Christmas Customs Around the World
December is well-known for Christmas but do you know how people
in countries around the world celebrate it? Here are some
customs from various parts of the world.
Greeting - Merry Christmas Santa's Name - Santa Claus. Children
leave him a piece of cake or biscuits and a glass of milk or a
bottle of beer. Food - Many Christmas dinners include roasted
meats and vegetables, special fruit cakes, and puddings with a
coin baked inside. Since the temperature can reach 100 degrees
Fahrenheit, people are starting to eat cold meats and salads,
tropical fruits like mangoes, and stone fruits like plums.
Often, the main meal is eaten for lunch. Gifts - These are left
under the Christmas tree and opened Christmas morning.
Decorations - Shops and homes are decorated with tinsel,
Christmas trees, decorations for the holiday, and special
lights. Customs - Traditional and Australian carols are sung by
candlelight on Christmas Eve and are broadcast on television. On
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, two sporting events take
place: The Boxing Day Test Match (cricket game) and the start of
the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Greeting - Feliz Natal Santa's Name - Papai Noel (Father Noel),
who is dressed in a red, silk suit with boots. Food - Many
people eat a traditional feast with roast turkey and vegetables,
while others eat chicken and rice or beans. Beer and wine are
also served. Some regions begin eating around 9 PM on Christmas
Eve, while others eat around midnight. Gifts - Local charities
take in donations but do not seem to have enough presents for
all the children. Decorations - Brazil has a mixture of people
so Christmas is celebrated in different ways. In the
northeastern area, it is common to find Nativity Scenes; in the
southern part, snow is simulated with little pieces of cotton on
pine trees. Customs - Brazilians sing a number of Christmas
Greeting - Eftihismena Christougenna Food - Special holiday
cakes are baked. Gifts - Most Greek people exchange gifts on
Saint Basil's Day, January 1. Customs - To honor Saint Basil,
the holiday cakes have gold coins hidden inside them. The cakes
are cut at midnight on New Year's Eve. Whoever has a gold coin
in his piece of cake will have good luck the following year.
Santa's Name - Actually, the Baby Jesus is said to bring
presents on Christmas Eve. A bell sounds signaling that the
Angels have brought the tree and gifts. Customs - On December 5,
children leave out their shoes. During the night, Mikulas and
Black Peter come to fill them with goodies for well-behaved
children and switches for naughty children.
Decorations - Sometimes, houses are decorated with mango leaves;
mango or banana trees are also decorated. Small, clay,
oil-burning lamps are placed on the edges of flat roofs as
Greeting - Chag Semeach (Happy Chanukah) Santa's Name -
Actually, parents, grandparents, and other family members give
presents to the children. Food - Because oil is an important
part of the holiday, many foods are prepared with it. A favorite
is potato latkes (pancakes). Gifts - Since Chanukah lasts for
eight days, children may receive one present each night.
Decorations - Jewish stars, blue or silver foil garlands,
dreidels (spinning tops), Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins), and
pictures of the Macabees (Jewish army that recaptured the Holy
Temple and Jerusalem from the Assyrian Greek King Antiochus) are
found around the house. Customs - The menorah (candelabra) is
lit each night. On the first night, one candle is lit; on, the
second night, two candles; and so on until all the candles are
lit on the eighth night. After lighting the candles, families
eat a festive meal, dance, play games, and open presents. They
also attend Chanukah parties.
Greeting - Kurisumasu Omedeto Santa's Name - Santa Kurohsu. He
does not appear in person but is pictured in advertisements as a
kind old man with a round sack on his back. Food - Depending
upon the family's custom, they eat turkey on Christmas Day or on
Christmas Eve. Japanese families also eat Christmas cake. Gifts
- Stores sell merchandise for men, women, and children; and on
Christmas Day, families exchange gifts. Decorations - More and
more artificial Christmas trees are beginning to appear. They
are decorated with small toys, gold paper fans, dolls, lanterns,
paper ornaments, and wind chimes. A popular ornament is the
origami swan. Other decorations are mistletoe, evergreen,
tinsel, and lights. An amulet is put on the front door for good
luck and children exchange 'birds of peace,' pledging there must
not be anymore war. Customs - The daiku, or Great Nine, refers
to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and is performed many places.
Greeting - Feliz Navidad Customs - Beginning on December 15,
some families carry colorful lanterns and walk from house to
house in their neighborhoods, each night, until Christmas Eve.
This is called La Posada, which means 'the procession.' On each
of the nights, the families are invited into different houses
where they become guests at a party. There is plenty to eat and
drink. Children play the pinata game, trying to break open the
papier-mache figure with a stick while blindfolded; when it is
cracked open, candies and small gifts fall out.
Greeting - Hartelijke Kerstroeten Santa's Name - Sinterklaas
(St. Nicholas), who wears a red bishop's hat and bishop's cloak
and has white hair and a white beard. He arrives on a white
horse with his servant, Black Pete, to put small gifts in
children's wooden shoes. Food - The Dutch people eat lots of
marzipan, spiced ginger biscuits, tall chocolate letters, and
'bankletter' - initials made of pastry and filled with almond
paste. When they are around the Christmas tree singing songs,
they eat 'Kerstkrans' - a Christmas ring. Gifts - On December 6,
after hearing a knock at their door, children find a bag full of
toys, nuts, and gifts. Decorations - The Christmas tree is known
as the Paradise Tree. Decorations of the season include dolls,
musical instruments, fruit, candies, and lights. Customs - The
Dutch sing carols, the most popular one being "O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree."
Greeting - God Jul Food - Coffee, cakes, and special buns are
served on Santa Lucia Day, December 13. Customs - Santa Lucia
Day honors Saint Lucy, who helped blind people. The oldest
daughter in each Swedish household dresses in a white gown with
a red sash, wears a crown of evergreen with seven candles in it,
awakens the family with a song, and serves the coffee, cakes,
and buns. Each town and city also chooses a young woman to be
Lucia for the day. She then serves coffee and food to the
townspeople at schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.
>From these women, a national Lucia is chosen; followed by a
parade, feast, and dance.
Now that you have this data, let your children put the
information in a comparison chart. Label the left side with the
names of the countries and the bottom with the various
information (ie: Greeting, Food, and so on). Then fill in the
Let your children do research to find out the information I left
Conduct research to find out the same customs for other
countries, especially the heritage countries of students in your
class or your own family.
However you celebrate the holidays, have a safe, wonderful
season and a Happy New Year!
I hope these ideas are useful and inspire your own creative
And remember...Reading is FUNdamental!