Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated around the world? There are all sorts of unique Christmas customs and traditions that people in different countries have, from launching fireworks and Chinese lanterns, to eating fried chicken and even leaving out a bottle of Guinness for Santa Claus. Here are 9 Christmas traditions from around that world you had no idea about.
In Japan, Christmas is seen as a time of celebrating happiness, rather than a religious holiday, because there are few Christians living in the country. It isn’t recognised as a national holiday so a lot of businesses remain open on Christmas Day. As for Christmas Eve, it’s a lot like Valentine’s Day because it’s seen as a romantic time for couples. On the big day itself, many people eat fried chicken and many place their orders well in advance. KFC is especially popular around Christmas time! Another popular food item is Christmas cake, which in Japan is a sponge cake laced with whipped cream and strawberries.
Children usually open their presents after the evening meal on Christmas Eve, whereas on Christmas Day itself it’s all about the family. Food that’s traditionally eaten on the big day includes leaf bread, roast leg of lamb, and rock ptarmigan, a type of seabird. Public entertainment is widely considered to be inappropriate throughout the Christmas celebrations because it’s meant to be all about family time. Most people put their trees up and do their last minute shopping on 23 December.
In Australia, summer lasts from December to February so instead of Christmas being associated with snow, cold weather and wrapping up warm, it’s more associated with hot, sunny weather. Santa swaps his reindeer for six kangaroos, commonly known as the ‘six white boomers’ and he dresses more appropriately for the hot weather. Carols are sung, though a lot of the time references to snow and the cold are replaced with references to hotter weather and many of them are adapted to feature Australian words and phrases. Families decorate their homes with evergreens and Christmas Bush, a small tree with cream-coloured flowers and green leaves that have usually turned deep red by the time Christmas comes around.
Radio stations play Christmas carols all throughout December in the lead-up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, most towns and cities have festivals and markets where people come in the morning to buy all sorts of gifts, then in the evening people come back out for the evening celebrations and usually put on their best clothes. After this, some go to Midnight Mass, whereas others carry on with the celebrations. Traditional Jamaican Christmas dinners include rum punch, meats, sorrel leaves and fresh fruit.
5. The Czech Republic
Single women take part in a tradition on Christmas Eve that will supposedly determine whether they’re going to stay single the following year or whether they’ll end up in a relationship. They stand outside with their back to their front door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she’ll find someone, whereas if it points away from the door, she’ll remain single for another year.
In Spain, most people go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and will eat their main Christmas meal before going to the service. Seafood is quite popular for the Christmas meal in parts of the country, though turkey stuffed with mushroom truffles is also popular. Those who have taken part in Midnight Mass then typically proceed through the streets playing music, chanting hymns and carrying torches. In some parts of the country, people have a model version of Bethlehem and along with figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and others, they include a figure of a peasant with his pants down in the middle of defecating.
Fewer than 1% of Chinese people are Christians and Christmas is mainly celebrated in large cities. In more rural areas, it’s much less common. Most Christmas trees are actually found in department stores, though lots of people in cities do have their own and do decorate them. A common tradition is to give apples to friends and family on Christmas Eve. This tradition came about because the Mandarin word for ‘Christmas Eve’ sounds very similar to the word for ‘apple’.
Just like Australia, Argentina experiences Christmas during its summer. Many people have their Christmas trees up and decorated by 8 December, when the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated. To give their trees a more wintry feel, some people put cotton balls on their trees. On Christmas Eve many people go to Midnight Mass and at midnight, lots of people set off fireworks to welcome the big day. Chinese lanterns are also popular and you’ll see many of these in the sky after midnight on Christmas Day. Many people open their presents shortly after midnight and spend time with friends and family, so it’s not uncommon for people to spend a lot of Christmas Day sleeping.
People in Iceland traditionally leave out a bottle of Guinness and some mince pies out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The religious aspect of Christmas is important to many living in the country. As well as celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas is also seen as a time for remembering the dead, so many people visit graves and decorate them with wreaths of ivy and holly. Some people light candles in their homes as a symbolic way of letting Mary and Joseph know there’s room for them there if they can’t find any room in Bethlehem.