Christmas Around the World

christmas-treeOn December 24, children here in the U.S. will hang their stockings (or usually weeks in advance as my kids did) and put out milk and cookies for Santa Claus. Then, they’ll go to bed and TRY to sleep. That part was always hard because of all those sugarplums dancing around in their heads.

What about some of the other countries?

HOLLAND St Nicholas arrives a month early in November with his gifts. He is dressed in Bishop’s robes and journeys in a boat with his helper who is called Black Peter and wears Spanish clothes. The pair live most of the year preparing lists of presents and writing every child’s behavior in a very large book. Many people go to Amsterdam docks to greet him. He mounts a snow horse and rides through the streets in a great parade, amid many festivities. I’d really LOVE to see this!

SCANDINAVIA – A little gnome called Julenisse puts the presents under the Christmas tree in the night. The children leave a bowl of porridge out for him.

Christmas StockingsENGLAND – One of their customs is mummering. In the Middle Ages, people called mummers put on masks and acted out Christmas plays. These plays are still performed in towns and villages. The English gift giver is Father Christmas and he wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve.

GREECESt. Nicholas is important as the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition, his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from the angry sea. (I’m sure this image would be very comforting. Not!) Greek ships never leave port without some sort of St. Nicholas icon on board.

IRELAND – Christmas lasts from Christmas Eve to the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which is referred to as Little Christmas. Red lighted candles are placed in windows on Christmas Eve to guide Joseph and Mary who look for shelter. Irish women bake a seed cake for each person in the house. After the Christmas evening meal, bread and milk are left out and the door unlatched as a symbol of hospitality.

Father ChristmasITALY – The Christmas season begins eight days prior and is known as the Novena. On January 6, presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. The children are told that when the baby Jesus was born missed the Star, lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good things for good children and leaves coal for those who are not so good.

GERMANY – Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind, a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown who distributes gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

FRANCE – On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.

In addition to our normal traditions, what are some of your own that involve Christmas? Or maybe you heard a strange tradition that you want to share.

About LindaBroday

I'm a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of western historical romance. I love stories of the old West and the people who once lived there. I haunt libraries and museums and can hang out in them for hours. To tell all the stories that are in my head would take a lifetime.


Christmas Around the World — 8 Comments

  1. What beautiful Christmas Traditions. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Linda.

  2. I really enjoyed this post about Christmas Traditions around the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Prince of Peace whose birthday we’ll celebrate on December 25 could instill the love of peace to every human being on Earth? Someday, maybe that really will happen. I have faith in that. In the meantime, it’s so good to know around the world, human hearts are open and filled with the joy of the season celebrated in all these delightful and loving ways. Great post, Linda.

    • Hi Sarah….I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could have lasting peace someday. Merry Christmas!

  3. This is really an interesting post and something I didn’t know about. The only traditions that we have is we go to my sister house on Christmas Eve for dinner and then to my mother in laws on Christmas day. Other then that we are just the US traditons. My only child is grown but I still fill his stockings at Christmas.

    • Hi Quilt Lady…..I’m glad you enjoyed my Christmas Blog. I find this stuff fascinating for some reason. Merry Christmas, dear friend!

  4. We hang stockings with our names on them up on the mantle. In the last few years we have added 2 new stockings for our daughters-in-law. We also go to a candlelight Christmas Eve church service every year. Christmas Eve is Christmas with my side of the family, and Christmas Day we go to my in-laws. Our Christmas tree is covered with ornaments that reflect our years together. We have ornaments that represent world travels, family milestones, hobbies, etc.

    It is interesting to read about traditions around the world. In the US we have such a delightful blend of traditions. Ultimately, for me the holiday is a Christian and a family celebration. Merry Christmas, Linda and all who visit here!!!

    • Hi Cheryl C…….Thank you for coming. It sounds like you’re going to have a very Merry Christmas. I’ll head down to spend the holiday with my grandchildren and kids. Just a short trip. I hope you have a great celebration, dear friend!