Christmas around the world – 12 great holiday traditions

Last Updated on 30. January 2022

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year sang Andy Williams in 1963, and for many people, ourselves included, Christmas is that – the most wonderful time of the year. And now it’s here again, Christmas, with all its joy, happiness and festivity. But have you ever wondered how people celebrate Christmas around the world? Which Christmas traditions do other countries have, and maybe what’s the traditional Christmas food around the world? We have talked with travellers from different places around the world and, asked them to share their Christmas traditions. Read on to find out how eleven other countries celebrate Christmas.

There’s no one way of celebrating Christmas. Not only does it differ from one country to another, but it is also different within a country, a city, or even between neighbours. We find how Christmas is celebrated in other countries so interesting. Not only because we travel, but because we, in general, are curious – and also love the Christmas season.

Because of this, we wanted to have a look into Christmas traditions around the world, and who can better share this information than other fellow travellers? We have talked with travellers who either run a travel blog, share their travel experience on social media or YouTube. Let’s have a look at how people spend their Christmas holidays around the world!

1.Christmas in Denmark

The Danish travel blogger Camilla from camillamika is sharing how she celebrates Christmas in Denmark.

Christmas traditions around the world: Denmark
Christmas around the world: Camilla loves the traditional Danish Christmas celebration

In Denmark, we take Christmas seriously, and we pretty much celebrate Christmas all of December with lots of Danish hygge. We are counting down for Christmas Eve by lighting our calendar candles, opening our calendar presents, or watching our Christmas Calendar TV-Series. Indulging in mulled wine, æbleskiver (apple slices), and risengrød (rice pudding) is also a must during December.
On December 13th, we celebrate Lucia Day. On this particular day, there are several Lucia Parades, and the participants (usually children) dress up in white attires and parade with lit candles while singing the Lucia song. Afterwards, we eat Lucia buns with butter.

One of my favourite Christmas memories is from 2016, where my family and I celebrated Christmas in Morocco. We spent Christmas hiking in the Atlas Mountains, getting lost in the Medina of Marrakech, and learning about Moroccan culture.  

Our Christmas Dinner consists of duck, potatoes with brown sauce, warm red cabbage with sugar and vinegar, and potato chips. For dessert, we are having Risalamande (cold rice pudding) with warm cherry sauce on top. We place a whole almond in the bowl of Risalamande, and then it’s a game of finding that almond.

After dinner, we gather around the Christmas Tree and walk around the tree singing Christmas Hymnes. Then we unwrap our Christmas presents and end our evening by playing board games.

Find out more about Camilla on camillamika or follow her on Instagram

2.How is Christmas celebrated in the USA?

Todd from Todd’s Odd Destinations is sharing how he celebrates Christmas in the USA.

Christmas around the world: Todd is obsessed with Christmas and share how he is celebrating Christmas in the USA

In our family, in the United States, we are obsessed with Christmas. We begin decorating for Christmas in late November. In addition to the countless other decorations, we have six Christmas trees in our home, each with a different theme! One of the trees is decorated entirely with ornaments about the United Kingdom, because I’m such an avid anglophile, and another contains ornaments from our travels. I also have a collection of over 70 nutcrackers, which grows every year as I buy more and more! 

Before Christmas, we do as much as we can to help out others in need, including buying gifts for families who can’t afford them. We also mail holiday cards to our family and friends, go to craft fairs to buy presents, and visit historic homes and museums to see how people celebrated in the past. On Christmas Eve, we have a tradition of driving around to look at the outdoor light displays that people have in their homes. 

Christmas Day is the most important day in our family. In the morning, we play holiday-related games and open presents, and later, we sit down to have Christmas dinner in the late afternoon or early evening. We always have turkey, stuffing made with challah bread, apples, sausage, and other dried fruits, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, homemade noodles, and many other side dishes. 

Get to know Todd on Todd’s Odd Destinations or check him out on Instagram

3.Christmas in Sweden

Travel blogger Alex, aka swedishnomad, has celebrated Christmas around the world several times, and will share how he celebrates Christmas in Sweden.

