Have you ever wondered how travel families celebrate Christmas around the world? Everyone has their own holiday family traditions, and on top of that, country traditions influence the way we celebrate our holidays too. From food and decorations to gifting and spending time with friends and family, there’s a vast array of holiday spirit out there.
So put your ugly holiday sweater on, turn on that Hallmark Christmas movie, and get ready to experience Christmas around the world…
It’s only fitting to begin our Christmas around the World features with the country that birthed the star of Christmas (no, not Santa) – Jesus. And it’s all a bit ironic that it’s also the one country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas much at all. In Israel, the holiday season famously begins with Chanukah – with a little Christmas sprinkled in and about.
As a family who celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas, our country traditions include both holidays. For Chanukah, the festival of lights, we light the Chanukiah for 8 days to remember the miracle of the Maccabees reclaiming the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And also the miracle of a day’s worth of oil burning for 8 nights in the menora. We also love eating sufganiyot (Jewish donuts) and latke’s (fried potatoes, like hashbrowns) – pretty much anything fried in oil to again, remember the miracle of the oil. During Chanukah, kids play with sevivons (dreidle’s), sing lots of Chanukah songs, and eat lots of fried goodies!
If you want to find Christmas in the Jewish land, you can if you know where to look. In Arab Christian areas like Nazareth, Haifa, and even Jaffa, you can find Christmas markets, Christmas trees, and Santa lookalikes. South Tel Aviv has even added a Christmas market to the lower level inside the central bus station, popular with foreign refugees and Russian immigrants.
For Christmas, we put up our artificial Christmas tree (you cannot cut down trees here like in the States) with ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Traditionally, we put the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year it went up before. Blame it on Covid! Christmas music is playing throughout the day, and we watch all the classic Christmas movies leading up to the big day.
We also like to visit the Christmas celebrations in Jaffa and Nazareth. And if we’re lucky to have snow up in the north of Israel, we try to take a road trip for a fun snow day at Mount Hermon. Because Christmas isn’t an official holiday here, schools are still in session. So we usually take the day off to have a special family day, Facetime with my family back home, and have a Jewish Christmas meal of Chinese take out. 🤣
TIP for Surviving Christmas in Israel
Lower your holiday expectations! That way, when you do come across some holiday spirit, you’ll be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed.
Not all who wander are lost.
As a nomad family who travels around Fulltime in an RV all year, the holidays are a great time for us to slow down, head to warmer weather, and meet family & friends.
Every year, around the holidays, we plan together with many of our friends to meet in one campground. And in a state with warm weather, where we can enjoy the holidays together. Doesn’t matter where your from, what’s your religion, how long you’ve been on the road or whatever. We just enjoy this time together with sitting around the fire, telling stories about all the places we visited this year and our dreams for the next year.
Canada is a very multi-cultural country, making it a great place to experience Christmas. We were born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. In our family, Christmas is a BIG deal. Growing up, Darcy’s family would follow their German tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas morning would open their stockings and Santa gifts. In my childhood home, we opened pyjamas on Christmas Eve and everything else was opened Christmas morning.
We have blended our family traditions to make new ones for our family. In our family, everyone opens a pair of cozy pyjamas on Christmas eve with a small gift. The remaining gifts, stockings and what Santa leaves are opened on Christmas. We love to take in all the Christmas festivities we can: driving around with hot chocolate to see houses decked out in Christmas lights and decorations, riding the Stanley Park Christmas Train, visiting Santa, Christmas parties, Christmas parades, enjoying some time in the snow (in Vancouver we usually have to drive to the mountains to find snow), baking Christmas treats, and decorating a gingerbread house. We also fill several shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, for kids celebrating Christmas around the world, now in memory of my Mom who loved Christmas.
Every Christmas Eve our stockings are hung by the fireplace, with a letter and tray of cookies, eggnog and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. The main Christmas meal is a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, like mashed potatoes, vegetables and salads. Though Canadians have our own special way of celebrating Christmas depending on our different cultures, the focus is always the same: time spent with family, delicious food and festive cheer!
TIP for Surviving Christmas in BC, Canada
With Christmas being so overwhelming, we find it helpful to focus on the moment and not the million other things that need to get done. Focusing on what you can control in a moment helps you get the most of the holidays!
With Transylvanian Hungarian traditions, there’s a lot of focus on Christmas food: sausages, pork cheese and jelly, and stuffed cabbage. People celebrate on the evening of the 24th, and they try to gather the whole family together. Young people go out chanting in the night from door to door, and then eat delicious food and good pálinka (Hungarian spirit).
