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Christmas Around the World

Ever wondered how to wish someone Happy Holidays in another country/culture?  Then today is your lucky day!  We have compiled a list of some different countries/cultures that differ from the American Christmas.  Now you can reach out to your international friends and impress them with this new-found knowledge!  Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom!


1. Canada-Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël (French)

Fun Fact: Canadian children believe Santa Clause lives in the North Pole in Canada.  They send letters through Canada Post to “Santa” using the postal code “HOH OHOO”.

2. China- Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan  (聖誕節和新年快樂) (Mandarin), “Gun Tso Sun Tan’Gung Haw Sun (聖誕節同新年快樂) (Cantonese)

Fun Fact: Chinese hang paper lanterns and decorate trees that they call “Trees of Light” with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns.  The children hang muslin stockings for their version of Santa Clause, whom they call “Dun Che Lao Ren”, literally translating to “Christmas Old Man”.

3. Finland- Hauskaa joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!

Fun Fact: The main Christmas festivities are held on Christmas Eve.  The Declaration of Christmas Peace is a huge tradition and important ceremony.  Right before the festivities begin, people take a Christmas sauna and then they dress up in clean clothes for the dinner or ”

“Joulupöytä”.  Christmas gifts are usually exchanged after dinner. Children do not hang up stockings.  Their version of Santa is called “Joulupukki” who is helped by many little “tonttu” or elves.

4. France- Joyeux Noël

Fun Fact: French children do not hang their stockings, they put their shoes by the fireplace or under the tree to receive gifts.  Their version of Santa is “Père Noël”, which translates to Father Christmas.

5. Germany- Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr

Fun Fact: Germans celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day on December 6, where Saint Nicholas puts gifts in children’s shoes.  “Knecht Ruprecht” accompanies him to punish children who don’t behave.  The Christmas gift-giving actually takes place on Christmas Eve.  Sometimes the big meal starts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

6. Greece- Kala Christouyenna!

Fun Fact: Presents are opened on January 1, Saint Basil’s Day.  “Basil” is their version of Santa.  Christmas cake with a cross in the middle is made on Christmas Eve and they attend church on Christmas morning.

7. India- Shub Naya Baras (Hindi)

Fun Fact: India is not primarily Christian, but Christmas is still a state holiday.  It is considered an appropriate time for gift-giving or giving “baksheesh”, charity to the poor.  Christians in India decorate mango or banana trees.

8. Ireland- Nollaig Shona Dhuit or  Nodlaig mhaith chugnat

Fun Fact: Christmas lasts from December 24 to January 6.  A popular tradition is to go to a local pub on Christmas Eve for “the Christmas drink”.  Children leave mince pie and a bottle or a glass of Guinness for Santy or Daidí na Nollag (their Santa Clause) as well as a carrot for Rudolph.

9. Israel- Mo’adim Lesimkha. Chena tova (Hebrew)

Fun Fact: Many Christians travel to Bethlehem Christmas Eve & Christmas day to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ.  In addition to Christians, there are many Jews residing in Israel who celebrate Hanukkah, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem.  Christmas is banned in the West Bank.

10. Italy-Buon natale e felice anno nuovo or Buone Feste Natalizie

Fun Fact: The Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione or The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is on December 8 & is a national holiday.  On this day, Italians put up the Christmas tree and hang vultures to symbolize the cleaning of their spirits.  Giorno di Santa Lucia is celebrated on December 13 with the parade of light and the Feast of St. Lucy.  On this day, Sicilians do not eat anything made with wheat flour.  On Christmas Eve, they attend midnight mass after the Feast of the Seven Fishes (they do not eat meat).  Christmas Day usually consists of a family lunch.  Their version of Santa is “Babbo Natale” or according to some traditions, Baby Jesus.

11. Japan-Shinnen omedeto (新年おめでとう), or Kurisumasu Omedeto (おめでとうクリスマス)

Fun Fact: Christmas is almost universally observed.  There is a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles our Santa Claus. He is always pictured as a kind old man carrying a huge pack.  New Year’s Day is the most important day of the year.  On this day, the entire house is cleaned, and the people dress in their finest clothes.  The father of the house marches throughout the house, followed by the rest of the family to drive the evil spirits out.  The father also throws dried beans into every corner to remove evil spirits and welcome good luck.