Christmas around the world: The Swedish Nomad Alex from a Christmas celebration on a beach in Thailand

Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in Sweden, traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve with family. But the celebrations start already in November when companies arrange “Julbord” for their employees, and various Christmas markets are held around the country.

At the Christmas markets, one can find handicrafts, homemade food, delicacies, Christmas decorations and of course glögg and various food items. They are typically smaller than the ones in Germany, but still very cosy and pleasant to visit.

The most important day for me and most Swedes are Christmas Eve when we eat Christmas dinner with family or friends. Then we also watch Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) and give presents to each other.

As for food, there are regional differences in Sweden, but some important food items include Inlagd Sill (Pickled Herring), Prinskorv (small sausages), meatballs, smoked salmon. Other classics are Christmas ham, Jansson’s frestelse, and of course the “mandatory” snaps.

A Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Julmust (carbonated beverage) or Glögg. The best memory that I have from Christmas is from when I was younger, and the whole family plus distant relatives celebrated together, kids and adults. And then Santa came with gifts after we had watched Donald Duck and eaten the Christmas dinner.

I have travelled a lot during Christmas in recent years, I have spent Christmas in New York, Thailand and the Canary Islands just to name a few places. It is not the same, but it’s still nice.

Read more about Alex and his travels on swedishnomad or give him a follow on Instagram

4.Christmas celebration in United Kingdom

Tom from alwaysanoviceblog is from Wales, and will let us know how he celebrates Christmas in UK.

Christmas around the world: Tom from Wales tells about Christmas celebrations in UK

Christmas here is a pretty traditional Western Christmas, lots of food, family, gifts, decorations and a hope for snow! In the UK we celebrate mostly on Christmas day, but we also have boxing day as a bank holiday so people take a few days off and Christmas markets are becoming a much bigger event here based off the German markets. 

My family and I celebrate it pretty traditionally, but it’s not a religious event for us, more a chance to get together with family and friends and enjoy having no stress got a few days. 

My main tradition would be to go out with friends back in my hometown on Christmas Eve, sing, dance and drink too much! Then we always wake up with a stocking on Christmas morning, have a huge breakfast, go for a family walk before cooking another huge Christmas dinner. My Sister and I will always make a signature cocktail and it’s not Christmas if we don’t start with a bucks fizz to open presents. 

I spent one Christmas away from home in Australia last year and it was so strange. All the decorations and similar traditions but it’s summer there so people were having BBQs on the beach in the sunshine! 

Get to know more about Tom on alwaysanoviceblog or check him out on Instagram

5.Christmas traditions in Ukraine

Lena from travelletters grew up in Ukraine, a part of Soviet Union at that time, and is sharing how she celebated Christmas there.

Christmas around the world: Lena and her husband visiting the Christmas market in Oslo

During my years in Ukraine just before the Soviet fall, we didn’t celebrate any holidays that were in any way connected to or associated with religion. Religion was forbidden. But traditions always tend to survive wars and outlive dictators even if the form, shape, type or time of the celebration might change.

Christmas celebration in Kiev:

Although we didn’t celebrate Christmas as they do in the US or Europe, we had exactly the same celebration on New Year’s Eve. Russian-orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar which moves some of the Christian holidays 13 days. I remember we also celebrated Old New Year 13 days after the “ordinary” new year. And although religion in the former Soviet was forbidden the Russian-Orthodox church remained strong (talk about double morality). They still celebrate Christmas 13 days after western Christmas, on the 6th of January.

People born during Soviet time with no connection to church would celebrate New Year’s Eve with families and friends. Adults would set up, and kids would decorate Christmas Tree and Santa Claus or Djed Moroz (Father Cold), as we call him, would bring presents just before the clock strikes 12 at midnight. There are no chimneys in 9 and 12 stories buildings so Santa would usually take the elevator or just magically appear from one of the bedrooms.