Our family celebrates at my husband’s mom’s, where my parents also come. We decorate the tree on the afternoon of 24th (no sooner), and in the evening, before dinner, Little Jesus and the Angels come with the presents (no Santa like most Christmas around the world celebrations).
We’re the Galea Family, and we hail from the island of Malta, an archipelago of islands in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. We love to explore the outdoors with our two toddlers. Christmas is a special and exciting time for the little ones. So we do our best to put up the Christmas tree and other decorations early.
In Malta and Gozo, there is a very strong Christmas tradition of crib-making – these vary in size and form, from grotto-like cribs to live nativity scenes. If you’re visiting during the festive season, make sure to have a look at some of these cribs – they are practically everywhere – in churches, garages, fields – and most only ask for a donation.
Unless we’re working, we usually spend Christmas day together with our extended family. We do try and fit in a short afternoon hike after a glorious 5-course lunch! We have a moderate climate here in Malta, which means we don’t get snow. But it also means that it is usually good weather to go for a hike in the countryside with only your Christmas jumper on!
TIP for Christmas in Malta
The majority of retail shops are closed on Christmas Day like most countries who celebrate Christmas around the world. They have different opening hours throughout the festive season, so make sure to check them out. Similarly, some restaurants are also closed on Christmas day. Gozo Channel – the only ferry company operating between Malta and Gozo (the second largest island) stops operations for a few hours on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Christmas in Ireland is really magical. It’s very different from the Christmases I was used to, having grown up in the United States. In the US, my family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day, and that was it. However, here, the holiday begins on Christmas Day and is celebrated until at least January 2nd. Or if that happens to fall on a Saturday like this year, the holiday will last until everyone returns to work on Monday, January 4th. Anyone who can, plans to take all the days between Christmas and New Year’s off work. And it is 10 days of joy with many celebrations, too much food and drink, and lots of relaxation and family time. We joke every year that we can never keep track of what day it is during the holiday.
On Christmas Day, after the four of us open presents in our own home, we go to a Catholic church with my mother and father-in-law, and then move into their house for a couple of days even though they only live 10 minutes from us. After church, my in-laws invite their neighbors over for mulled wine and coffee and tea. When the neighbors go home, we put on a traditional turkey dinner with potatoes, roasted veg, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. After dinner, more family will arrive for socializing and games. Food and drink continue to flow. We’ll have a cheese board, dessert, several rounds of tea and/or Irish coffees, and turkey sandwiches over the course of several hours. We used to stay up quite late, but now that we all have young children, families go home around 10 pm.
December 26th is St. Stephen’s Day, and it is also a national holiday. Our family always spends lots of time outside that day (as long as the weather allows). And after dinner, we go to one of the local pubs to gather with friends and neighbors. In my in-laws’ village, there are five pubs within 100 yards of each other.
St. Stephen’s Day is also called ‘The Day of the Wren’. The older children go from pub to pub playing music on instruments or reciting poems or performing short dances for money. It dates back to a time when birds had great significance. The wren is said to have betrayed Irish soldiers, so I’m told people used to actually hunt wren on St. Stephen’s Day. The atmosphere in the pub is really festive, and it’s fun to watch the children perform. You won’t see this tradition in all parts of the country, but I’ve read that Dingle in Co. Kerry has a specular Wren Day parade.
My husband and I will often take the kids away for a few nights during the holiday to do some hiking and explore a new-to-us area of the country. I know things will be a little different this year, but I still think it will be quite a magical and wonderful time for Christmas around the world.
TIP for Surviving Christmas in Ireland
My one recommendation for surviving Christmas in Ireland is to always remember moderation. Eat in moderation, drink in moderation, get good sleep at night time, and when you can, take a nap during the afternoon. Drink plenty of water and make sure you get outside every day for exercise and fresh air before it gets dark (which is very early!) I’m quite introverted, so I need quiet time every day to get reenergized. I always make sure to have a couple of books ready for the holiday season to sneak off to read by myself when I need some downtime.
An Australian Christmas is very festive as it’s during summer, so there are lots of festivals and Christmas parties. One tradition Australians love is the annual Carols by Candlelight. Some of Australia’s best performers come together to sing Christmas carols at an outdoor arena, while attendees bring their picnic gear and candles to sing along. It is also televised for those who can’t make it live.
Christmas Eve is when many young adults celebrate with their friends. Christmas Day is usually spent with families at home. And after opening presents, you’ll often find either a traditional hot roast lunch or one that comprises grilled King Prawns (shrimp) and a seafood spread. A cool off at the beach is often on the schedule.
