Christmas around the world

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One of the most celebrated global holidays, Christmas is associated with a wide variety of traditions across the world. If you’re in search of an expat adventure in the New Year, what local festivities can you expect come Yuletide?

Australia (Happy Christmas!)

In lieu of ice and snow, Australians traditionally host outdoor Christmas picnics and sing carols on the beach!

France (Joyeux Noël!)

Christmas begins on 6 December (Saint Nicholas’ Day) in many regions of France, a day when children are given sweets and small gifts.

Children hope for more candy on Christmas Day (25 December) after leaving out their polished shoes in front of the fireplace the night before, to be filled with goodies by Père Noël (Father Christmas).

Germany (Fröhliche Weihnachten!)

Christmas markets are incredibly popular in German city squares. Homes are decorated with lights and ornaments in December, although the Christmas tree isn’t put up until Christmas Eve.

Iceland (Gleðileg Jól!)

The darkest time of year in Iceland is juxtaposed with bright Christmas lights and fireworks both in city centres and back gardens.

Children put their shoes on the windowsill for Santa Claus (Juletide Lads) to fill with small treats.

Italy (Buon Natale!)

The traditional nativity scene, ‘presepe’ is common across Italy, prominently seen in town squares, churches and private homes, usually the central focus of any Christmas decorations.

Father Christmas (Babbo Natale) usually hands out presents to children on Christmas Day, although many families still wait to exchange gifts on 6 January, the day of Epiphany (La Befana).

Japan (Merii Kurisumasu!)

Traditional Christmas dinner in Japan is… KFC! The fried chicken restaurant is so popular in the country that, for Christmas Day, you have to pre-book a table!

The Netherlands (Zalig Kerstfeest!)

Christmas is celebrated in 6 December in the Netherlands. Children await the arrival of SinterKlass (Santa Claus) and his sidekick Black Pete. Good children receive sweets and nuts, so long as they fill their shoes with hay and sugar for Santa’s reindeer horse!

The Philippines (Maligayang Pasko!)

Star-shaped Christmas lanterns (paról) are a popular tradition in the Philippines, as a symbol of the Star if Bethlehem. The lanterns are sold in local markets, made out of bamboo and paper and sold in local markets.

 Singapore (Sheng Tan Kuai Loh!)

Christmas is a highly commercialised affair in Singapore; flashy decorations and bright fairy lights abound, especially in shopping centres and private homes.

 South Africa (Geseënde Kersfees!)

The warm weather encourages families to gather for a ‘braai’ (South African BBQ) on Christmas Day after attending church mass.


Know any more Christmas traditions in different countries? Let us know in the comments below!

To find out more about moving abroad at Christmas (or any other time), contact Pickfords.


See also: New Year around the world

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