Christmas Around the World


Faith Burick

Christmas is both a cultural and religious holiday celebrated by billions of people all around the world, both Christian and non-Christian. The celebration of Christmas occurs in 160 countries worldwide with traditions varying by country. Surveys show that 90% of Americans and 95% of Christians celebrate Christmas. Some of the most popular holiday traditions in America are decorating Christmas trees, Elf on the Shelf, advent calendars, gingerbread houses, ugly Christmas sweaters, and leaving out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve night. Germany is responsible for the origin of Christmas trees, which started the tradition in the Middle Ages. Usually, the mother of the family secretly decorates the tree on Christmas Eve to surprise the kids. Germans also exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas morning. Uncommonly, Russia actually celebrates Christmas on January 7th because the Russian Orthodox Church uses a different, older calendar called Julian. Instead, Russia tends to perceive New Year’s Eve as an important day, as this is when Grandfather Frost delivers the children’s presents. In Japan, Christmas is not celebrated as a holiday, instead, it is seen as a time to spread happiness. The most popular meal on Christmas Day is fried chicken, so food chains like KFC take orders in advance. In Norway, much like in many other European countries, gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. They believe that gifts are not only delivered by Santa Claus, but also his small gnomes known as “nisse”. Norway is known for sending a huge Christmas tree to the UK each year, which is placed in Trafalgar Square in London. The tree is a “thank you” present for the UK´s help during World War II. In China, Christmas is not a big deal since it is not a Christian country. Uniquely, people give out apples on Christmas Eve to celebrate peace. Brazil, which was under Portuguese rule for many years developed most of their Christmas traditions from Portugal. People usually go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, which is often followed by firework displays all over the city. Children will sometimes leave a sock near the window in hopes that Papai Noel will come to replace it with a gift. In a non-Christian culture, such as Thailand, Christmas is not a national holiday. This is because more than 90% of the people are Buddhist. They do not celebrate the actual holiday, but they still do decorate and exchange gifts with friends and family on December 25. Some other countries that do not celebrate Christmas as a national holiday are Afghanistan, Algeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen.