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Christmas Traditions Around the World

Image representing Christmas traditions being celebrated around the world

As Slade sing at the start of Merry Christmas Everyone: “It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmas!”

In more than 160 countries around the world, people are starting to prepare for this popular holiday. But how you celebrate depends on where you live.

If your country officially celebrates Christmas, that might mean putting up Christmas wreaths, branches of holly and ivy, miniature angels or scenes showing the nativity, when Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born.

It could also mean decorating a Christmas tree with tinsel and ornaments, putting up model reindeers and pictures of Father Christmas/Santa Claus, and hanging up an oversized stocking for Santa to fill with presents on Christmas Eve.

In many Western countries, Father Christmas (also called Santa Claus) is very, very popular. In the build up to Christmas Eve, many children look forward to visiting him at “Santa’s Grottoes” that are set up at shopping centres/malls and other public places.

Traditionally, children line up to see him and are led into the grotto by “elves” before sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what present they would like the most this year. This is especially popular in America.

Other countries have very strange or unusual Christmas traditions. For example, in Japan, people typically go for a family meal at KFC on Christmas Day. In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, people traditionally travel to church on Christmas morning on rollerblades. And in the weeks before Christmas, Austrian men dress up as a terrifying demon called the Krampus, which is supposed to punish bad children, and run around the streets frightening kids!

Let’s take a look at some unusual Christmas traditions in different countries in the English-speaking world.

Australia

Australia is a hot country and December is summer, so many of the old traditions that its inhabitants brought from Europe don’t work so well here!

Instead of a Christmas tree, many Aussies will decorate their homes with palm leaves, ferns and colourful flowers. On Christmas Day, it’s popular to start with a breakfast of ham and eggs. Instead of a big roast dinner with a whole turkey, many Australian families will have cold turkey instead – or skip it altogether and have a big, Australian-style barbeque.

The warm weather also means you can do more outdoors, and a popular event is Carols by Candlelight, where people meet outside at night to sing carols under the stars.

Wales

In some parts of the countryside in Wales, people still perform a ritual called Mari Lwyd. A horse’s skull is fixed to a pole, which is covered in white sheets. Each year a different person is chosen to carry the skull while others in the village sing traditional songs!

The USA

One tradition that is unique to the USA is hanging decorative pickles (gherkins) on the Christmas tree! This goes back to the American Civil War. A soldier who was taken prisoner was starving on Christmas Eve and begged the guard for something to eat. The guard gave him a pickle, and it kept him alive. Later he started the tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree, and the idea became popular.

Do you celebrate Christmas? What Christmas traditions are there in your country? Let us know in the comments section below!