 5 December, on the day Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas, also referred to as Santa Claus) celebrates his name day. It is also said that Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are nephews.

In The Netherlands Christmas is about solidarity and love. Most Dutch are not religious but celebrate it anyway. Christmas is celebrated on two days, 25th and 26th December.

Marjan Smeijsters - Christmas tree in Nijmegen.  Christmas traditions around the worldFamilies gather for a plentiful dinner on one of those days, while on the other day the same happens within the smaller circle of your own household, or with your family-in-law. Scheduling this all can be quite a puzzle. Preparing these meals begins days ahead. Many recipes are challenging, which takes a lot of time and also the decoration of the houses where the dinners take place, with Christmas trees and so on keeping you busy the last few days before Christmas day. .

A typical Dutch dish during the winter months and can be found in many traditional Christmas dinners is Stoofpeertjes (stewed cinnamon pears). It can be eaten warm or cold, served as dessert, but can also be served as a side dish.

The cold meals of the days around Christmas often contain Kerststol (Christmas stollen), a traditional Dutch oval-shaped fruited Christmas bread loaf with almond paste.” (Marjan Smeijsters)

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. Flag of Sweden
Sweden
(“God Jul!”) .

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Christmas decoration in Sweden - photo by Signe WF. Christmas traditions around the world“First of all, Sweden celebrate Christmas the 24th of December unlike most other countries. And during Christmas in Sweden television plays a major role. Every Christmas at 3 o’clock, the whole family sits in front of the television to watch “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” (Donald Duck and his friends wish Merry Christmas), which is a Disney special consisting of short movie clips with Donald Duck, Ferdinand the bull, Lady and the Tramp, Snow White etc.. Although many do not really want to watch this we feel a compulsion because it is a tradition here in Sweden.” (Signe WF).

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Flag of the United Kingdom .
United Kingdom
(“Merry Christmas!”)

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Christmas decoration in arlham St, Covent garden, London, England - photo by  silabob. Christmas traditions around the world“Some UK Christmas traditions:

Switching on the Christmas lights; in London a celebrity guest gets to flick a switch and light up the whole of Oxford Street and surrounding areas of London’s West End. This also happens all over the UK around Nov/Dec time.

Pulling Crackers; friends/family pull festive crackers around the Christmas diner table and share the contents. They usually consist of a paper crown to wear, a small toy/gift and a short, often very bad Christmas themed joke. Leaving a Christmas snack for Father Christmas in England - photo by Jo Hopgood. Christmas traditions around the world. A drink for Santa; its customary in the UK for a small drink of Sherry or something stronger and a mince pie to be left out late on Christmas Eve so Santa can have a tipple to send him on his very “merry” way over the roof-tops.” (silabob).

“Leaving a drink & a snack for Santa & his reindeer. Varying from home to home the most traditional choice being milk, cookies and a carrot for the reindeer. Who knew Santa was a dunker though?!” (Jo Hopgood).

Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes, UK at Christmas - photo by Dave Allen. Christmas traditions around the world.
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“The Christmas lights are a pivotal to the town’s tradition with a big opening ceremony full of lanterns of colour, happy faces, and the meeting of old friends. The pubs and restaurants filled with people enjoying the time of year right through to the start of the New Year.” (Dave Allen).

Belfast Christmas market - photo by Derek Hall. Christmas traditions around the world.
“Each year at the Belfast (Northern Ireland) City Hall a Christmas Market from all over Europe sets up selling various festive and interesting fayer.” (Derek Hall).

If you’d like to know more about Christmas traditions in the UK, read our post: 16 Facts about Christmas traditions in Britain.

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Flag of Brazil .
Brazil
(“Feliz Natal!”)

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Christmas parade Natal Luz in Gramado, RS, Brazil - photo by Carol's Adventures in Translation. Christmas traditions around the worldThis picture was taken in Gramado, RS, Brazil (it’s in the Southern part of the country). It’s a very famous and traditional Christmas parade called Natal Luz. Besides the beautiful parade and the city’s gorgeous decorations, which draws visitors from all around the country, Brazilians also celebrate Christmas Eve among their families with a sumptuous feast, along with fireworks at midnight. Brazilian supermarkets are packed with fruity and chocolate panettones. . Christmas in Ouro Preto, Brazil - photo by Felipe Matarucco. Christmas traditions around the worldRabanada is our traditional Christmas treat. (Carol’s Adventures in Translation – check it out for the Rabanada recipe).

“This Christmas Shot (to the right) was taken in Ouro Preto, which might be the best sample of Brazilian 18th Century architecture.” (Felipe Matarucco).

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Flag of Catalonia .
Catalonia
(“Bon Nadal!”)

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Caga Tio market stall, Barcelona, Spain (2). Christmas traditions in CataloniaThe most traditional (dating back to the 4th century) Christmas decoration in Catalonia is the nativity scene (pessebre). Families prepare it at the beginning of December or right before Christmas, often painting the figurines themselves. In Catalonia it’s not Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Baby Jesus who bring presents, but a cheeky log wearing a traditional Catalan hat, which you have to hit with a stick in order to make it “drop” you some gifts. It’s called Tió de Nadal.

