Turkey with all the trimmings before the King’s(!) speech, plum pudding, mince pies, Christmas crackers, carol singing, pantomimes and Father Christmas delivering presents on Christmas Eve. Just some of the traditions we have here in the United Kingdom.
While across the globe there are similarities to how we do things during the festive period, you’ll also find plenty of differences.
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Feliz Navidad
In Mexico, Christmas traditions are rooted in Spanish and indigenous culture. Mexicans get to enjoy a whole month of celebrating, starting on the 12th of December and lasting through until the 6th of January.
- Taking part in processions re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem
- These processions end at a different house every night, where locals enjoy a fiesta with food, drink and merriment
- Fireworks on Christmas Eve
- Children receive gifts on Día de Reyes (Three Kings’ Day) which is celebrated on the 6th of January
In Mexico, the food enjoyed over the Christmas period includes tamales which are a corn-based dough mixture filled with various meats or beans and cheese. They also eat bacalao (salted fish) and buñuelos (sweet fritters). A favourite for Christmas Eve is pozole- a rich soup made with pork or chicken.
Merry Christmas in Russian: С Рождеством
In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January. Many of Russia’s Christmas traditions originated from the pagan culture that existed in Russia before Christianity. Russians view the Christmas season as a time of love, forgiveness and acceptance.
- Fortune telling on Christmas Eve
- Singing carols
- Taking part in the Nativity Fast which takes place during the 40 days leading up to Christmas
Source: Russia Beyond
Russian Christmas meals are varied with some families staying traditional and some breaking from tradition. There is often a big celebratory meal enjoyed after dark on Christmas Eve to signify the end of the fasting.
Foods traditionally enjoyed at Christmas include gherkins, pickled mushrooms and sauerkraut. They also eat Pirozhki (meat stuffed buns) and creamy Olivier salad which is a combination of potatoes, eggs, pickles, peas, carrots, boiled meat and apples.
Merry Christmas in Norwegian: God jul
In Norway, the main Christmas celebration takes place on 24th of December. It is known as julebord.
- Seven varieties of cookies are baked in the lead up to Christmas
- In the days after Christmas Eve, children dress up in fun costumes and walk around the neighbourhood singing Christmas carols in return for candy (of course!)
- When Santa visits on Christmas Eve, he is left rice porridge with sugar, cinnamon and butter to sustain him on his rounds
- Presents are also brought by the Nisse who are small gnomes
- On Christmas Eve, some Norwegians hide their brooms as there is a superstition that on this night evil spirits and witches awake and will ride the brooms across the country if they are left in plain sight
Norwegians enjoy eating pig, lamb or fish served with ‘surkal’ (white or red cabbage, finely chopped and cooked with caraway seeds and vinegar) and potatoes. And of course, cookies!
Source: Norway with Pal
Merry Christmas in Austrian: Frohe Weihnachten
The lead up to Christmas in Austria is known as “the most peaceful time of the year”, when they enjoy baking biscuits, singing carols and decorating their homes.
- December 5th is Krampus Day when St Nicholas and his sinister companion Krampus (dressed in a scary mask and sheep skin, replete with goat horns) come to homes to check who is being good- a stark reminder to be on best behaviour indeed!
- Presents are brought by ‘Christkind’ (Baby Jesus) on Christmas Eve and opened then too
- Around 7pm on Christmas Eve, the town Christmas tree is lit for the first time, and everyone gathers to sing carols (this is an opportunity for ‘Christkind’ to deliver gifts in secret!)
Austrians begin feasting late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, when fried carp is enjoyed with vegetables and potatoes. This might be followed by sachertorte, a famous Austrian cake.
On Christmas Day, Austrians traditionally eat roasted goose with red cabbage and dumplings. And of course, glühwein is a favourite to drink.
Source: Austria Travel
Merry Christmas in German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
In Germany, the main celebration is on Christmas Eve when families decorate the tree, prepare food and clean the home. As evening falls, they gather around the tree.
- Children leave a polished shoe or boot outside their home on the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day (6th December) which is filled with chocolate coins, small toys and oranges
- ‘Christkind’ (Christ child) delivers the presents on Christmas Eve as children wait outside the room; a bell is then rung so children know they can come back in
- The Christmas tree is often put up on Christmas Eve
- Wooden nutcracker decorations are popular and are seen as a symbol of good luck
At a traditional German Christmas feast you may find Bratwurst, Leberwurst or Weisswurst (sausages) as an appetiser, followed by roast goose, roast pork or baked fish.
Stollen is enjoyed throughout the Christmas season which is fruit bread made with nuts, spices, candied fruit and powdered sugar.
Source: Doves Farm
Other Fun Facts about Christmas Around the World
13 mischievous trolls roam the country in the fortnight before Christmas. From the Sausage-Swiper to the Doorway-Sniffer to the Spoon-Licker, each troll takes a turn visiting children to drop off presents in their shoes.
On January 5th, families leave out a glass of wine and a plate of sausages for La Befana, an old lady who comes down the chimney on her broomstick to leave presents for the children.
Source: Happy Rentals
Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs. This comes from a legend that a poor widow couldn’t afford a tree for herself and her two children, so she used a pinecone instead. On Christmas morning they woke up to find the pinecone blanketed in cobwebs which in the sunlight sparkled silver and gold.
While Christmas isn’t huge in Japan, the Japanese like to enjoy a bucket of KFC on Christmas Day. Some families even book a table at a KFC restaurant for the big day, while others join the queue at the drive-thru for their chicken feast.
Whatever you are doing to celebrate this festive season, whether in the UK or further afield, have a good one from all at IXL Tutors.