Unique Christmas customs around the world
Christmas festivities have been occurring for centuries. And as knowledge of the holiday has spread, different countries around the world have begun to celebrate Christmas as well. Along the way, each place has adapted the Christmas celebration to their own culture creating a variety of interesting and unique traditions.
For many people, Christmas brings to mind images of winter, snow, evergreen trees decorated with ornaments, and a Santa Claus delivering presents to children. But not every country celebrates Christmas exactly the same way.
In Australia, Christmas Day always falls in the middle of summertime changing a big part of the usual holiday tradition. Australians can’t build snowmen or go for a sleigh ride, and Santa would probably get very hot in his usual red suit. So instead, people build sand sculptures at the beach or go surfing, and Santa can often be seen giving out gifts in a swimsuit.
“Christmas in Australia is more like a party than a holiday,” said a student at Ulsan University who studied abroad in Australia last year. “People usually go to the beach or have a barbeque and wear Santa hats with their swimsuits.”
The Philippines also celebrates Christmas in warm temperatures, but unlike Australia, this mostly Christian country focuses more on traditions than celebrations. In fact, the Philippines has the longest Christmas season in the world. Christmas carols are sung as early as September and decorations aren’t taken down until Three Kings Day in early January.
These decorations usually include thousands of “Parol” or star lanterns, that represent the Star of Bethlehem and are hung all over the city. On Christmas Eve, families have a big dinner and then travel around their neighborhood singing carols and reenacting the journey of Joseph and Mary the night Jesus was born.
In Scandinavia, people also mainly celebrate on Christmas Eve, although their traditions are a little bit different. In most Scandinavian countries, families gather for a large dinner that usually includes a ham, pickled pigs feet, fish and rice porridge. After the meal, instead of waiting for Santa Claus to come while they’re sleeping, children wait for the arrival of Tomte, a small, magical, elderly man who delivers gifts. Tomte is often accompanied by the Yule Goat and comes to the front door instead of down the chimney.
Some countries warn children with Christmas monsters as well as gift-givers like Santa Claus or Tomte. In Germany, children are told that if they have been good they will be visited by St. Nicholas, but if they are bad, they will be punished by the Krampus monster.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, Santa Claus, or Sinterklaas, is accompanied by Zwarte Piet, a black servant who will leave presents for children or punish them if they’ve been bad.
Despite these differences, certain aspects of Christmas remain the same around the world. Traditions of goodwill, giving and spending time with family can be found almost everywhere during the Christmas season.