It will be Christmas time before you know it. And we’re all busy preparing for our family and cultural traditions. But why not take a moment to learn what other cultures are up to at this time of year? It can be a breath of fresh air during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Plus, you might get inspired to try something new this Christmas.
Christmas in Germany: Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Most of us decorate our homes with a Christmas tree, but did you know that they originated in Germany, dating back to the Middle Ages? And the popular Christmas carol, “Oh Christmas Tree” that we hear at this time of year? That was first a German song called “O Tannenbaum”.
In the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas day, the centers of many German towns are filled with Christmas markets. There, you’ll find stalls selling holiday gifts, foods, and specialty items. You can also enjoy a warm glass of “Glüh Wein”, or mulled wine as you stroll beneath Christmas lights.
The most famous of German Christmas markets is the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt in the southern region of Bavaria. There you can try delicious gingerbread, sausage and find internationally sourced gifts for your friends and family. It’s so big you can even take a horse-drawn carriage tour around the city. It truly is a winter wonderland that won’t disappoint.
Christmas in Brazil: Feliz Natal!
Since Brazil is a multicultural country, their Christmas traditions are influenced by many different cultures, including Portugal and Germany.
Drawing on their Portuguese roots, many Brazilians set up nativity scenes, or “Presepio” to display the birth of Jesus. These can be elaborate and life-size renditions, and just one of the many ways this largely Catholic population honors an all-important feast day.
Like Germans, they decorate their homes, stores and public places with Christmas trees. But unlike Germany, which is quite a cold place during Christmas time, it’s not uncommon for Brazilians to enjoy holiday foods such as outdoor pork barbecues, fresh and dried fruits, a special rice dish, and yes, even ice cream.
Christmas in Japan: Merii Kurisumasu!
Even though most Japanese people aren’t Christian, Christmas is still celebrated. And instead of being a religious holiday, it’s a secular celebration.
It’s full of typical Western customs, like Christmas trees, decorations and lights, but Japan has also infused this festive holiday with their own Asian touch. Their “Christmas Cake” for example, is much like the American Strawberry Shortcake, and it’s typical at this time of year.
Christmas markets, evocative of Germany’s world-famous markets, can also be found scattered throughout the bigger cities. Hot cider, ornaments, and good fun can all be found while walking through Tokyo’s Christmas markets.
Though it might seem strange to people in Western cultures, it’s a big tradition for Japanese people to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas day. In fact, it’s so popular that many people will actually order their meals ahead of time!
Shopping, gift giving, fabulous decorations and even Christmas parades are all part of Japan’s Christmas culture, too.
Christmas in Australia: Happy Christmas!
Since Christmas happens during Australia’s summer season, you won’t find many snowy Christmas displays and cozy foods, which are typical in Europe and North America.
Instead, you can find people going to the beach, or taking camping trips, especially in the southern hemisphere. In fact, the Bondi Beach in Sydney sees close to 40,000 visitors on Christmas day!
With the warm temperatures, people enjoy cookouts, with foods like turkey, pork, and barbecues with their friends and family.
Just like in many other English-speaking cultures, it’s typical to exchange gifts on Christmas Day. And Christmas cards, carols, and decorations are all found in the land down under.
Christmas in Greece: Kala Christougenna!
Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in this ancient country. Like many other places in the world, it is a time to celebrate the Christian meaning and to come together with friends and family.
But Christmas celebrations and observances don’t end on Christmas day. In the 12 days of Christmas (from December 25th to January 6th), you can often find a fire burning in many homes to ward off evil spirits.
Another way Greeks protect their homes is by hanging herbs, such as hyssop, thistle, and asparagus, above their fireplaces to add an extra boost of protection.
And while gifts are exchanged in Greece, the religious meaning of Christmas is central to this holiday and Greeks celebrate with mouthwatering meals, like stuffed roasted Turkey and many typical pastries, like puff pastries filled with apples and pork sausage, veal with fruits and nuts, Baklava, or their New Year’s cake called Vasilopita.
Christmas in Mexico: Feliz Navidad!
As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is a huge celebration for these central Americans. In fact, Christmas is celebrated from December 12th all the way to January 6th.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, children perform “Posadas”, or a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. During these processions, people line the streets and decorate their homes with lanterns and lights.
As in Brazil, nativity scenes, or “Nacimiento” are a popular tradition and you can find ornate and elaborate scenes arranged in private and public settings. Attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a long-held tradition, too.
And while we’re all familiar with pinatas, which are typically used at birthday parties throughout the United States, they’re a big part of Christmas festivities in Mexico.
Christmas in Slovenia: Srecen Bozic!
Since the First Lady of the United States is a Slovenian immigrant, there’s a large interest in the Christmas traditions of this Eastern European country.
Christmas markets in the capital, Ljubljana, offer crafts, yummy treats, and special gifts. Live public nativity scenes are another popular spectacle throughout the capital city. And like many Western traditions, decorated Christmas trees, and evergreen arrangements find a place throughout the country.
Slovenians also have a Santa Claus who delivers gifts to children on Christmas Day. Many families burn incense and prepare a specialty loaf called “potica”, which even Pope Francis inquired about when he met with First Lady Melania Trump.
Christmas in Italy: Buon Natale!
For Italians, Christmas is the ultimate feast for the entire family. Christmas Eve holds precedence, and you can enter into most homes to find an impressive spread of seafood dishes – seven to be precise.
Children receive presents – not from Santa Claus – but from a good-natured witch named “La Bafana”. Midnight Mass typically follows Christmas Eve dinner, and for some young Italians, the festivities continue into the night at a local town bar. Needless to say, Italians make the very most of their Christmas holiday!
How do you and your family like to celebrate Christmas? Do you observe any of these traditions? Let us know!