Christmas is fast approaching, and experts have revealed the unique ways that the festive season is celebrated around the world.
Language and culture experts at Busuu have researched what unusual and traditional celebrations take place across the globe for Christmas day.
Whilst Germans enjoy feasting on roasted meats and the Polish have fish as part of their ‘Wigilia’, the Japanese rush over to KFC for their Christmas dinner!
Most countries decorate their homes and public spaces with large Christmas trees, festive ornaments and sparkly lights, but those in China use a plastic tree featuring flowers and chains made out of paper.
A spokesperson for Busuu said: “Lots of countries around the world love to celebrate Christmas - whether that be on Saint Nicholas Day at the beginning of December, or on the 24th and 25th. It’s such a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, exchange gifts, decorate the house and eat lots of yummy food.
“Everyone will have their own traditions passed down from family members, but countries also have different ways they like to spend Christmas day. For example in Japan, Christmas is only celebrated by families with children and couples tend to see it more as Valentine's Day.
“However you spend the festive season, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there is no denying the warm, fuzzy feeling the period brings to us all, and the time we get to spend with our nearest and dearest.”
Here’s how Christmas is celebrated around the world:
The 25th of December is a public holiday for the French, and decorations fill every space in households and public spaces over the festive period. Traditional Advent wreaths (‘Couronnes de l’Avent’) is a feature for many families, where one candle is lit each week throughout December. Christmas Day in France is spent opening presents, celebrating and spending time with loved ones, and feasting on a late lunch consisting of goose or capon, truffles and mashed potato.
In Germany, Christmas day (or, ‘Weihnachten’) is celebrated on the 24th of December with homes lovingly decorated with trees, ornaments and lights ready for the big day. On the evening of the 5th, a day before Saint Nicholas day, children spend time polishing their shoes and leave them on the street, to later find them filled with chocolates and sweets as a reward for good behaviour. Christmas markets are a huge part of German festivities and traditions, with Dresden's ‘Striezelmarkt’ being considered the longest-running Christmas market in the world.
Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan, but is still considered to be a big celebration with festivities tending to start around November time. What’s interesting is that Christmas tends to only be celebrated by families with children or couples. Kids will wake up to presents next to their bed and couples spend the day like Valentine’s Day - going on dates, having dinner and exchanging small gifts together.
Christmas dinners in Japan look very different to most countries - the Japanese typically eat a meal from KFC. Some pre-order their chicken meals months in advance and long queues are expected on the 25th outside KFC restaurants.
The start of Christmas in Poland really takes place on the 24th when streets are lit up with festive lights. Traditional glass-blown ornaments adorn Christmas trees and carols aren’t first sung until ‘Pasterka’ - the celebratory Polish midnight mass. For many families, Christmas Eve is the first day of fasting and when the first star appears, ‘Wigilia’ is held, a vigil dinner often serving fish.
In China, Christmas tends to be more of a commercial holiday with cities and department stores decorating with large Christmas trees, ornaments, and bright, colourful lights. Those who do choose to celebrate tend to spend the day as a get together with family and friends. For those who put up a tree in their homes, it will usually be a plastic one decorated with paper chains and paper flowers.
6. The Netherlands
The Dutch merrily celebrate Christmas on both the 25th and the 26th of December, spending lots of time with family and friends, watching films, playing games and feasting on delicious Christmas food like ‘Kerststol’ - a seasonal fruity bread loaf.
The evening of December 5th is the most exciting Christmas day for children in the Netherlands as ‘Sinterklaas’ arrives with presents. Kids will leave a shoe by the fireplace, sing Dutch Christmas songs and wait until ‘pakjesavond’ (present evening) for their gifts to arrive.
The festive season officially begins on December 8th, the time of Immaculate Conception, when Christmas trees are put up and light displays decorate towns and villages. Italian tradition goes that Christmas Eve must be a meat-free day, with many choosing to cook pasta, rice and seafood. Christmas Day is therefore all about feasting on grand roasted meat meals and finishing off with a slice of traditional ‘Panettone’ Christmas cake.
8. Caracas, Venezuela
On Christmas Eve, residents of Venezuela’s capital city will be seen travelling to Christmas mass on roller skates! Supposedly an alternative to sledding, people all across Caracas will dust off their skates and travel through the city to gather together at an early-morning Christmas service. Skating is such a popular tradition that the streets are closed to cars to allow skaters to travel safely and enjoy this fun Christmas activity.