What does Christmas mean to you? Maybe it’s your whole family gathered around the fireplace while a decorated tree glitters in the background. Christmas traditions vary greatly from continent to continent, but you don’t have to travel around the world to learn about them. Below are some international Christmas traditions that you might want to use in your own home. Discover how to celebrate Christmas in other countries here!
Table of Contents
- Christmas in other countries – Bulgarian customs
- How is Christmas celebrated in Venezuela?
- Christmas traditions and customs – festive sauna in Finland
- Christmas in other cultures – shoes with carrots in the Netherlands
- Christmas traditions around the world – KFC chicken in Japan
- Christmas in other countries: How Americans celebrate
- Christmas customs in different countries – Poland
- How the Italians celebrate
- Broom and mop in Norway
- Christmas in other countries – Surfing in Australia
Christmas in other countries – Bulgarian customs
On Christmas Eve in Bulgaria, there must always be an odd number of dishes on the table. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church recommends 13 dishes – all vegetarian – and the odd number represents good luck. Vegetables such as stuffed peppers, as well as fruit and walnuts, are usually on the table on Christmas Eve. There is also a pitka (a round bread) with a coin inside and the custom says that the one who finds the coin will have good luck. After the meal, the plates should not be cleared immediately, because it is the custom that the hosts leave the table as it is overnight. This is to provide food for the spirits of ancestors who visit before Christmas morning.
Christmas Eve may be vegetarian, but on Christmas Day a large feast is served with a main course of meat, usually pork. An exchange of gifts on Christmas morning is very common in Bulgarian families. Santa Claus, who visits children on December 25 and brings gifts, is called Djado Koleda, which means Grandfather Christmas. The Koledari, the Christmas carolers, parade from house to house through the villages. These groups usually consist of young men in traditional costumes, which vary from region to region. The performances of the Koledari, which begin at midnight on Christmas Eve, are carefully prepared. This tradition is supposed to protect against evil spirits. The Koledari are rewarded for their services with food.
How is Christmas celebrated in Venezuela?
In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, crowds of city dwellers on roller skates make their way to Mass every year on Christmas morning. The tradition is now so well established that many city streets are closed to traffic from 8 a.m. so that the skating congregation can get to church safely. It is even said that children sleep with one lace of their skates tied around their toe, while the other dangles out the window so their friends can wake them up with a friendly tug on the lace.
Christmas traditions and customs – festive sauna in Finland
Many homes in Finland are equipped with their own sauna, and at Christmas time this cozy place becomes a sacred place associated with long-dead ancestors. On Christmas Eve, it is the custom to strip naked and take a long and respectful bath in the sauna, which is also said to be the home of the legendary sauna elf. After the sauna session, Finns head out for the evening festivities.
Christmas in other cultures: shoes with carrots in the Netherlands
Every year in the days leading up to December 25, Dutch children eagerly place their shoes in front of the fire in hopes that Sinterklaas will fill them with small gifts and treats during the night. Traditionally, carrots are left in the shoes for Sinterklaas’ faithful horse, a white horse named Amerigo. Naughty children used to get a potato instead of presents, but the potato punishment is no longer considered an appropriate deterrent tactic.
Christmas Traditions Around the World – KFC Chicken in Japan
This tradition has only recently been celebrated and is very popular in Japan. Although Christmas is not a major holiday in Japan, some people celebrate the holiday with a feast consisting of nothing but buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The brand even offers Christmas-themed buckets there to celebrate this tradition.
Christmas in other countries: How Americans celebrate
This tradition originated in Germany. A glass cucumber tree ornament is hidden in a Christmas tree. Someone hides the tree ornament deep in the branches of the tree and the person who discovers the cucumber sometime during the Christmas season receives an extra gift or good luck for the coming year.
Christmas customs in different countries – Poland
The traditional Christmas meal in Poland is the wigilia. The Wigilia, which takes place on Christmas Eve, is derived from the Latin word “watch”. Families in Poland believe that what happens during the Wigilia celebrations foretells the coming year.
How Italians celebrate
Italian families celebrate Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes and eat lentils during the holiday to ensure good luck and wealth for the coming year. Children in Italy receive gifts from La Befana at Christmas, but this happens on the eve of January 5. According to popular belief, an old woman visits all the children of Italy to fill their stockings with candy and leave them gifts if they have been good.
Brooms and mops in Norway
You may have already hidden your brooms and mops when you don’t feel like cleaning, but in Norway they take them out because of a Christmas tradition. Norwegian folklore advises hiding brooms and mops on Christmas night to prevent evil spirits returning to earth at Christmas from taking the cleaning tools and flying through the sky with them.
Christmas in other countries – Surfing in Australia
In Australia, Christmas means surfing and lots of it. That’s when people celebrate summer, while we freeze here in Germany. On the beach, Santa arrives on a surfboard instead of a sleigh and after catching a few waves, people celebrate with a Christmas barbecue.