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How do they celebrate Christmas around the world?


Photo from Pixabay

For a lot of kids in Canada, Christmas is a big holiday. There’s no school, families put up trees and decorations, they eat lots of food, sing songs… and of course there’s Santa and all the presents! This year, the celebrations may be a bit smaller and maybe even include online gatherings due to the coronavirus. 

In different parts of the world though, Christmas often gets celebrated a bit differently. Let's have a look at how different countries traditionally celebrated the holidays before Covid-19 and social distancing. 

Sweden — candles on your head

Christmas in Sweden

Photo by EandJsFilm Crew licensed CC BY-ND 2.0 

Christmas kicks off early in Sweden with Saint Lucia’s Day on December 13. While Lucia is a Christian saint, the celebration is closely tied to the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year — and is seen as a celebration of light.

And they go for light in a big way in this Swedish festival. Most towns and villages have a procession where kids dress up in white robes, with the girls carrying candles — often the electric ones until the kids are 12 — and the boys carrying wands with stars on the ends and pointy wizard-type hats.

One girl is selected to be “Lucia” and this girl leads the procession wearing a crown of candles — usually real, lit on fire candles!

Japan — a time for romance... & fried chicken

Christmas in Japan at the KFC

Photo by Mark licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Japan, but many people and businesses put up lights and trees. Young children get presents and the family will sit down for a meal of fried chicken instead of turkey.

Christmas Eve though is considered a very romantic time — like Valentine’s Day in Canada. Couples will exchange gifts and go out for fancy dinners. Restaurants are usually booked months in advance on Christmas Eve.

Australia — Santa on the beach

Christmas on the beach in Australia

Photo by Matthew Fuentes licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

In Australia, December 25th is in their summer, so Christmas Day is a time to hit the beach. There you might see surfers dressed up like Santa and Christmas trees set up on the sand.

Christmas dinner is often made on the barbecue, and it’s said that when visiting Australia, Santa gives his reindeer a rest and gets kangaroos to pull his sleigh!

Venezuela — strap on the roller skates

Roller skates

Photo by Steve Snodgrass licensed CC BY 2.0 

Venezuela is a religious country where most of the people are Catholic, so Christmas-time involves a lot of going to church. In the capital city of Caracas, there’s a tradition of closing the streets to cars on Christmas morning and people roller skate to church services.

Ethiopia — wear white

Christmas in Ethiopia

Photo by Beautiful Faces of Palestine licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Christmas in Ethiopia is celebrated on January 7 instead of December 25. The day before, people don’t eat all day. They then go to church in the morning, with everyone wearing a traditional white robe called the shamma (say "SHAM-uh").

After church it’s time to eat — people visit friends and family, and enjoy food at each stop. Traditionally, young men will play ganna (say "GONE-nah") in the afternoon, it’s like field hockey and played with wooden ball and sticks.

Spain — the Christmas Log

The Christmas Log - Spain

Photo by Valerie Hinojosa licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 

Having a Yule log, or a nice fire in the fireplace is a common tradition in lots of places, but in the part of Spain known as Catalonia, there’s a different twist on that — the Christmas Log.

This piece of wood is decorated with a face and a hat and wrapped in a blanket. Children pretend to feed it for most of December.

Then on Christmas Eve, kids whack the log with a stick while singing a song. They remove the blanket to discover hidden candy and presents that the log is supposed to have "pooped" out! That’s why the log is called Caga Tió (say "KA-ga tee-OH") — in Spanish that means Poo Log!