Christmas Traditions Around the World

It’s that festive time of year when trees go up, lights sparkle through the night, and smells of spice warm the kitchen. There’s a whole world of unique traditions out there, so we surveyed our global partners for their favorite Christmas traditions from around the world. Happy holidays!

Buñuelos, delicious fried pastries popular in Latin America. Photo credit: Sophie Echeverry

Buñuelos, delicious fried pastries popular in Latin America. Photo credit: Sophie Echeverry

Colombia

“Christmas wouldn’t be complete without buñuelos and hot chocolate – with mozzarella to balance out all the sweet!” 

Sophie Echeverry, avid foodie & cultural blogger

Cuba

“Celebrating the Christmas holidays means the entire family comes together to celebrate. We celebrate on Noche Buena with plenty of food, music and stories of the year. We eat pernil, arroz con moros, and for dessert we always have natilla or bocadillo, which is guava paste and cheese together.”

Alyssa BourmecheOjos Extranjeros travel blog

Costa Rica

All through the month of December no Costa Rican home will be found without tamales. Throughout the holiday season, invitations to eat tamales at friends’ and relatives’ homes are common. At Christmas, tamales simply cannot be missing from the kitchen!

"When we make tamales in my family everyone has a station. Someone is mixing the corn flour, someone is cooking the meat and veggies, someone is cleaning the Palm leaves. Then everyone sits around and makes as many tamales as they can, while drinking and chatting and listening to music. We usually make over 100ish every year!"

Melanie Faith, avid traveler

Making tamales in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Melanie Faith

Making tamales in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Melanie Faith

Adventskranz,  a German Christmas tradition. Photo credit: Susanna Kelly

Adventskranz, a German Christmas tradition. Photo credit: Susanna Kelly

Germany

“A lesser known tradition in Germany takes place in the home around an Adventskranz, or a wreath, with four candles attached to it. Every Sunday before Christmas families gather together and spend an hour together, they might watch a festive movie, listen to one of them play the piano, or drink warm drinks. Another tradition worth noting is the quirky Christmas tradition in Bavaria and the surrounding Alpine region of the Krampus run. Krampus is St. Nikolas' assistant, but instead of leaving chocolate for nice children he scares the bad children to being good. Now, every year hundreds of people dress up as Krampus and parade through town centers.” 

Susanna Kelly, Wandering Chocobo travel blog / Photo credit for top banner photo.

 

Ireland

“The poem ‘A Christmas Childhood’ by the great Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh captures the magic of the season for children and adults in the rural Ireland of the 1950s. It's consistently voted one of Ireland's favourite poems.”

Kevin McDermott, local Irish guide

Colosseum Christmas.jpg

Italy 

"As for Christmas in Sardinia it is called Paschixedda meaning little Easter all over Italy. On the 6th of January when the Christmas holiday ends, we celebrate la befana, basically a witch in a broom that will fill up your socks with sweets or coal!!"

Matteo Murgia, avid traveler

 “Where I am from in the north of Italy, there is a really old and strong tradition of meeting at the main square of the town, the night before Christmas, with all the people living there. Everyone brings food and drinks and we share it while dancing and celebrating, as a symbol of togetherness.”

Andrea Flisi, blogger and photographer 

New Zealand

Pohutukawa trees in full bloom. New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas is a summertime celebration!

Pohutukawa trees in full bloom. New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas is a summertime celebration!

"In New Zealand it's hot, so our traditional Christmas 'dinner' is midday, and generally it's BBQ and salads, preferably outside, in shorts and singlet. There's visits to the beach with an umbrella for shade and of course a 'chilly bin' to keep a bottle of bubbly cold (delicious with leftovers on Boxing Day). The Pohutukawa are in full bloom, creating a real 'kiwi' Xmas tree with the native red flowers decorating our stunning northern coastlines. This year in Nelson, the parade featured a Maori Santa, which I felt embraced our progressive cultural diversity, and made me proud to be a New Zealander."

Erin Crowley, avid traveler

 

Cupcakes with  kruidnoten.  Photo credit (and baking credit!) Maaike Molenaar

Cupcakes with kruidnoten. Photo credit (and baking credit!) Maaike Molenaar

The Netherlands

“In the Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th, and for children especially this is the time to receive presents, rather than during Christmas. A popular treat during this time are kruidnoten, little crispy cookies, like the ones on the front of the cupcake. They have cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves in it, making it so tasty. Sugar and spice and all things nice, right?!”

Maaike Molenaar, travel guide

Gourmetten,  a Netherlands holiday tradition. Photo credit: Caitlinn van der Kunn

Gourmetten, a Netherlands holiday tradition. Photo credit: Caitlinn van der Kunn

“A big thing here with Christmas is gourmetten, this is basically a small grill you put on the table and prepare your food while all being at the table to enjoy.”

Caitlinn van der Kunn, Wanderfully Inspired travel blog

 

United Kingdom

“One of my favorite traditions in the UK is going to see the Christmas pantomime, usually a comedic take on a classic fairytale, with lots of slapstick, innuendo, and pop-culture references. Pantos can be held at a large theatre or run by the local theatre club. The cast is usually made up of minor celebrities and men in drag. Pantos are definitely something that have to be experienced to fully appreciate them, some are so popular and star-studded that they are broadcast live on TV during the Christmas period. Christmas (or Crimbo, as we love our colloquialisms in the UK) is not complete without a Pantomime!

Holly BraceWhere’s Holly travel blog

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Send us a message and share - we’d love to know!