We would eat traditional food which would consist of different types of meat, mostly pork, different kinds of salads with lots of sour cream and mayo, and boiled potatoes. Our food traditions are not really known for any great desserts and, as I recall we only had lots of small chocolate and candies. Adults would drink vodka and wine, and champagne at the stroke of 12, and kids would drink soda (we didn’t have coke and such during Soviet times)

People dressed up in their finest clothes and kids were allowed to stay up until after midnight and open their presents.

Besides the time for celebrating, Christmas traditions in Ukraine was rather similar to how we celebrate Christmas in Norway, where I live today.

Get to know Lena on travelletters or check her out on Instagram

6.Christmas around the world: Germany

Our friends Thomas and Cengiz, aka theTravellers, tells how they celebrate Christmas in Cologne, Germany.

Christmas around the world: Christmas traditions in Germany
Christmas around the world: Thomas and Cengiz decorating their Christmas tree in Cologne, Germany

Christmas plays an important role in our traveller life since it’s the only time in the year where we can relax and do not think of travelling. It is always nice to look back over the trips that we have made all year round. Last year we travelled to 12 countries in total which was a record for us. 

Christmas is definitely the time to get together, cuddle and enjoy delicious specialities. Usually, we bake Vanillekipferl and other cookies with friends and family. In addition to mulled wine, eggnog is an important component!

We’ve met Thomas and Cengiz a couple of times. Get to know them on theTravellers, or check them out on Instagram or take a look on their YouTube Channel.

TIP: Read our post about best things to do in Weimar for more stories from Germany

7.Christmas in Canada

Christmas around the world is moving on to North America again, where Chris and Brad from chadcruisers share how they celebrate Christmas in Toronto, Canada.

Christmas around the world: Brad and Chris celebrates Christmas in Toronto, Canada

One Christmas tradition we enjoy in Toronto is visiting the Hudson Bay’s flagship department store downtown. Each year, the street windows are decorated with marvellous and elaborate Christmas displays. It is an enjoyable experience strolling along Queen Street with a hot chocolate admiring the beautiful arrangements in the windows in the cold weather. Afterwards, we enjoy heading to Toronto’s Distillery District to enjoy the Christmas Market, where they sell delicious street foods and have unique arts and crafts for sale.

Chris immigrated to Canada from the Philippines as a teenager. Chris introduced Brad to his family and with it, some Filipino Christmas traditions. Every Christmas Eve, we gather with Chris’ family at their parent’s house, where a large meal is served at midnight, along with the exchanging of gifts. It is a fun tradition which we look forward to each year. 

We also enjoy taking a cruise each December to the Caribbean and enjoy seeing the cruise ships and tropical islands decorated for Christmas. Being from Canada, it is certainly a unique feeling wearing shorts and flip flops and being around Christmas trees.

You can find out more about Chris and Brad on chadcruisers, on their YouTube Channel or check them out on Instagram.

8.Christmas traditions in Russia

The Russian traveller Maksim from maks_in_travel is sharing how he celebrates Christmas in Russia.

Christmas around the world: Maksim celebrates Christmas in Russia

I live in Moscow where orthodox Christmas is celebrated 7th of January. But I love Christmas time and ordinary I start to celebrate from the beginning of December when Christmas decorations begin in the city and baristas in cafes starts to make gingerbread latte. 

Last years in the middle of December, Moscow kicked off the festival “Journey to Christmas”. Wonderful light displays, ice ballets, performances and concerts on the streets helps to create a bright Christmas mood. If you like Christmas, December is the perfect time to visit Moscow.

I like travelling during Christmas time. I’m absolutely in love with the fairytale Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Strasbourg, Prague, Colmar, Vienna and Munich. Hopefully, I’ll visit Europe next year again.

For most people in Russia, the main winter holiday is New Year, when the Russian Santa Claus – Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) accompanied by his Granddaughter Snegurochka brings presents to children.

One of the most popular Russian Orthodox Christmas traditions is fortune-telling on Christmas Eve when young ladies thought of their wedding day, their future husband and how many children they will have. 

