Christmas Celebrations around the World – Traditions
Cultures around the world have celebrated the midwinter end of the season’s darkest days and rebirth of a new life for centuries. It’s Christmas time in most parts of the world. There is an endless variety of Christmas traditions, feasts, celebrations, and rituals.
For many people, Christmas falls on Dec. 25, but hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians celebrate on Jan. 7. Some people and cultures follow traditional religious themes. Others incorporate folklore or regional customs, while other Christmas celebrations are entirely secular. Sometimes familiar, sometimes foreign, often odd, and sometimes downright strange. These traditions from around the world have one thing in common: they’re all about Christmas.
Today, we present you with some of the ways Christmas is celebrated across the world.
Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas
One of the world’s more curious Christmas traditions involves fried chicken—KFC, specifically. The fast-food joint is a favorite in Japan. Nearly 4 million Japanese people eat it on Christmas, which isn’t a prominent holiday in Japan. In 1970, the country’s first KFC franchisee filled the void by offering Christmas chicken “barrels” on Dec. 25, complete with a marketing blitz that caught on quickly and continues to dominate to this day.
Norway: Hiding of the brooms
In Norway, legend has it that witches arrive on Christmas Eve. Norwegians traditionally hide their brooms on this night to deny the witches their preferred mode of transportation
Venezuela: Skating to Mass
There’s nothing unusual about Catholics heading to Mass on Christmas Eve—unless you’re celebrating in Venezuela. Many dress in Santa attire or don wacky hats. Then they glide to church on roller skates as fireworks light up the sky.
Toronto: Cavalcade of lights
In Toronto, revelers launch the Christmas season with a full-fledged party called the Cavalcade of Lights. Lighting of the city’s Christmas tree is traditionally the backdrop for a bash that includes music, refreshments, ice-skating, and, of course, enough lights to be seen for miles.
Estonia: Sauna visit
In Estonia, Christmas is a blend of traditional, modern, secular, and religious customs. Among the most important is a visit to the sauna before religious services. There, kids often receive new clothes that they can wear after the sauna to show off at church.
Great Britain: Stir-up Sunday
Since Victorian times in Great Britain, the Sunday five weeks before Christmas has been known as Stir-up Sunday. Where revelers make porridge or pudding with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his 12 disciples. Everyone in the family “stirs up” the porridge, reciting related passages from the Book of Common Prayer. Each family member makes a silent Christmas wish while stirring from east to west. The direction the Three Wise Men are said to have traveled.
Czech Republic: Throwing of the shoe
Shoes are featured prominently in the Christmas traditions of several cultures, including the Czech Republic. On Christmas, girls and young women stand outside their homes and throw a shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing toward the door, they’ll be married soon. If not, they’ll be single for at least another year.
Portugal: Consoada feast
In Portugal, many Catholics still fast before Christmas. After midnight Mass, the fast is broken with the Consoada feast. Signaling the official beginning of Christmas, Consoada consists of meat, pudding, and traditional sweets. Seats are reserved at the table for loved ones who have recently passed away.
Germany: St. Nicholas Day
In Germany, Santa Claus generally still takes the appearance of the traditional Roman Catholic bishop St. Nicholas. Kids prepare for his arrival by placing freshly polished boots outside their doors, along with carrots for the bishop’s horse. On Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day, the bishop goes house to house with a book describing the children’s deeds. Depending on whether they were naughty or nice, he fills their boots with either something good. Like sweets, or something not so good, like twigs.