12. Korea- Sung Tan Chuk Ha (메리 크리스마스 새해 복 많이 받으세요)

Fun Fact: Christmas is not a public holiday in North Korea, but is in South Korea.  There have been many attempts to mount tree to the border, but the government of North Korea is forced to take them down.

13. Mexico-Feliz Navidad

Fun Fact: The main celebration is called Las Posadas, where the people are divided into pilgrims and innkeepers and over a span of 9 days they reenact Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. They call Santa “Santo Clos” and they believe the Three Wise Men fill their shoes with candies, foods, and money.

14. Nigeria- Merry Christmas

Fun Fact: The main religions in Nigeria are Christians & Muslims, evenly divided.  Christmas Day is considered a public holiday and most successful Nigerians leave their cities to return home to their ancestral villages to see their families.  Great emphasis is placed on helping the less fortunate.

15. Norway- Gledelig Jul & God Jul

Fun Fact: The Yule Log originates here.  It is said to possibly be responsible for the fireplace becoming a central part of Christmas as well as for the popularity of log-shaped foods for the holidays.  Their Santa is called “Julenissen” and on the day after Christmas, “Julebukk”, kids wear costumes and go door to door for treats, much like American Halloween.

16. Romania- Crăciun Fericit or Sărbători vesele

Fun Fact: On the first day of Christmas, several carolers walk through town singing carols with the leader of the group holding a star made of cardboard and paper with biblical depictions attached to the end of a broom or long stick.  An image of the Nativity scene is painted in the center of the star.

17. Russia- Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom! (С Рождеством иновым годом)

Fun Fact: In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7.  Their version of Santa, “Ded Moroz” (Дед Мороз), or Grandfather Frost accompanied by his granddaughter, “Snegurochka” (Снегу́рочка) or the Snow Maiden.  Most Russians are a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  During the communist regime, religious celebrations were discouraged and later banned by the atheist government.  This led to the Christmas celebration and decoration of the tree becoming adopted by the New Year’s celebration.

18. Spain- Feliz Navidad

Fun Fact: Christmas is called “Navidad”.  Their version of Santa is called “Papá Noel”, usually only delivering a couple of presents, while another important traditional character is “Olentzero”.  On 31 there is a large feast and on January 1 morning they have churros with chocolate for breakfast.  On January 5 a huge parade called La Cabalgata welcomes the Three Kings and on January 5 children put their shoes in the window hoping for presents from the Three Wise Men.

19. Sweden- God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År!

Fun Fact: Christmas begins with Saint Lucia Day or ”Luciadagen”.  On this day, the eldest daughter wakes up early wearing a white robe, red sash, and wire crown covered with whortleberry-twigs with 9 lighted candles to wake the family singing “Santa Lucia”.   She serves them coffee and saffron buns to usher in the Christmas season. Their version of Santa is called “Jultomte” or “Tomte” for short.  He doesn’t enter through the chimney, but rather knocks on the door.

20. UK-Happy Christmas (Great Britain), Nadolig Llawen (Wales), A Blithe Yule or Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh (Scotland)

Fun Fact: In England, Norway donates a giant Christmas tree every year for Trafalgar Square to thank them for their help during WWII.  Mince pies are a traditional dish.  Their Santa is called “Father Christmas”. The children put out carrots for the reindeer and mince pies and sherry for Father Christmas.  In Scotland, Christmas has been observed rather quietly because the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) never emphasized Christmas.  “Hogmanay”, the New Year’s Eve celebration is the big celebration.  There is a superstition that it is bad luck for the fire to go out Christmas Eve because of the elves were out and only a raging fire will keep them from coming down the chimney. On Christmas, people light bonfires and dance around them with bagpipes.  Bannock cakes, which are made of oatmeal, are a traditional dish.  Their version of Santa is “Bodach na Nollaig” or “Old Man of Christmas”.  The Welsh find great importance in caroling “eisteddfodde” accompanied by a harp & there is an award for best new carol.  Another big tradition is toffee-making.  Their version of Santa is ”Siôn Corn”.

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