The most wonderful time of the year.
Christmas traditions from around the world vary dramatically, but one thing remains consistent – the joy that fills the cities, villages and homes this time of year.
The holiday season is celebrated in different ways due to a variety of factors. Some countries have a larger Catholic population than others, which typically creates a celebration with more of a focus on religion. Other factors include climate, history, folktales and mainstream media.
Your family likely has their own unique Christmas traditions that make the Holiday Season special to you, and it’s important to keep in mind that not everywhere celebrates the season similarly. Below we share some of our favourite Christmas traditions from around the world that make this world so beautifully diverse.
Christmas traditions from around the world
In the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated in a big way, and at the ‘capital’ of Christmas (aka the city of San Fernando), The Giant Lantern Festival takes place on the Saturday before Christmas Eve.
This festival attracts participants from all over the country and globe. Historically it was a small, basic lantern festival. However, today it has grown into a massive, competitive event with electric lanterns that measure up to 6 meters in size. This is just one of the unique Christmas traditions from the Philipines and a must-see for any visitor.
Christmas in Japan is not a national holiday and is seen as more of a day for couples. It is a day to celebrate happiness and is typically compared to Valentine’s Day. A unique Christmas tradition that has taken all over the country is enjoying a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner on December 25th.
This tradition dates back to a 1974 marketing campaign. Today, a KFC Christmas dinner bucket will include fried chicken, wine, champagne and cake! The tradition is so popular that people often book their KFC Christmas bucket well in advance.
In Germany, a popular Christmas tradition is the advent calendar. Usually, these advent calendars are handmade with a small gift for each day. They are typically circular in shape and can act as a wreath-type decoration. Candles are also found as a popular substitute for gifts on the advent depending on the family traditions.
Another unique Christmas tradition is St. Nikolaus day on December 6th. On this day, Nikolaus is said to travel by donkey around the region at night, leaving small candies or presents in the shoes of good children. Nikolaus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht who is said to put cole in the shoes of the naughty children.
Christmas in Sweden is a bit of a winter wonderland during December. One of the unique traditions is the Gävle Goat. Annually on the first day of advent, the 43-foot goat is erected in Castle Square in Central Sweden. This goat is the world’s largest straw goat, and this is a tradition that has been ongoing since 1966.
Following the erection of Gävle Goat, there is an unofficial tradition to be the first to destruct the goat.
The goat has successfully been destructed 36 times since 1966, mostly to arsen. However, there have been some other failed attempts, including attempts at kidnapping the goat by helicopter.
If you are in Sweden in December be sure to see the goat before Christmas day, when its destruction may begin.
Once Santa hits Ireland, he gets an extra treat. A popular Christmas tradition in Ireland is to leave a bottle of Guinness and a meat pie out for Santa, opposed to the North American cookies and milk.
In addition to the Guinness and meat pie, many people will leave a tall burning candle in the window on the eve of Christmas as a religious symbol to welcome Mary and Joseph.
In Columbia, there is a beautiful Christmas Tradition called Día de las Velitas (little candles day) that marks the beginning of the Christmas season. December 7th is the day of the immaculate conception, and a national holiday in Columbia. This is also the day of Día de las Velitas.
On the eve of December 7th, candles and paper lanterns are placed all around the city and in homes in honour of the Virgin Mary and the immaculate conception. On the morning of December 8th, families fly a white flag with an image of the Virgin Mary. This tradition began in 1982 and some believe it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. If you happen to be in Columbia on December 7th, you will have your breath taken away at this stunning Christmas tradition.
Jamaica at Christmas is full of music and food. It is the time of year to celebrate family, friends and happiness.
One of the biggest Christmas traditions on the island is the Grand Market. On Christmas Eve, each town has their own Grand Market, which includes a parade, food market and gift bazaar. It’s a great time with lots of music, fresh food and last minute gifts.
If you don’t mind crowds, this will be a great place to get in the Christmas spirit over your vacation to Jamaica.
What’s your Christmas tradition?
We all have unique Christmas traditions that have been passed down to us through our culture, religion and family. It is a wonderful gift to be able to experience different Christmas traditions from around the world during this special time of year.
If you are looking to experience Christmas in a different way this year, contact one of our travel specialists to start designing your dream vacation within any budget.