Christmas Traditions from Around the World

By John Clise

Christmas is just a few days away here in the United States. Other countries celebrate this day at different times of the year than we do.

Christmas always brings fond memories to me of childhood and early years with my mom, dad, and sister.

We were fairly traditional when it came to Christmas. We had a tree; left milk and coookies for Santa; decorated the tree with keepsake ornaments; had a feast for dinner; it was always a wonderful family time.

We enjoyed eggnog and cookies. Eggnog was always a tasty treat for my sister and I at Christmas. We always thought it should be for sale year-round.

When we were small kids we made green velvet stockings with our names on them. One for each of the four of us. We would use those stockings for the remainder of childhood and into adulthood. We used them until the those sweet last Christmases with mom and dad before they passed.

Santa always brought us apples, oranges and jars of peanuts. Santa was always as generous as he sometimes was from Christmas to Christmas but he didn’t ever bring us underwear and socks… so I always figured he knew what he was doing.

Like most kids, my sister and I would be up early with excitement and wonder. Much earlier and much more full of wonder than our parents though they always seemed to be all smiles as we opened presents, had the eggnog, and generally celebrated the birth of Jesus.

When we were really young mom would always make baby Jesus a birthday cake.

At some point in the day after we moved to Vincennes, Indiana, my best friend Brian would come over to see what we got, and to tell us what he got.

He had lived in Hawaii and the Philippines which lead me to wonder how people in other areas of the US and the world celebrated Christmas.

Obviously Hawaii gets it Christmas trees via ship as the climate there isn’t ideal for growing fir trees. As is the case for the Philippines.

Foods and celebrations are different even in Hawaii, and the Philippines.

Here’s a compilation of Christmas traditions from around the world. I hope you enjoy.

The French government takes Christmas very seriously. Since 1962, any letter to Père Noël (Santa Claus in French) must be answered with a postcard from Monsieur Noël himself, according to the law. 

Christmas carolers in Greece go from house to house spreading music and Christmas cheer (often with small instruments like a triangle or harmonica), and when they’re done singing they’re rewarded with holiday sweets and even loose change.

In Peru, Nativity scenes, called ‘pesebre’, are an important decoration in most houses. They can be very large and elaborate. Sometimes they will have native Peruvian animals in them like llamas and alpacas! Traditionally the figure of the baby Jesus isn’t put into the scene until Christmas day.

In Great Britian, Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are also eaten on and around Christmas.

In Norway, Christmas Eve is the time when presents are exchanged. The gifts are sometimes brought by Santa Claus (called ‘Julenissen’ in Norway). Presents are also brought by the small gnomes called ‘Nisse’. There are also hobgoblins (Nisse) decorations. Children pick up the presents from under the Christmas Tree and read the cards on the presents out loud.

In Egypt about 15 percent of people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas as a religious festival. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.

Christmas Day isn’t celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in Ethiopia and by some Orthodox Christians in Russia and Serbia).

The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the Sunday Service.

I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas with all of your favorite traditions, and joy in your heart.


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