Christmas traditions around the world

Christmas, one of the most eagerly awaited times of the year. Every year, for a few days, the whole world lights up! People are smiling, happier and warmer despite the onset of winter (in the northern hemisphere, of course).
Not all countries celebrate Christmas, even though it’s often an occasion for family reunions and good times.
Among all the Christmas traditions around the world, we’ve selected 12 that are often strange, sometimes bizarre, but always magical!


1. Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines

The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) takes place every year on the Saturday before Christmas in San Fernando, the “Christmas Capital” of the Philippines. This festival attracts people from all over the world.
11 villages take part in the “biggest lantern” competition.
The tradition began with lanterns 50 cm in diameter, which today can reach 5 m in diameter. Beautiful, isn’t it?

See also Discover the Philippines

2. Christmas in Sweden The Goat of Gävle, Sweden

Since 1966, a huge straw goat has been built in downtown Gävle, just before Christmas. This goat has given rise to a very special tradition: setting fire to it before December 31st. Since its existence, it has been burnt 22 times.

3. Krampus, Austria

Krampus is a demon that scares children before Christmas, one of the strangest Christmas traditions.
A bit like the bogeyman, a demon-like creature chases children through the streets, frightening them and punishing the less well-behaved.

4. KFC, Japan

Japan is a novice when it comes to Christmas. Apart from the traditions concerning gifts and string lights, Japan has decided to create its own tradition… somewhat strange: “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!” which means “Kentucky for Christmas”.
This tradition comes from a group ofexpatriates in Japan who wanted to eat turkey for the holidays and couldn’t find any anywhere, so they turned to KFC.

5. St. Nicholas Day, Germany

To avoid being mistaken for Santa Claus, Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas) travels by donkey on the night of December 6. It distributes coins, chocolates, oranges and toys to well-behaved children all over Germany, especially in the Bavarian region. He also visits schools, where in exchange for a gift, children recite a poem, offer a drawing or sing a song.

Travelling in Germany

6. In Norway

Centuries ago, locals believed that witches came out on Christmas Eve. It’s from this belief that their tradition of hiding their broomsticks on Christmas Eve comes. Even today, many Norwegians hide their brooms to avoid having them stolen.

7. The National Menorah Flame, Washington, D.C.

The Jewish religious holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated with great fanfare throughout the United States. Since 1979, a huge menorah has been set up for 8 days in front of the White House, next to the Christmas tree. These ceremonies include speeches, music, children’s activities and the lighting of the menorah.

Moving to the United States

8. Des villes en feux, Colombie

In Colombia, Christmas is about much more than just lights and decorations. It’s candlelight day. December 8 marks the start of the festive season, and on this day all residents place candles and lanterns in front of their homes.
Visas and insurance for Colombia

9. In Venezuela

In Venezuela, Christmas mass takes on a special twist. In fact, all the inhabitants of Caracas go there on rollerblades.
So rooted in the town’s traditions, the roads are closed to traffic.

10. Le Barbecue en Australie

Coinciding with the start of summer, Christmas in Australia is synonymous with sunshine, barbecues and long days at the beach.

11. Les Neuf Posadas, Mexique

Christmas is a very important time of year in Mexico. December 16 marks the start of the festivities, as it is the very first of the nine Posadas. A tradition for which Mexicans gather each of the nine nights before Christmas in a different house to ask for shelter. What’s on the agenda? Food, carols and piñatas!

12. Les araignées de Noël, Ukraine

In Ukraine, Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with spider webs. They’re supposed to bring good luck. In other countries, such as Poland and Germany, finding a spider or spider’s web on a Christmas tree is considered good luck. Our thoughts are with this country, and we hope that the conflict will come to an end as soon as possible.

If you decide to spend Christmas in one of these countries, remember to take out travel insurance so you can enjoy your stay abroad with peace of mind. Mondassur, an insurance broker for 20 years, is your ideal partner for finding the travel insurance that’s right for you!

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