How is Christmas Celebrated Around the World?

12 December 2022

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Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated across the pond? Read on for some unique ways the festive season is celebrated around the world!

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world with over 2 billion Christians taking part in the occasion. However, that doesn’t factor in those who celebrate it for family, friends or just out of love for the festive season.

But as cultures differ, the way this eclectic holiday is celebrated goes far beyond Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this article, we explore some interesting ways Christmas is celebrated around the world!

1. Japan

It may sound unusual, but KFC is a Christmas mainstay in Japan. Up to 3.6 million locals enjoy KFC ‘Party Buckets’ on Christmas Day with bookings required months in advance, not to mention lining up for hours to pick them up. This is remarkable considering that Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Japan as just 1% of the population identify as Christian.

The tradition dates back to the 1970s when Takeshi Okawara managed the first Japanese KFC. Okawara marketed fried chicken to the locals as a common American alternative to turkey on Christmas with the slogan, ‘Kentucky for Christmas.’ Although untrue, the campaign took off and KFC on Christmas is going forty-seven years strong in Japan!

2. Philippines

If you think shopping centres set up decorations early in Australia, they’re amateurs compared to the Philippines. They begin the festivities in September and continue all the way until the first week of January!

Over these four months, the islands essentially become the real-life version of Christmas Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas (minus the snow). Children sing carols, the locals dress up, festive songs flood the radio and Christmas movies play on every station.

3. Argentina

Christmas falls in summer for Argentina. Naturally, this means Christmas BBQs in gardens and backyards are commonplace. Likewise, family is everything in South America, so feasts and gatherings with extended family mark the occasion.

The festivities ramp up in late November and officially begin on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christmas Day involves Mass and religious ceremonies, which isn’t surprising as nearly 80% of Argentinians identify as Christian. After Mass, families get together for a late night feast and party into the night!

4. Iceland

You’ve probably heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, but what about the 13 Days of Yule? The traditions are quite similar, but instead of putting stockings out each night, Icelandic children place shoes on their windowsill in hopes of being visited by the 13 Yule Lads.

The Yule Lads, who look similar to Snow White’s seven dwarves, leave small gifts in the shoes of well-behaved children. The naughty children, however, get something even worse than coal – rotten potatoes! If that doesn’t motivate children to behave, we’re not sure what will.

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5. Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, Christmas is a time for reflection and spiritual connection between family and community. Preparations begin on November 25 with pious locals taking part in a 43 day Nativity Fast. The fast ends on January 7, the day Ethiopians celebrate Christmas. Locals only consume vegan foods during this fast and abstain from alcohol.

Gifts are not typically exchanged during this period, as it’s more about the communal experience and devotion to faith.

6. United Arab Emirates

Although Christmas isn’t an official holiday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it’s embraced in Dubai. The sprawling city is filled with festivals, musicals, light shows, parades and plenty of Christmas trees (some reaching 21 meters tall)!

The festivities are similar to those in Australia, with Santa paying a visit to the shopping centres, Christmas movies playing in the cinemas and decorations lighting the night all through December.

7. Mexico 

In Mexico, the festivities begin on December 12 and end on January 6. However, an additional holiday is celebrated on February 2 known as El Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

Children lead the Posadas on December 16, a nine-day celebration ending on Christmas Eve. They carry candles and re-enact nativity scenes while parading through the streets. The festival ends with the breaking of a seven-pointed star piñata, which is filled with sweets!

Christmas Eve involves more celebrations and mass, ending with a midnight feast. As you can imagine, Christmas Day involves leftovers and recovering from the previous night.

8. Finland

They love Santa in Finland. He greets families at shopping centres, airports, train stations, town squares and just about everywhere else. 

Finland is also the location of Santa Claus Village. There you’ll find Santa’s workshop, Mrs. Claus’ Cottage, real-life reindeer and even a full-service post office. Each year, up to half a million letters are sent to this post office from all over the world!

Lastly, no Finnish Christmas is complete without rice pudding. It’s traditionally eaten as the final meal and is often mixed with fruit or sugar. An almond is then hidden in the mix and whoever finds it is blessed with good fortune.

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Overall, no matter where you are or what you celebrate, this is a wonderful time to reflect on all that you and your little one have achieved this past year. Importantly, it’s also a time to cherish those close to you and to show them how much they mean to you.

We would like to wish all our families, children, support staff and Educators a very merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year. We can’t wait to see you all in 2023!

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