Orthodox Christmas is more a religious holiday here. According to tradition, many people still have the Nativity Fast – a 40-day fast excluding meat and dairy products. The fast is broken on Christmas Eve with a kutya (sweetened cooked grain). The meal on Christmas Day includes traditional dishes like a kholodets (meat jelly) or goose with apples.

Get to know Maksim better and follow his Russian adventures on Instagram.

9.How does Italy celebrate Christmas?

Travel bloggers Francesca and Jonas from the2intoureffect are sharing how they celebrate Italian Christmas.

Christmas around the world: Francesca and Jonas celebrates Christmas in Italy

We are a travel couple from Italy who are also real Christmas lovers! In fact, our marriage anniversary is on December 31st and the main theme was Christmas…our bonbonniere? Of course a hand-made Christmas ball!

But before telling you about the @2intour Christmas experience, let’s start with some Italian traditions.

Christmas season officially starts on December the 8th when all the Italian cities fill with lights and decorations, the squares host lovely Christmas markets and the atmosphere becomes magic. Everyone adorns the house with lights, the nativity scene and a Christmas tree.

During this period our house smells of the sweet taste of Befanini, a typical Christmas shortbread cookies from Pietrasanta, a little seaside village in Tuscany where we were born! Our Christmas tree is full of decorations we bought during our travels around the world and obviously the Christmas ball of our marriage. Our cat becomes crazy from this joyful atmosphere.

On the 24th we organize a traditional fish dinner with our parents and, we unwrap all the gifts together; then we participate in the typical Pietrasanta’s Camel Punch party: all the bars of the town prepare the punch (a hot alcoholic traditional drink with an orange flavour) and the streets are filled with people exchanging greetings and waiting for the midnight Mass. On the 25th the celebrations culminate with the traditional lunch made with Tuscan meat specialities.

To celebrate our marriage anniversary and New Year Eve, we usually travel. In the latest years, we have been in Jordan and India.

Find out more about Francesca and Jonas on the2intoureffect or follow them on Instagram.

TIP: Read our post about a Milan city break for more inspiration from Italy

10.Greek Christmas celebration

Maria, the travel blogger behind tripsofourlife share her Christmas in Greece with us.

Christmas around the world: Travel blogger Maria enjoying the Christmas market in Augsburg, Germany

I come from Greece, an Orthodox country, where Christmas is primarily a religious holiday and people go to church more often than usual. We decorate our houses and streets with Christmas decorations, but there are no traditional Christmas markets as in Germany. During the last years, the local authorities organize some small markets in the central squares of some towns, so we can also feel the European Christmas spirit for a while. 

From November until early of January, we decorate our houses with a fir tree (fresh or plastic), lights, colourful balls and garlands. During the Christmas eve, kids sing the Christmas carols around their neighbourhood and, people offer them money. That’s a Greek traditional custom since ages. People go out to bars and clubs up to the first morning light. On Christmas day we cook a stuffed turkey (or any other kind of meat) and the whole family enjoys the lunch ’till late in the evening. 

I am not that traditional, so I don’t celebrate like the rest of the Greeks. I only decorate my house and meet friends in restaurants and bars. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are the most important days to me because they are bank holidays and I don’t work. During Christmas time we cook and eat a lot of sweets and Greek desserts, like tsoureki, melomakarona and kourambiedes.  

My most special Christmas memories come from the Bavarian Christmas markets, especially in the Alpine region. Tons of mulled wine and sausages!!!!  During Christmas, I have travelled many times around my country. I spent a wonderful Christmas time in New York 7 years ago. But the best Christmas memories come from my short trips around Bavaria, Austria and the Alps.

Get to know Maria on tripsofourlife or check her out on Instagram.

11.Christmas celebration in Peru

Diego from Peruvian Nomad is sharing Christmas traditions from Peru

Diego and his husband Andree with their Christmas tree in Lima, Peru

In Peru, families get together on Christmas Eve to receive midnight together. We have a huge dinner, usually having all the extended family at home, and everyone brings something for the table. We eat close to midnight and then exchange presents until very late at night. We light up fireworks, and usually, the decoration is based on a Christmas winter wonderland, which is funny because in Peru we celebrate Christmas during the summer. Even during winter, it never snows in Lima. Still, we like to decorate with snowmen, reindeers and Christmas trees.

