Holiday Traditions from Around the World

Holiday Traditions from Around the World

  • Dennis Hartley
  • 11/2/22

In your home this holiday season, chances are you will be honoring family traditions that have been passed down for generations. If you’d like to add some new ways to enjoy to your celebrations, consider these ideas from around the globe.

Extra Days to Celebrate

December 21 is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and celebrated in countries worldwide. In Japan, a traditional hot bath with citrus on this day helps ward off colds and flu.

December 23 is Norway’s Little Christmas Eve. This is a day or evening for celebrating with immediate family (who may or may not be together on Christmas Eve/Day), to make crafts, cook, or play games.

December 26 through January 1 in the new year is Kwanzaa. Families light candles each night and exchange handmade gifts.

January 6 is Three Kings Day, celebrated in Spain, South America, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Philippines and also Latin American communities in the US. In New Orleans it is called Twelfth Night and is the beginning of Mardi Gras Season. It is typically a day of feasting and gifts to honor cultures and customs.  


Other Santa figures to inspire children

13 mischievous Elves in Iceland mind children’s behavior and gift treats or rotten potatoes accordingly.

La Befana is the old, good witch in Italy who brings goodies to kind children.


Unique International Celebrations

In Austria and Germany, the Christmas tree only goes up the morning of Christmas Eve. Children are then allowed to take in the magical wonder of the lights for the first time that evening. Pickle ornaments are popular on that German tree; the first child to spot the pickle gets an extra gift. 

Multi-candle arrangements are centerpieces for Jewish and African American celebrations. Your family may wish to create a number or collection of candles to light, and celebrate something special about your own heritage and culture.

Dreidel is a game played with a top during Hanukkah; children earn little prizes.

Books are exchanged in Iceland on Christmas Eve, and everyone snuggles with their new books and chocolate to enjoy Christmas Day.

The Irish light a candle in their window to welcome guests, morning through night.

In places like the Netherlands, children put out their shoes – rather than Christmas stockings – to be filled with treats.

Japanese families clean their homes from top to bottom leading up to New Year’s Day, to get a fresh start on 2023.


Holiday Dining

Israel, Morocco, and Italy all have their own versions of fried dough as holiday treats, usually with a sweet twist like citrus or honey.

Dongzhi, the Chinese festival for Winter Solstice, celebrates with dumplings or glutinous rice balls that are served in a sweet or savory soup.

France celebrates at midnight on Christmas Eve, some with rich options like foie gras and oysters; others with 13 desserts including Buche de Noel (Yule log cake).

Italy celebrates on Christmas Eve with a seafood-laden meal known as Feast of Seven Fishes here in the US.

Japan has the impression that Americans eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas so, this is the holiday meal for many Japanese.


Be lucky

Spain has El Gordo Lottery, one of the world’s biggest, that is held each year at Christmastime and awards millions of Euros to winners.

Spain, Mexico, and some South American countries eat 12 grapes (one per each stroke on the clock) hoping for monthly wishes coming true, right at midnight New Year’s Day.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash





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