Christmas Around the World

santa-claus-1819933_960_720In America, a traditional Christmas is celebrated by decorating with extravagant light shows, family gatherings, and exchanging gifts. Attending Christmas church services can be a tradition for some, many parents will take their children to visit Santa Clause, while for others, decorating a tree with the family can be a big event. The traditional Christmas feast is similar to Thanksgiving, with turkey or ham and the usual side dishes. But not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas this way. Here are a few countries with some unique ways of celebrating the holiday.


With the majority of the population being Catholic, Brazilians celebrate Christmas by going to a Midnight Mass service. Santa Claus is known as Papai Noel. Children usually leave a sock near the window and if Papai Noel finds your sock, he will exchange it for a gift. Traditional foods for the occasion are pork, turkey, and ham, usually served with rice cooked with raisins.


The Ethiopian people use the old Julian calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and it is known as the Ganna celebration. Most people fast on Christmas Eve (Jan. 6th), then get dressed in white the next morning. Ganna mass starts at 4:00am and everyone is given a candle to hold during the service. Men and boys are separated from the women and girls during the ceremony. Christmas food is a thick, spicy stew with meat and vegetables eaten on a plate of ‘injera’ – a flat bread.


Being so near to the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise in the winter, so Greenlanders put an illuminated star in windows during Christmas, which helps bring some light to the dark days. There are hardly any trees on the land, so Christmas trees have to be imported from Denmark. Families usually gather to have coffee and cakes, and exchange brightly wrapped gifts. Traditional presents are sledges, polish walrus tusks, or sealskin mitts. They indulge in some unusual foods that they consider delicacies, such as ‘Mattak’ – whale skin with a strip of blubber inside, and ‘kiviak’ – decomposed flesh of an artic bird called auk.


Christmas time on the islands is an opportunity to be social and have parties with family, friends, and neighbors. Trinidadians listen to Parang music during the holiday season, which has been heavily influenced by the Venezuelan culture. There are a few special foods made for the occasion: Black cake – a regular vanilla cake batter combined with dried fruits that is left soaking in alcohol for several months; Sorrel – a drink made with sorrel flowers and a concoction of aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and ginger); Ponche-de-crème – a sweet and creamy, alcoholic eggnog.

It is always interesting to read about how other cultures celebrate Christmas. Share some of your unusual traditions with us here or on our Facebook page.

To learn more about how other countries celebrate Christmas, visit this site:

2Written by: Donna J. Sanders

Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia, Cardboard Signs, Devour Me and Charcoal Kisses.

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