Christmas is a widely recognized Christian holiday celebrated by many people from many different cultures and backgrounds. While much of the world celebrates the Christmas holiday, not every country, culture or community celebrates it in exactly the same way. In fact, Christmas traditions across the world vary by country. How the holiday is celebrated in America stems from the traditions that are deeply rooted in cultures from other countries. Learn more about Christmas around the world and discover which traditions align with your family’s festivities!
In the United States, the Christmas holiday is observed on December 25th. The traditions observed in America came about during the mid-nineteenth century, when the holiday was about attending church, cooking dinner, dancing with friends, and spending time with family. Those who were wealthy and could afford to give gifts did so. Prior to that, Christmas was more of a time for the adult members of society to gather and celebrate. In fact, during the 1700s, children weren’t even invited to many of the balls and other goings-on during the holiday season.
In modern society, Christmas is observed by many American’s each year, who continue to host elaborate gatherings, but who also adorn their homes with festive decor like garland, lights, and evergreen Christmas trees, and who give gifts to friends, relatives, and loved ones. Of course, children all over the United States get into bed early on Christmas Eve to await the arrival of Santa Claus. In addition to these traditions, America has some significant holiday landmarks. For example, New York City is one of the Christmas capitals of the world and a sight to see during the holiday season. Each year, the city is dressed up in holiday merriment as visitors from around the globe and locals enjoy all of the city’s magical holiday wonder.
- Holiday Traditions In America
- Evergreen Tree Traditions
- The Holidays Then And Now In The United States
- Celebrating The Holidays In New York City
Because of the cold and wet climate during the winter months in England, many people burn Yule Logs to celebrate the Christmas holiday. It is customary for families to gather on Christmas Eve to read “A Christmas Carol,” the story of a man who is rotten to the core, but learns the importance of being good and kind to others. In England, it is customary for families to adorn their homes with festive decorations, including holly, mistletoe, and of course, a tree! Typically, a Christmas tree is erected in English homes on December 1st. They are decorated and left standing the whole season long, until January 6th, or Twelfth Night the eve of the Epiphany. Any decorations left standing after January 6th is deemed bad luck. As it is in many countries, English children who have been good all year long are visited by Father Christmas, who brings presents to fill stockings with on Christmas Eve.
In Canada, Christmas is celebrated by two groups of people – the French Canadians and the English Canadians. French Canadians typically take part in Christmas festivities on December 24th. These families spend weeks preparing a massive meal, called a Réveillon, which they share with friends and family on Christmas Eve. This meal consists of meat pies and chocolate cake in the shape of a Yule log. When the meal is done, families decorate their tree late into the evening and when they’re done, they all go to a midnight mass together. Traditionally, a Nativity scene, or crèche is displayed somewhere in the home. Children get to open their stockings on Christmas Eve, saving the bigger presents for their New Year’s Day celebration. On Christmas Day, French Canadian families relax and enjoy spending time with each other. English Canadians, on the other hand, enjoy all of the holiday festivities on Christmas Day. Gifts are opened in the morning and then families get ready for a midday church service. After the mass, everyone comes together to enjoy a feast of goose, beef, and plum pudding. Christmas trees are a big part of English Canadian tradition, too, but not in the way that you think! Many Canadians send a Christmas tree to Boston each year to thank them for their help during the Halifax Explosion. On December 6, 1917, 2 ships collided and caused a massive explosion. The people of Boston came together to help the Canadian residents, sending nurses, medical staff, and supplies to aid in the rescue. So, in thanks, many Canadians send trees to Boston each year, a tradition that continues to this day.
As in many parts of the world, Australians spend most of their Decembers preparing for the Christmas holiday. Families spend time decorating their homes, mailing greeting cards to friends and family, and installing their Christmas trees. You’ll find a lot of holiday trees in Australia – many towns include trees as decorations not only in their homes, but in schools, offices, and other public places as well. On Christmas Eve, children head to bed early to wait for the arrival of Santa Claus. Christmas Day is filled with friends, family, food, and fun. Because the weather is so nice in Australia, many families spend the holiday season outdoors, either going to the beach or spending time camping. It has become something of a tradition for Australians and visitors alike to head to Bondi Beach on Christmas Day; where 40,000 some people go to spend their holiday soaking up the sun.
The Christmas holiday is celebrated in Brazil with a heavier focus on the religious aspects of the season. Santa is referred to as Papai Noel, a jolly man that brings presents to sleeping children on Christmas Eve. Papa Noel appears a bit differently, though – it’s so very hot in Brazil that he wears shorts and a t-shirt when he makes his deliveries! On Christmas morning, families give gifts around their decorated trees. Later in the evening, people enjoy a meal of delicious traditional turkey dinner.
In China, the Christmas holiday is observed with little to no focus on the religious aspects. Chinese people celebrate the holiday much like many other people across the world do. They decorate their homes with lights and trees, give gifts to friends and family, and attend parties throughout the month of December. Christmas is also celebrated throughout the community, where you’ll find the streets, restaurants, and hotels dressed to impress. Many children in China struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve as they wait for presents from the one and only Santa Claus.
Christmas, or Navidad in Mexico, is a festive time of year where the streets are filled with lights, poinsettias, and holiday cheer. Many of the towns in Mexico are decorated with Nativity scenes that depict the birth of Jesus Christ. Often, these displays have live animals in them! On December 24th, Mexican families attend a special mass during the evening, which is followed by an elaborate Christmas dinner that includes turkey, stuffed pork tenderloin, mole sauce, dried cod, and a special hot drink called ponche. On this night, children play with a star-shaped piñata and sparklers. Many families exchange presents late into the night, sometimes staying up as late as 3AM. When all of the gifts are dispersed, kids are quickly sent to bed to await the arrival of Santa.
After the Second World War, many Japanese households started to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Because so few Japanese families observe the Christian religion, the holiday is viewed more as a time to give and receive gifts. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated with a special cake called a Decoration Cake, a sponge cake covered in white whipped cream and topped with strawberries. Nearly every family enjoys a Decoration Cake on Christmas Eve, as children hang their stockings in the hope that Grandfather Santa Claus will soon pay them a visit. Instead of hanging their stockings by the fireplace, children hang them beside their bathtubs because they believe Santa comes into their homes through the pipes.
Christmas is a big deal in Germany! Early in the month of December, pop-up-shops start to display their holiday wares in marketplaces around the country. The tradition of a Christmas Market has continued throughout the years, with each shop selling specialty foods and locally made toys and housewares. These shops signify the start of Advent, which is the most important part of the holiday season for the Germans. On December 6th, or Saint Nicolas’ Day, children eagerly leave a boot outside of their bedroom door in the hopes to find it full of sweets and treats the next morning. Saint Nicholas is the equivalent of Santa Claus, dressed in red with a white beard and a sack full of presents for good boys and girls.
Christmas Games & Activities
By Emma Lewis