London gets decked out for the holidays.
People who celebrate Christmas don’t have all of the same traditions around the world.
In Japan, a bucket of KFC fried chicken has become a holiday staple.
Christmas Eve in Finland can involve going to the sauna with your whole family.
The Christmas season in the Philippines lasts for almost half the year, according to CNN.
Decorations start going up in September and the holiday fervor doesn’t end until the first Sunday in January.
Many people hang up paper lanterns called paróls and eat a big family meal on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.
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Though most people simply buy a cut of fish from the market, according to The Independent, the old tradition was for the lady of the house to keep a live carp in the bathtub for a few days before preparing it for the Christmas meal.
In Finland (and a range of countries around the globe), one of the main events of the holiday season is St. Lucia Day on December 13.
St. Lucia Day typically kicks off the holiday season in the country.
For Christmas lunch, the traditional meal is a porridge containing a hidden almond — though it’s likely this originated in Sweden, according to the University of Helsinki. Whoever finds the almond will have good luck for the rest of the year.
Rather than hanging Christmas stockings over the fireplace, families in the UK typically place them at the foot of their beds, according to BBC America.
On Christmas Day, families break open crackers filled with small toys, jokes, and paper crowns — which are traditionally worn throughout the midday Christmas meal.
The reigning monarch also gives an annual broadcast speech on Christmas Day, during which they discuss what the holiday means to them.
Boxing Day, December 26, is also a national holiday in the UK.
Like many places around the world, some families in Croatia celebrate Christmas with an Advent wreath made of straw or evergreen.
The wreath has four colored candles that symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love.
On the night of December 5, children in Croatia make sure to clean their boots and place them by the window for St. Nicholas to fill with treats, according to The Dubrovnik Times. But naughty kids might only receive a few twigs from the Christmas monster, Krampus.
Christmas Eve is typically celebrated with a light, seafood dinner in preparation for the heavier feast on Christmas Day, complete with roasted meats and poppyseed rolls.
Greece is primarily a Greek Orthodox nation, and in addition to attending midnight church services on Christmas, families might also keep their fires burning or sprinkle holy water from a basil-wrapped cross to ward off the “kallikantzaroi” — evil creatures that creep into homes through the chimney and cause mischief.
Around Christmas, many Greek cities also hold a festival called the Night of Wishes where people gather to make wishes and release paper lanterns into the sky.
Some holiday traditions in Greece also include making Christopsomo (Christmas bread) and decorating boats.
Since December is a summer month in the southern hemisphere, most of Australia is bathed in balmy temps during the holidays.
Accordingly, those in Australia frequently celebrate Christmas with a lunchtime barbecue on the beach. Friends and family gather to indulge in prawns, lobster, and sweets before playing a game of cricket or taking a dip.
In Argentina, many families put up their Christmas trees on December 8 — the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary — and decorate them with cotton balls to look like snow.
Some people continue the festivities and attend overnight parties, so Christmas Day is usually a more relaxed holiday in the country.
Like many Orthodox countries, Ukraine uses the Julian calendar for their church festivals. This means some individuals there celebrate Christmas on January 7 rather than December 25, according to the Ukrainian People website.
When the festivities begin, it’s traditional to delay eating Christmas dinner until the first star in the sky is spotted.
Caroling in the streets and Vertep, the Ukrainian puppet theater, are also common holiday traditions.
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Families in the US often leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in the hopes that they wake up to presents under the tree and in their stockings, which are hung by the fireplace.
Many families also have Christmas dinner complete with ham or roast beef and eggnog.
Cities typically put up lights and other decorations, and it’s common for families to do the same in front of their own houses.
In New York City, people who celebrate Christmas often look forward to traditions like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.
Rather than unwrapping goodies on Christmas Day, most families in Spain open their presents on January 6, or Epiphany, which is the day that the three wise men are said to have brought gifts to the infant Jesus.
Much of the holiday celebration in Brazil takes place on December 24, when families and friends will often get together for a party that includes ringing in Christmas at midnight.
The holiday feast, which is typically eaten on Christmas Eve, is usually packed with hearty portions of pork, ham, rice, nuts, and fruits.
A version of Secret Santa called “Amigo Secreto” is also popular for gift-giving.
Although Hinduism is the prominent religion in India, the country also has a large population of Christians — which means Christmas is still widely celebrated.
The holiday is usually observed by attending midnight mass and sharing a meal (and plenty of festive sweets) with family and neighbors.
Like many other festivals and holidays in the country, many towns and cities decorate for Christmas with plenty of lights, streamers, and flowers.
Families might also hang mango leaves, star-shaped paper lanterns, or nativity scenes outside their homes. Inside, some people even decorate mango or banana trees.
Instead of waking up to presents under the tree, many families in India pack up boxes of sweets on Christmas morning and take them to their neighbors and friends.
According to Wired, in Russia, New Year’s Eve is usually the day of celebration complete with a New Year tree and a visit from the Slavic character Father Frost, who leaves unwrapped presents for children.
One Latvian Christmas tradition involves reciting a poem, playing an instrument, or singing a song in exchange for receiving one of your presents. Christmas markets that sell foods, drinks, and gifts are also popular in the country.
The country also claims to be the home of the first decorated Christmas tree, according to Trip 101.
One of the oldest recorded uses of an evergreen tree to celebrate Christmas dates back to the year 1510 in Riga, the country’s capital, though it’s hard to know if it was indeed the first use of the tradition.
Though Pakistan is a predominantly Islamic country, Christians often celebrate Christmas by caroling with family and friends or setting up a nativity scene in their homes and churches.
On Christmas Day, some families attend Bara Din celebrations at church. This festive event calls for spending time with family and feasting on delicious food.
Children carol house to house in some parts of Romania, receiving traditional sweets and cakes in return for their efforts, according to Romanian Insider.
In some parts of Romania, it’s traditional for one person to dress up as a goat with a colorful mask and cause mischief among the carolers. And in other parts, a similar tradition exists but with one caroler dressing up as a bear.
On Christmas Eve, many families start decorating their trees and hanging mistletoe in their houses for good luck.
In Germany, preparing for Christmas often includes strolling through markets while sipping mulled wine.
Families also decorate their trees with angel ornaments and light candles in their windows.
A few traditional holiday desserts include stollen, a cake filled with dried fruit and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and lebkuchen, a large spiced cookie that often features a message written in frosting.
An actual Yule log is also often burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve after being sprinkled with red wine to make it smell even nicer.
This story was originally published in December 2018, and most recently updated on December 22, 2023.
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