Top Tips for Expat Christmas...   How Expats Celebrate...

Christmas traditions around the world

19 December, 2008 17:41  EasyExpat EasyExpat

There’s more to Christmas than Christmas trees, gifts, Santa Claus, reindeers and mistletoes. Read on to find out more about some of the traditions associated with Christmas around the world. 

United States of America

Celebrations vary greatly between regions of the United States, because of the variety of nationalities which have settled in it.

In Pennsylvania for example, the Moravians build a landscape, called a putz - under the Christmas tree, while in the same state the Germans are given gifts by Belsnickle, who taps them with his switch if they have misbehaved.

In Alaska, a star on a pole is taken from door to door, followed by Herod's Men, who do their best to capture the star. Colonial doorways are often decorated with pineapple, a symbol of hospitality.

In Washington D.C, Christmas takes on a political twist the President presses a button and turns on the lights on a spectacular tree.

In Boston, carol singing festivities are famous. The singers are accompanied by hand bells.

In New Orleans, a huge ox is paraded around the streets decorated with holly and with ribbons tied to its horns.

StarFind more information about expat life in the US on Easy Expat. Find specific information on New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.


The Christmas season in Italy goes on for three weeks, starting eight days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing. In Rome, cannons are fired from Castel St. Angelo on Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast ends with an elaborate Christmas feast.

StarFind more information about expat life in Italy on Easy Expat. Find specific information on Milan and Rome.


In Bethlehem the town where Jesus is said to have been born, the Church of the Nativity is ablaze with flags and decorations. On Christmas Eve natives and visitors alike crowd the church's doorways and stand on the roof to watch the dramatic annual procession. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the parade. The procession solemnly enters the doors and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the Church. Deep winding stairs lead to a grotto where visitors find a silver star marking the site of the birth of Jesus. Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked by a cross painted over the door and each home displays a homemade manger scene. A star is set up on a pole in the village square.

StarFind more information about expat life in Israel on Easy Expat.


Christmas preparations often begin on the eve of December 6th. People set aside special evenings for baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations. 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.

StarFind more information about expat life Germany on Easy Expat. Find specific information on Frankfurt and Munich.


In France, Christmas is called 'Noël. In cathedral squares, the story of Christ's birth is re-enacted by players and puppets. Another prominent aspect of Christmas in France is the traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Nol, which means "Christmas Log." On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. Adults usually wait until New Year's Day to exchange gifts.

StarFind more information about expat life in France on Easy Expat.


Christmas in Australia is often very hot. So instead of the traditional winter scene, Christmas here is often celebrated in the gardens and beaches. The warm weather allows Australians to enjoy a tradition of Carols by Candlelight. This is held every year on Christmas Eve, where tens of thousands of people gather in the city of Melbourne to sing their favorite Christmas songs.


The most important day is Christmas Eve. A special Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve - ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans - and this is the time when families give presents to each other. Most people attend mass early on Christmas Day.

StarFind more information about expat life in Sweden on Easy Expat.


In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time - when 'Father Frost' brought presents to children. With the fall of Communism, Christmas is now openly celebrated - either on December 25th; or more often on January 7th which is the date for celebration according to the ‘Julian calendar’ that the Russian Orthodox Church uses. Special Christmas food includes cakes, pies and 'meat dumplings'.

Sidd Lobo

Freelance writer


Add this RSS to Yahoo!    Add this RSS to Google    Add this RSS to Netvibes    Add this RSS feed to your favorites on Technorati

         EasyExpat on

Our Traditions- [Reply]

Thanks for sharing your Christmas Traditions. We recently created a podcast on this subject, in the Generations podcast “Three generations of Christian women share their thoughts about different issues and aspects of life.” We have some traditional ones like the Christmas pj,’s that are opened on Christmas eve, and Jesus’ birthday cake, retelling of the Christmas story. But there are some unusual ones like, Misfit Christmas, and upside down Christmas tree, a pickle in your tree, and some wonderful traditions to share with the kids. We also included some recipes. Thanks so much for sharing yours if you want to listen to ours here is the link to the podcast.

Blessings this Christmas and a wonderful New Year

ps the traditions are from America the hosts from Texas, NY and Oklahoma

  bridgette Mongeon     25 Dec 2008, 05:31