Christmas is a time of celebration for Christians around the world. Traditions, old and new, are a huge part of any celebration, and vary greatly in different countries. Here are 12 of our most favorite Christmas traditions from all over the globe:
1. St. Lucia Day – Sweden
December 13th is known as St. Lucia Day in Scandinavian countries and started in Sweden. This day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. A main focus of the day is light, as this day occurs near the shortest day of the year. There are many St. Lucia Day traditions, but the most common in Sweden is described in this History.com article:
Traditionally, the oldest daughter in each family rises early and wakes each of her family members, dressed in a long, white gown with a red sash, and wearing a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles. For the day, she is called “Lussi” ...The family then eats breakfast in a room lighted with candles.
2. A Day at the Sauna – Finland
In Finland, it is a Christmas tradition for families visit the sauna on Christmas Eve, listen to the “Peace of Christmas” national radio broadcast, and visit gravesites of deceased family members.
3. Love Offering – Congo
The most important part of Christmas church service in the Congo is the love offering, a gift given in honor of Jesus. In this Christmas tradition, every person who attends the service brings a gift to lay near the Communion table at the front of the church.
4. St. Nicolas’ Day – Belgium
In Belgium, instead of Santa Claus, children are visited by Pere Noel, in this Christmas tradition. They are not brought gifts on Christmas Day, but instead on December 6th, which is St. Nicolas’ Day. Good children receive chocolates and other treats, but naughty children get sticks. Jesus’ birthday is celebrated separately on December 25th.
5. Parade in Jesus’ Birth Town – Israel
In Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity stands over the traditional site of the stable where Jesus was born. On Christmas, a massive procession is led through the city and a flame is passed throughout the crowd to light onlooker's candles.
6. Christmas Trees – Germany
The Christmas tree in your living room is actually a tradition that originated in Germany. According to History.com:
Decorating evergreen trees had always been a part of the German winter solstice tradition. The first “Christmas trees” explicitly decorated and named after the Christian holiday, appeared in Strasbourg, in Alsace in the beginning of the 17th century.
7. 'Christmas Old Man' – China
In China, Santa Claus is called Dun Che Lao Ren which means "Christmas Old Man.” Christian children decorate Christmas trees. Non-Christians celebrate the Spring Festival during this time of year to honor and remember ancestors.
8. Banana Christmas Tree – India
Instead of pine trees, Christians in India decorate banana or mango trees for Christmas as tradition, giving their celebration a tropical feel.
9. Babushka – Russia
In Russia, the traditional Christian Christmas season is being replaced by the secular Festival of Winter, but some Christmas traditions remain, like the Babushka:
Babushka is a traditional Christmas figure who distributes presents to children. Her name means grandmother and the legend is told that she declined to go with the wise men to see Jesus because of the cold weather. However, she regretted not going and set off to try and catch up, filling her basket with presents. She never found Jesus, and that is why she visits each house, leaving toys for good children.
10. Christmas Poetry – Italy
In Italy, it is Christmas tradition that children go from house to house reciting hymns and poems in exchange for money to buy presents. The Christmas season is three weeks long, starting eight days before Christmas and extending until Epiphany on January 6th.
11. Beach Barbeque – Australia
In Australia, the only white Christmas is one with white sandy beaches. Christmas occurs in the middle of Australia’s summer and can be one of the hottest days of the year. Beach visits and outdoor barbeques are common and seafood is often a Christmas dish.
12. Epiphany – Ireland
Christmas in Ireland is very religious and focuses on feasts and church services. The celebration begins on Christmas Eve and extends until Epiphany (Jan. 6th), which is when the Wise Men’s visit to baby Jesus is celebrated.