Another peculiar tradition related with “shitting” is the figurine a caganer – a man with his trousers round his ankles, captured in the act of defecation, which is put together with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the nativity scene.Huge caganer decoration in Mare Magnum shopping centre in 2010, Barcelona, Spain In Catalan tradition Christmas period continues until the Epiphany (6th January). On that day Catalan families gather around the table and eat the traditional tortell de Reis (King’s cake). It is also on that day (El dia de Reis, the Day of the Kings) when the Three Wise Men visit Catalan houses and leave the abundant Christmas gifts for children.

“In typical Christmas is mount the family Christmas tree, usually on the 8th of December, so you can enjoy more of it, especially children. We also have a habit of putting these two elves who bought on a trip to Austria.” (Manel Cantarero Martinezphoto below).

Read more about in our post 11 Facts about Christmas traditions in Catalonia.

Christmas elves in Catalonia - photo by Manel Cantarero Martinez. Christmas traditions around the world

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Flag of Russia .
Russia (“С Рождеством!” /”S-RazhdestvOm!”)

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“That’s a Christmas tree near the GUM shopping mall, on Moscow’s Red Square. Every year the GUM make a temporary ice rink here, and place a big fir near the main entrance.” (Pavel Zemlyanskyleft picture).

“Christmas Decoration Trade House GUM on Red Square in Moscow (Russia). Instead of the historic fountain in the center of the store there was a wonderful electric illuminated ‘fountain’. This year GUM Trading House celebrates its 120-year anniversary, so the interior was decorated especially lushly and colorfully.” (Vladimir Sergeevright picture).

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Flag of Greece ..
Greece (“Καλά Χριστούγεννα!” / “Kalá Christoúgenna!”)

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Melomakarona Christmas sweet in Greece - photo by Alexandra Fakiri. Christmas traditions around the world“Christmas Trees are becoming more popular in Greece, but they aren’t traditional. Instead most houses will have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire that is suspended across the rim. A sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross hangs from the wire. Some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, someone, usually the mother of the family, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house.” (found on whychristmas.com).

And here we’ve got a picture of “The famous Christmas sweet melomakarona of Greece.” (Alexandra Fakiri).

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American Flag .
United States
(“Merry Christmas!”) .

The US is such a vast and culturally diverse place, it’s hard to pick one tradition that would represent the whole country and all the cultures that melt there. Let’s just look at only some of them…

Nativity scene in Seattle, Washington, USA - photo by Natalia Naumova. Christmas traditions around the world“In Seattle, Washington, USA, one of the favorite traditions in which the Christmas season is celebrated is an outside front yard light setup emphasizing a snowman or a nativity scene. In the Pacific Northwest, yard lights at Xmas time are quite common in all residential neighborhoods, and some of them participate in local competitions for best holiday lights display.

Christmas tree in Hiram, Georgia, USA - photo by Debbie Blankenship. Christmas traditions around the worldThis is a good time to drive around neighborhoods and enjoy festive Christmas scenes representing complex elaboration and art. Some other symbols of the holiday are Christmas cookies, gingerbread ornaments, socks and a Xmas tree that give homes that special and precious spirit of a holiday season, comfort and happiness. And, of course, caroling both on the radio and public places that starts at the end of November and encourages us take a special effort in making our homes look beautiful inside and outside.” (Natalia Naumovaphoto above).

“The tradition in Georgia, USA is to ride around in the car and look at Christmas lights. This tree is in the square of downtown Hiram, Georgia, USA.” (Debbie Blankenshipleft photo).

Christmas tree in Hoboken, NJ, USA - photo by John A. Dryzga. Christmas traditions around the world

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Christmas in Hoboken, New Jersey. “Hoboken is most famous for being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. Fewer people know it is also the birthplace of the zipper and the ice cream cone. Hoboken is a fairly diverse city so our Christmas traditions are a fun mix of many cultures. We do have a large Italian American community in town, so many families will be celebrating Christmas Eve with the traditional Feast of Seven Fishes. This is a truly epic meal of seven(at least) seafood dishes are served.” (John A. Dryzga).

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Flag of Denmark.
Denmark
(“Glædelig Jul!”)

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Nisser in Denmark - photo by MyDailyDenmark. Christmas traditions around the world“As soon as the calender reaches December 1, Denmark will be invaded by NISSER, small pixies, gnomes, elves or whatever they are called abroad. The shops are offering different  types of nisser, but they have one thing in common, their clothes and red hats. A nisse has the size of a 10 year old boy, and dresses like a farmer did in the old days. If mysterious things happened at the farm, people expected the Nisse to be responsible for it. Perhaps as a result of being angry for some reason. An angry nisse can give you many problems. Today we still explain mysterious things as being “caused by a nisse”.

