It’s not uncommon for families to have Christmas traditions they repeat every year. We find comfort and joy in custom, and it helps us celebrate. But while individual traditions may differ, countries as a whole often have their own unique Christmas traditions that help them celebrate the holiday. And most of the time, those traditions look much different than ours. Below are some of our favorite traditions from around the world. We hope you enjoy, and maybe adopt one as your own!
Giant Lantern Festival
Image Source: New India Express
Located in San Fernando, the Giant Lantern Festival is a bright and colorful Christmas celebration. But these lanterns aren’t the hand-held size you might be picturing. Locals and tourists alike display their lanterns—usually 20 feet high!—of colorful bulbs held together with wire. There’s even an annual contest for best lantern!
Fun Fact: In 2017, Barangay Dolores won the competition for the third consecutive year.
Source: Philippine News Agency
Along with a more universal Christmas Eve dinner, Norwegians hide all the brooms in their houses. Superstition says witches and other spirits come out on Christmas Eve. Looking for transportation, they steal brooms and fly around town. Residents hide their ride, so witches wouldn’t bother the town.
Fun Fact: Norwegians prefer white Christmas lights to multi-colored ones.
Source: Travel Signposts
We know this probably isn’t unusual if you live where it’s warm for Christmas. But we can’t imagine Christmas traditions with flip flops and swimming! They still dress up in Santa suits and sing Christmas songs. But they certainly don’t wait for a warm weekend to hang Christmas lights outside!
Fun Fact: A shrub in Australia blooms red petals during the holiday season, affectionately called Christmas Bush.
Just like Australia, it’s warm in South Africa during Christmastime, too. To be more accurate—it is summertime. Which means students are on their month-long break from school, and families take the time to vacation and visit the countryside.
Fun Fact: Christmas BBQs include food recipes from England and Holland.
Source: Show Me & Little Passports
While many cultures lay out presents under a tree or in stockings on the mantle, Peruvian Christmas traditions circle the gifts around the nativity scene. These scenes are detailed—usually made out of wood pottery, or even stone.
Fun Fact: Santa Claus was banned from radio and TV in 1972.
Source: Cultural Awareness International
Christmas Book Flood
Jolabokaflod in its native language, the Christmas Book Flood takes place on December 24. It’s a time when friends and family gift each other books, then stay up all night reading. This might seem strange to out-of-towners, but it’s crucial to Icelandic culture. The country has an entire TV show dedicated to books, and the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík, has been dubbed a UNESCO City of Literature.
Fun Fact: Because of the Flood, Iceland publishes more books per capita worldwide.
Night of the Radishes
The official Noche de Rabanos celebration takes place on December 23. But it doesn’t involve eating radishes—it involves carving them. As you may imagine, the radishes used in this event are larger than typical—some over 6 pounds! The theme isn’t always Christmas-related, either. Some carvings are of local wildlife or building structures.
Fun Fact: The winner of the competition takes home 12,000 pesos, or roughly $580 USD.
Fried Chicken for Dinner
We had to check this at a few different sources, because we couldn’t believe it! Chicken is a less common meat in the country, and less than 1% of the population identifies as Christian. So why would they celebrate with…chicken? Back in 1974, KFC did a Kentucky for Christmas (kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii) marketing campaign and the country hasn’t turned back since. Every Christmas Eve, families trek out to get buckets of delicious fried chicken.
Fun Fact: Some families order their boxed fried chicken months ahead of time to avoid the sometimes-two-hour lines!
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
With a history all the way back in the 1800s, Réveillon or “awakening” is a meal that takes place on Christmas Eve after midnight mass. You read that right—after midnight mass. That means dining into the early morning. While the tradition in France disappeared for a few decades, it eventually came back into popularity. Except this time, restaurants create lavish meals specifically for Réveillon, as guests get cozy to dine out for hours at a time.
Fun Fact: Because of the Creole influence in New Orleans, Réveillon is also a strong tradition in The Big Easy.