Christmas Traditions around the World

Parol or Philippine Christmas lanterns
Star-shaped lanterns (called parols) in the Philippines

I was inspired by Christmas Food around the World and decided to read a bit about how other countries celebrate Christmas. Christmas here in Australia can’t be more different from the White Christmas conveyed in Bing Crosby’s song since it falls during the summer, and most of the festivities are held outdoors — barbecue in the backyard or picnic at the beach, you know how it goes.  Of course I have to mention the traditional Carols by Candlelight, which is broadcasted live every Christmas Eve.

Now let’s look at the Christmas traditions in some parts of the world.


In the whole world, the longest Christmas celebration takes place in the Philippines. Christmas songs are heard as early as September — September being the start of the “ber-months” and the countdown to Christmas. The archipelago being predominantly Catholic, masses called misa de gallo start nine days before Christmas (December 16), and on Christmas Eve, families stay at home to take part in a feast called Noche Buena. At midnight, gifts under the Christmas tree are opened, and in the morning, children are accompanied for a visit to their godparents for their aguinaldo or gift.


Meanwhile, Mexico also has warm weather during Christmas, pretty much like Australia (though I seriously doubt it’s that hot in there). People shop for gifts and foods in market stalls called puestos. Celebration is similar to that in the Philippines: it’s called Las Posadas — a procession re-enacting Mary and Joseph looking for shelter before the birth of Jesus Christ — and starts on December 16 and culminates with a fiesta. Christmas Eve is also known as Noche Buena, wherein families attend midnight mass and have a feast together.


I’d have to admit that my idea of Christmas in England is that shown in Harry Potter – cold and foggy (at least that part is true), celebrated with a feast, wherein eggnog is served some time during Christmas. Well, the scenario for muggles is like this: the day before Christmas, people wrap all their presents, bake cookies and then hang stockings over the fireplace. Christmas in England won’t be complete without the retelling of the classic “A Christmas Carol.” Children write to Father Christmas their wishes, and Father Christmas leaves them their gifts overnight.


In France, Christmas is called Noel. Houses commonly feature a crèche (nativity scene), and some also have Christmas trees, decorated with candies, nuts and little toys from Père Noel (Santa Claus) himself during his visit on Christmas Eve. There’s a traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a meal called le Reveillon. Foods served vary by region, but the course typically consists of soup and appetiser, a large meal and dessert – the most common of which is a cake called Bûche de Noël (or Christmas log) and then a cheese platter.


Sweden has a rather fascinating celebration of Christmas. It starts with St. Lucia’s Day on December 13, wherein the eldest daughter portrays the “Queen of Light,” puts on a white rob in the morning and wears a crown of evergreen with tall-lighted candles. She wakes her parents and then serves them Lucia buns and coffee. Christmas trees and other decors are put up two days before Christmas, and on Christmas Day, risgryngrot, a special rice porridge with an almond in it, is served. The person who finds it makes a wish or is believed to get married the next year.


What are the Christmas traditions in your home country?


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