Christmas traditions from around the world

The holidays look a little different around the globe


Photo courtesy of

South African Malva dessert

Emily Haber, Arts & Culture Writer

There are so many Christmas traditions celebrated throughout the world. In America, we have a few popular traditions such as the Elf on the Shelf, leaving cookies for Santa and visiting mall Santa. Throughout the globe, there are so many traditions that are very unique and interesting.



The Christmas tree was first started in Germany in the sixteenth century, when Christians brought evergreen trees into their home. Another popular tradition started in Germany in the twelfth century is the story of Krampus where bad children receive a visit from Krampus also known as the “Christmas devil.”

According to Byerschoice,the Krampus would enter the towns, lashing his chains and bells, to capture the bad children in a basket and bring them down to the underworld. The Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) would occur the evening before December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), when the nice German children were rewarded with presents in their boots.” The Krampus legend is still popular in Germany today, on December 5 also known as Krampusnacht, is celebrated with parades where people dress as Krampus and chase people in the village.



In many of the major cities of India, Christmas is still celebrated due to a large Roman catholic population. It is a popular tradition to burn an earthen lamp on the roof; this symbolizes that Jesus is the light of the world. In Goa, people celebrate by exchanging sweets with friends and family. A famous sweet is the “dodol’”which is similar to a coffee but has a blend of coconut and cashews. “Christmas cribs,” also known as nativity scenes, are a very important Christmas decoration. Neighbors and churches sometimes compete in which Christmas crib is decorated the best. The baby Jesus is placed in the nativity scene at midnight on Christmas Eve.


South Africa

Since South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas happens in the summer. For the entire month of December schools are closed. A very popular tradition in South Africa is caroling around neighborhoods with a candlelight. The traditional Christmas lunch includes duck, turkey or pig. The meal is then followed by Malva (Christmas) Pudding. Santa is known as “Sinterklaas” in South Africa for people who speak Afrikaans.



In Brazil, the midnight mass, “Missa do Galo,” is attended by many. Directly following the mass at 1 a.m., towns and cities have a firework display, and there are big electric light Christmas trees. Christmas Eve meals are served at 10 p.m., and at midnight people exchange gifts with loved ones.



A popular tradition, the candle in the window, dates back to penal times. According to Ancestral Findings, “It was a code for the Catholics in the neighborhood that this was a Catholic household, and a holiday Mass would be held in that home. It was an important code during a time when people wanted to practice their religion, and Catholicism was being persecuted by the Protestants.” Another tradition is keeping up holiday decorations till January 6 because taking them down beforehand can be considered bad luck. January 6 is also “Little Christmas.” Santa leaves presents for the children at the foot of their bed or inside a special Christmas bag. In return, children leave presents for Santa. 


Although people celebrate Christmas in unique ways throughout the world, it is a cheerful time when all people can celebrate and connect with loved ones and the community.