We celebrate a traditional Peruvian Christmas. The most important day is Christmas Eve because that’s when the family gets together.
Turkey is mandatory. Then you can have glazed ham, mashed sweet potatoes, tamales, panettone, Arab rice, and some salad.

The next day, on Christmas, families get together again to eat what was left from the night before. The traditional drink is hot chocolate, which is funny because we are in the middle of summer.

Every Christmas when I was a kid was amazing, as all cousins, aunts and uncles would get together at my grandparent’s house, eating and exchanging presents until it was almost dawn. It was my favourite holiday as a kid.

I’ve only spent one Christmas away from home when I was doing my masters in New York. It was a totally different experience, spending Christmas with friends as I see it more of a family holiday.

Get to know more about Diego and check him out on Instagram.

12.German vs. Norwegian Christmas traditions

By us, Matthias and Kent, a German and a Norwegian in Berlin, and owners of destinationtheworld.

Christmas around the world: Destination the World celebrate Christmas in Berlin

Being from two different countries means a mix of two cultures and traditions. We try as good as we can to combine the best from both our countries and of course this also applies to how we celebrate Christmas. Since we moved to Berlin, we have always celebrated Christmas in Germany, both in Berlin and at Matthias’ childhood home in Bavaria.

TIP: Read about how American Christine celebrated her first German Christmas

For us, Christmas starts December the 1st, or sometimes on the first Sunday of advent. Then we start decorating our home, put lighting stars in the windows and set up the four traditional advent candles. During this period before Christmas, Germany is like a fairytale wonderland with all the Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) going on. Berlin alone has over 80 different Christmas markets. We go there for Glühwein (warm mulled wine), Feuerzangenbowle (mulled wine with rum and melted sugar), Grünkohl und Knacker (kale with sausages) or Bratwürste (grilled German sausages). Sometimes we also buy some new decorations for our Christmas tree in the markets.

During December we listen to Christmas carols, watch Christmas movies, send Christmas cards and buy presents. Around mid-December, we decorate our Christmas tree, and then we welcome the Christmas calmness we want to have.

Christmas Eve is the most special day for both of us, and the day we spend on cooking and preparations. For Kent this day also have to include Disney cartoons and the Czech fairytale movie Three Wishes for Cinderella (Tři oříšky pro Popelku), a tradition brought from Norway.

TIP: Read our post about weekend trips from Berlin to Saxony where we visit Moritzburg Castle where Cinderella went to the ball and lost her shoe

For Matthias, as a German, Christmas Day is the most important day foodwise, when the whole big family gather together in a restaurant for lunch consisting of goose, duck or other traditional German dishes. On Christmas Eve most Germans serve a light meal of sausages and Sauerkraut or potato salad on the side.

For a Norwegian, the meal on Christmas Eve is the most important, and lately, Matthias’s kind mum has started to serve goose, duck or roast on Christmas Eve as well. Kent has introduced a Norwegian traditional Christmas dessert to the Germans, so now we have riskrem, (cold rice pudding with berry sauce) for dessert. In the rice pudding almonds are hidden, and those who find the almond will get a present.

Usually, we don’t celebrate Christmas around the world, but sometimes we’ve had a pre-Christmas trip to some city. Matthias celebrated Christmas in Australia while living there, and Kent once celebrated Christmas in Santiago de Chile. Also, when we lived in Amsterdam, we spent the Christmas holidays there.

Get to know us and our blog better on destinationtheworld, or follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.

Merry Christmas around the world

Wherever you are and however you celebrate your Christmas;

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy (and hopefully better) New Year

THANK YOU very much to all of you who participated in this post. We couldn’t have done it without you. We had a great time working on it, and felt very excited to learn so much about the celebration of Christmas around the world!

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We are Matthias and Kent. With a strong desire to travel the world, we create articles and travel guides from our many trips. We aim to inspire you to explore the world, near and far. Maybe your next adventure is closer than you think?