Calendar Candle -photo by My Daily Denmark - Christmas traditions around the worldAnother important thing to do on December 1, is to light the calendar candle with the 24 numbers painted on. Every day it gets shorter, and the big day for sharing presents gets closer.

Christmas is celebrated at December 24, with a dinner which typically will be roast pork, or/ and duck, red cabbage and sugar browned potatoes, and sauce. (My Daily Denmark; we encourage you to read the full post directly on their website).

Risalamande in Denmark - photo by Susanne Wiesen. Christmas traditions around the world.
Risalamande (or Ris a la mande), a most delicious and creamy rice pudding, is a Danish Christmas tradition that was shared with us by a student that we hosted from Denmark. If you are the lucky recipient of the portion containing a whole almond you win a special prize!” (Susanne Wiesen).

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Flag of Belgium.
Belgium (“Vrolijk Kerstfeest!” or “‘Djoyeus Noyé!”)

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Christmas decorations in Leuven, Belgium - photo by Quinten Malfait. Christmas traditions around the world“On Christmas Eve, a special meal is eaten by most families. It starts with a drink (apéritif) and ‘nibbles’, followed by a ‘starter’ course such as sea-food, and then stuffed turkey. The dessert is ‘Kerststronk‘ (Flemish) or ‘la bûche de Noël‘ (Walloon) a chocolate Christmas Log made of sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate butter cream and made to resemble a bark-covered log.” (found on whychristmas.com).

“This picture is taken in Leuven, a little town next to Brussels. We love to celebrate Xmas in Belgium, so the whole city get covered by Christmas lights etc. Everyone enjoys the atmosphere, so too the girl with the pointy boobs.” (Quinten Malfait).

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Flag of Poland.
Poland (“Wesołych Świąt!”)

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Polish Christmas carp, barszcz and sauerkrautChristmas celebrations start in Poland on the night of Christmas Eve. Families sit to the Christmas table as soon as they spot the first star on the winter sky. Christmas culinary traditions differ depending on the region, but in almost every Polish house you are bound to eat fried carp. The fish can be bought alive or already prepared for cooking. There is a superstition that if you put the carp’s scale in your wallet, you will be lucky and rich in the forthcoming year.

Polish Christmas table. Christmas traditions around the worldIt’s important to serve 12 dishes on your Christmas table which is linked to the number of Apostles. It is believed that you should try all of them; otherwise the next year food will be less abundant. It’s customary to leave one empty seat with a set of plates and cutlery for an errant wanderer who might knock on your door and need something warm to eat. On Christmas Eve you shouldn’t refuse anything to the ones who might need your help. Before you start your Christmas supper, Polish people share Christmas wafers (opłatek) and wish each other happy holidays.  Opłatek is a white, thin as paper wafer made of flour and water. You can buy it at a local church for a small donation for the poor.

To learn more read our post: 18 Facts about Christmas traditions in Poland.

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Flag of Hungary.
Hungary
(“Boldog Karácsonyt!”)

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Advent candles in Hungary - photo by Pack Me To. Christmas traditions around the world“The weeks leading up to Christmas in Hungary are known as advent and is observed with an advent wreath made up of four candles. On each of the Sundays leading up to Christmas, one of the candles is lit. Unlike much of North America, Christmas itself is actually celebrated more on the 24th where the tree is set up and gifts exchanged. December 25th is typically reserved for visiting family.” (Pack Me To).

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Flag of Canada.
Canada
(“Joyeux Noël!” or “Merry Christmas!”)

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Christmas decoration in Caraquet, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada - photo by Ginette D Chiasson. Christmas traditions around the world.
“Christmas in Caraquet, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada. Country of the French Canadians. We like to gather with family mostly during Christmas, eat, drink and be Merry! Lots of snow too for snowmobiling, ski, ice fishing and snow-shoeing!! Best place in the world for nature and winter lovers.” (Ginette D Chiasson).

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Vancouver Christmas Market, BC, Canada - photo by Swarnadip Banerjee. Christmas traditions around the world.
“This photo was taken in Vancouver Christmas Market, BC, Canada.” (Swarnadip Banerjee).

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Flag of Austria.
Austria
(“Frohliche Wehnachten!”)

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Christmas market in Vienna, Austria - by Helen Bellart. Christmas traditions around the worldThis time not only have we received photos in our Christmas Challenge, but also a painting! It shows the beautiful Christmas market in Vienna. The artist of this great work says: “The Christmas markets in Vienna truly are an age-old tradition and have one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. During Advent time Vienna is a city of nostalgia, romance, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets. Advent in Vienna during November and December complements the market in front of the City Hall The adjoining Rathauspark is a place of seasonal inspiration with festively adorned trees, pony riding, trips on the chriskindl Express and fairytale scenes portrayed in artistically -arranged display.” (Helen Bellart).

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Thanks to all of you who participated in our challenge and we are sorry we couldn’t post all the wonderful photos you sent us! Have a great New Year, full of adventures and happiness!

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