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Christmas Celebrations Around the World

Updated on November 11, 2011

We all know what the usual practices are at Christmas in the United States, but what about Christmas around the world? What differences would be seen if you were to be in another country at that joyous time of the year? There are many different traditions that are followed, some of which are very close to an American Christmas and some, which are quite different.


In Ireland children do not set out stockings to be filled but sacks. Then they put out mince pies and Guinness for Santa to enjoy. In Spain instead of Santa it is Papa Noel that brings gifts for the children by climbing up onto balconies. Things are different again if you are in Mexico. On Christmas Eve there will be processions of singers who walk the streets carrying candles that are at the top of very long poles. They also carry bells, ringing them as they follow this procession until it leads them to their church. As well, the children often put out their shoes instead of stockings.

In Kenya the homes and churches are decorated very differently. They use balloons and ribbons and well as many lovely green plants when making ready for their celebrations. They also have a Christmas tree. Unlike the United States, where dinner is usually a turkey at Christmas, in Kenya the family gets together for a barbeque. This occasion brings families together and it is the tradition for families to come together for this occasion even if it means traveling from a great distance.

In Britain, a country we might think has very similar traditions to those of Americans; you still find great differences in the way the holiday is observed. Dinner consists of turkey with a stuffing, with side dishes of roasted potatoes, and a pudding for desert. This pudding is prepared in advance to make sure it is just right for the occasion. The tradition that goes with this pudding is twofold; each member of the family must help to stir the pudding as it is prepared. During the stirring they are to make a wish for the coming year. As well the night it is eaten brandy is poured on it and it is lit to keep away the evil spirits.

Children write their Christmas requests to Father Christmas instead of Santa and put them in the fireplace so that the list can climb up the chimney where it will then find its way to him. The British also follow an old time tradition on the day after Christmas. This day is called Boxing Day which is named for the small boxes that would be given to the trades people one deals with regularly. This included the milkman, the butcher, the mailman, and others who are still given a little something extra on that day to thank them for their good service.

Christmas around the world is not always celebrated in the middle of the winter. In New Zealand it is summer at Christmas time. So the children set a cold beer out for Santa with his snack at Christmas Eve. They usually enjoy a cold ham as their Christmas dinner, often going to the beach or out for a picnic instead of having their meal at home. Australia also celebrates with a meal outside and then commonly celebrates with a cricket match or a day lying in the warm sands of their favorite beach. They have no reindeers and so eight white kangaroos pull Santa's sleigh. Another country that celebrates Christmas in the summer is South Africa. They celebrate with a big meal at lunchtime on Christmas day. Then people spend the day visiting family and friends where they exchange gift boxes. These boxes very often have food of some kind inside.

Christmas Greetings

If you were to send wishes of the season when viewing Christmas around the world, and were in Spain you would say feliz navïdad while in Mexico it is feliz navidad y prospero año nue vo. in South Africa, where there are eleven main languages the Christmas greetings would be said most commonly in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Swazi and Sotho. The beauty of all these differences is that it shows that Christmas is the celebration of a special day that can be shared in so many ways.


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