Destination Guides

Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas is celebrated by people from all around the world, however festivities differ from country to country. Here’s how.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands the festive season starts before December when the bishop St Nicolas (Sinterklaas in Dutch) arrives in Holland. The days before the 5th of December, children will put their shoe in front of the chimney, hoping for some sweets or small presents.

St Nicolas
Photo by Wester under Creative Common Licence

Sweden

The gift-bringer in Sweden comes in the form of Lucia. She was a martyr from Sicily who refused to marry a pagan and gave her dowry away to the poor for which she was imprisoned and sentenced to death. St Lucia’s Day, or Luciadag in Swedish, is celebrated on the 13th of December.

Christmas wreath

Italy

In Italy the main gift-giver is also a woman. Here she’s called La Befana. She’s an old toothless lady who was sweeping her doorstep when the three Magi passed her house. They asked her to come along in search of the Holy Child, but she refused. Regretting her decision, she set off on her own. Allegedly, she still wanders the streets of Italian towns in search of baby Jesus, leaving presents for every child’s house on the 6th of January.

la befana
Photo by Donna S under Creative Common License

Russia

Children in Russia who have been nice, receive gifts from Ded’t Moroz, or Grandfather Frost. He wears a long blue coat with a white fur trim. He’s accompanied by snow bunnies and bears and a beautiful, but  pale snow maiden.

russian gift giver

Mexico

Nine days before Christmas, people in Mexico dress up as Mary and Joseph and walk through the streets carrying candles. They re-enact the trek they made to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Every night before Christmas they knock on doors to find a place to sleep, but they’ll be turned away. On Christmas Eve, the final stop is a house or a church with a nativity scene and an altar where celebrations take place.

Christmas stars

 

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