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Christmas Around The World


Adults, Life + Learning

  • Outside Christmas scene with Christmas trees and carousel

Jennifer, Clemens Mill | December 1, 2019

Christmas is a time of traditions. In Canada, many families celebrate on Christmas Eve, after Midnight Mass, settling in for Tourtière and presents. Other families wake up to presents on Christmas morning, and spend the day preparing Christmas Dinner. Around the world, Christmas traditions are sometimes similar to ours, and sometimes very different. However, for families who celebrate Christmas, there is always the celebration of the birth of Christ, several days of merry-making with family and friends, and lots and lots of food.

In the Netherlands, families celebrate St. Nicholas' Day, which marks the arrival of Sinterklaas by steamboat on December 5th. The bells ring and children enjoy Sinterklaas parties where they receive peppermint candy and clues to find their presents. Christmas Day is also celebrated, when families gather for a meal, and for presents from the Christmas Man (different from Sinterklaas), who comes from Finland.

In Portugal, families gather for a Christmas Eve feast of Codfish, potatoes and vegetables. They then attend the Midnight Mass, and when they return, they discover that Father Christmas/Baby Jesus has brought gifts. Some families have Christmas trees, but the traditional Christmas decoration is the Nativity Scene.

In parts of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine, families fast until they see the first star in the sky on Christmas Eve, at which time they can have their Christmas dinner. The meal often consists of twelve dishes that represent the twelve disciples of Jesus. Christmas is sometimes celebrated on January 7th because they use the Julian calendar. In the Ukraine, trees are decorated in spider webs. This comes from the legend of a poor widower who discovered his trees covered in silver and gold webs on Christmas morning, after which the family had good luck and prosperity.

In Iceland, Christmas/Yule is called Jol. There is a Christmas Eve Meal, followed by gifts. Christmas also sees the arrival of the Joletide lads, twelve magical trolls who play tricks on children, and leave them gifts in their shoes. Each troll has a talent, such as Sausage Stealer, Door Slammer, Bowl Licker and Window Peeper.

In the Philippines, the star that led the Wise Men is the most popular Christmas decoration. Children leave their polished shoes out on windowsills, in hopes that when the three kings walk by at night they will leave presents.

To learn more about how the world celebrates Christmas, see this list.

However you spend your Christmas holidays, and whatever your traditions are, we hope that they are joyous and full of wonder.

Happy Christmas.