Christmas Around the World: Unique Traditions

Dec 07, 2023


As the festive season approaches, the world sparkles with unique Christmas customs, each reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of its people. From delightful feasts to heartfelt rituals, Christmas is celebrated with a diversity that transcends global boundaries. While some traditions are universally embraced, many countries cherish their distinctive ways of observing this time. 


Let's embark on an exploration of these diverse and enchanting Christmas traditions from around the globe.

A Journey Through Global Christmas Customs


    Japan's Fried Chicken Festivity: Far from a traditional holiday in Japan, Christmas is uniquely marked by feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken. This recent tradition has become synonymous with the holiday season, where buckets of fried chicken, often in festive "Party Barrels," replace the conventional turkey, melding fast food with holiday cheer.

    Venezuela's Roller Skating to Mass: On Christmas morning in Caracas, Venezuela, city streets are transformed into a roller-skating rink leading to the church. This vibrant and communal tradition replaces cars with skates, creating an atmosphere of joy and togetherness that encapsulates the holiday spirit.

    Norway's Broom Hiding Ritual: Stemming from folklore, Norwegians hide brooms and mops on Christmas night to thwart evil spirits and witches from commandeering them for nocturnal flights. This tradition adds a mystical dimension to the holiday, blending ancient beliefs with festive practices.

    Mexico's Night of the Radishes: In Oaxaca, Mexico, December 23 becomes a stage for radish artistry. Participants carve intricate nativity scenes into radishes, displaying their creations in a unique competition that infuses traditional Christmas markets with extraordinary creativity.

    Ukraine's Lavish 12-Course Feast: Ukrainian Christmas is marked by a grand 12-course meal, each dish honoring one of Jesus' apostles. This tradition reflects the deep-rooted religious significance of Christmas in Ukraine, turning the dinner table into a place of spiritual remembrance and culinary delight.

    Czech Republic's Early Santa Claus: In the Czech Republic, St. Nicholas, distinct from Santa Claus, delivers gifts on December 5. This tradition underscores the separate identity of St. Nicholas as a religious figure, offering an early taste of festive joy.

    New Zealand's Pohutukawa Bloom: In New Zealand, Christmas coincides with the blooming of Pohutukawa trees, known for their bright red flowers. These blooms symbolize the holiday season, adorning decorations and greeting cards with their vibrant presence.

    Sweden's Yule Goat Tradition: The Yule Goat, dating back to the 11th century, is a central symbol of Christmas in Sweden. This tradition adds a distinctive Nordic flavor to the holiday celebrations, from tiny ornaments to large outdoor displays.

    Costa Rica's Orchid Festivity: Unlike the poinsettia, Costa Rica's official Christmas flower is the orchid. These exotic blooms add a tropical touch to holiday decorations, symbolizing the nation's unique approach to celebrating Christmas.

    England's Festive Crackers: Christmas Crackers highlight the English festive season. Filled with toys, paper crowns, and jokes, these Crackers add an element of fun and interactivity to Christmas, embodying the joyful spirit of the holiday.

    Russia's Father Frost: Russia's Father Frost, accompanied by a snow maiden, brings presents on January 7, in line with the Russian Orthodox Christmas. This tradition underscores the cultural distinctiveness of Russian Christmas celebrations.

    Australia's Beach-side Christmas: In Australia, Christmas is a summer affair, often celebrated on the beach. A surfboard-riding Santa replaces Santa Claus, and festive gatherings are marked by beach-side barbecues, symbolizing the country's unique seasonal reversal.

    Iceland's Christmas Eve Book Exchange: In Iceland, families exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the night reading together. This tradition fosters a sense of togetherness and a shared love for literature, making it a cherished part of the Icelandic Christmas experience.

    Mexico's Sparkling Christmas Piñatas: In Mexico, Christmas piñatas, often shaped as seven-point stars, are filled with treats and symbolize the triumph of virtue over sin. These piñatas add a playful and meaningful element to the celebrations, blending tradition with festive fun.

    Poland's Starry Christmas Eve Feast: In Poland, the Christmas Eve meal begins only when the first star is seen in the sky. This tradition adds a sense of wonder and anticipation to the holiday dinner, tying the meal to a celestial event.

    Germany's Saint Nicholas' Day: Germany's Saint Nicholas' Day on December 5 celebrates the saintly figure with small gifts for children. This tradition highlights the cultural and historical significance of Saint Nicholas in German Christmas celebrations.

    Finland's Sauna Christmas Eve: In Finland, Christmas Eve is often spent in a sauna, offering warmth and relaxation. This tradition reflects the Nordic approach to comfort and well-being during the holiday season.

    England's Mince Pie Custom: Mince pies, a Christmas delicacy in England, trace their origins to ancient Egypt. These small pies, now a staple of English Christmas, symbolize the enduring nature of this festive treat across time and cultures.

    Chinese Christmas Apples: In China, apples are gifted during Christmas, a tradition stemming from the phonetic similarity between the Chinese words for apple and Christmas Eve. This practice adds a unique and thoughtful element to the holiday gift-giving.

    Dutch Shoes by the Fire: Children place their shoes by the fire in the Netherlands for Santa to fill with gifts. This charming tradition adds a sense of anticipation and magic to the Dutch Christmas experience.

    Czech Republic's Shoe Tossing Tradition: In the Czech Republic, a unique Christmas custom involves single women tossing a shoe over their shoulder towards the door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, it predicts marriage within the following year. This whimsical tradition adds a touch of romance and hope to the festive season.

    Philippines' Giant Lantern Festival: In the Philippines, the Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is a dazzling display of craftsmanship and light. Held in San Fernando, the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines," this festival features elaborate, kaleidoscopic lanterns that symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. It's a stunning celebration of color, light, and community spirit during the Christmas season.

    Greenland's Kiviak Feast: In Greenland, a unique and traditional Christmas dish called Kiviak takes center stage. It's made by fermenting a small bird called auk in a seal skin for several months. The result is a spicy and flavorful delicacy enjoyed during the festive season, showcasing the region's unique culinary traditions.

    Austria's Krampus Run: In Austria, the Christmas season brings St. Nicholas and his eerie counterpart, Krampus. Krampus is a horned, demonic creature, and the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run) involves people dressing up as Krampus to chase and playfully scare children and adults alike. This tradition adds a thrilling, if somewhat spooky, dimension to the holiday festivities.

    Italy's La Befana: In Italian folklore, La Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5), like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. La Befana's tradition, which fills children's stockings with candy and gifts, or coal if they've been naughty, adds a magical and whimsical aspect to the Italian Christmas celebration.


    These global Christmas traditions highlight how people celebrate this joyous season worldwide. From Japan's fried chicken to Finland's sauna, each custom reflects its people's unique cultural and historical context. As we embrace these varied practices, we enrich our holiday experiences, drawing inspiration from the global tapestry of Christmas celebrations.

    CHEF iQ and Global Christmas Cuisine

    Incorporating these international flavors into your Christmas feast can be a delightful culinary adventure. The CHEF iQ Smart Cooker, with its versatile cooking options, is an ideal tool for experimenting with global Christmas recipes. Whether you're preparing a traditional Ukrainian 12-course feast or a festive Mexican tamale, the Smart Cooker simplifies the process, ensuring delicious results every time. The CHEF iQ Smart Thermometer also guarantees perfect cooking temperatures, essential for dishes like the succulent Australian beachside barbecue or the tender roast of England's mince pies. Explore these global Christmas traditions in your kitchen and create unforgettable holiday meals with the help of CHEF iQ.

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