TIP for Christmas in Australia
Relax. You’re in Australia now. Pour yourself a wine, grab a stubbie, sit under the sun around the backyard barbie, swim in the pool, or ride the waves at the beach. Aussies are laid back, and you can do what you want. As long as you show up ready for a laugh and a few yarns.
We are a young family of five, with our youngest being just 6 months old. So we are always adding and creating traditions for our Christmas celebrations that compliment everyone involved. For the last few years, we have enjoyed Christmas trips to Disneyland Paris with my parents, which I love, and the kids adore! We also attach a Christmas market day to the trip, a tradition we have been doing with my parents since 2009! We also like to take the kids to see the Christmas lights in London as we live so close to the city. This always gets us in the Christmas spirit as the city is absolutely beautiful and transformed for the festive season.
Even though we love to travel, we always reserve Christmas Day as a time to be at home with family along with most families who celebrate Christmas around the world. We spend the whole day opening presents. The kids love to take their time and make the magic last as long as possible! We usually meet up with some sort of family around the Christmas period, but Christmas Day is reserved for us to be at home and for the kids to be with all their new toys.
TIP for Christmas in London
You don’t need to survive Christmas in London – you just need to embrace it and enjoy!
Nothing about Christmas 2020 will be normal, but we are determined to embrace this time with our family – even if we have Covid-19 rules to abide by. Scotland is a hodgepodge of traditions from our druid and pagan ancestors to the Celts. After all, Christmas was banned in Scotland for nearly 400 years; it was only in the Victorian era that many of our now rituals became our new celebrations. But we are a nation of hardy Scots, and nothing will stop us from celebrating Christmas or New Year as a family.
Our modern traditions are similar to those in the western world. We enjoy carols (which are now banned due to the new Covid-19 rules, humbug), we decorate our houses with lights, a Christmas tree in the window, and a wreath on the front door.
Our views on present giving have changed dramatically over the years as a family. We now prefer experiences over “things,” especially when you travel light like we do. That doesn’t mean our children don’t write “very short” letters to Santa Claus, and we are always very generous on Christmas Eve. And we even leave out a selection of goodies for the big man when he visits.
Some of our favorite Christmas treats must be warm Clootie Dumpling (cloot being Scots for cloth), a spiced pudding sprinkled with dried fruits wrapped in a cloth and simmered in water for a lengthy period, and a giant steamed dumpling ready to be sliced and served warm with custard or cream.
Originally, ” Clootie Dumplings” would have had coins added into the recipe so diners would receive a piece of luck for the future. Thankfully we don’t encourage this tradition as we like our teeth in one piece! Many Scots have fond memories of their grandmothers or mothers making Clootie Dumpling during the Christmas festivities. Oh, and let’s not forget to wash it all down with a glass of malt whisky or warm mulled wine.
So cheers or, as we would say, Slàinte mhath! (pronounced – slan-ja – vah) meaning good health. We’ll raise a glass to wish 2020 a goodbye and welcome in 2021 with open arms. Happy Christmas around the world!
Our family loves to travel and explore places near and far, especially around the holidays (this year will be the exception due to COVID). One of our favorite holiday destinations in the U.S. is Washington, D.C. The U.S. capitol certainly knows how to pull out all the stops at Christmas time. Here are our must-see destinations:
Each year, a tree is selected from a U.S. National Forest to be decorated and displayed in front of the Capitol Building. The area is accessible by car (but park carefully as many parking places in the area are restricted) or by D.C. Metro (take the Orange, Blue, or Silver lines to the Capitol South Station) and walk two blocks West Lawn of the Capitol.
Very close to the Capitol is the U.S. Botanic Garden, and it is my all-time favorite spot in D.C. during the holidays. (It is currently closed due to COVID). However, in normal times, each year brings new seasonal exhibits and the very popular annual model train display where kids will delight in watching the trains jog their way through intricate, holiday-themed landscapes. The garden also hosts holiday concerts during the season. Best of all, admission is free.
What could be more enchanting than the best music of the holidays performed in the amazing acoustics created by the world’s sixth-largest cathedral? The architecture is stunning, and many of the concerts are family-friendly (so bring along the kids for an evening of wonder and incredible music). This year’s concerts are available to all online.
During standard years, more than 25,000 people tour the White House during the holiday season to see this special place and the elaborate decorations it is adored with each year. If you are planning travel for 2021, plan to reserve your date months (3 or more months for peak season travel, March-April during Cherry Blossom season, July-August, and December) in advance. U.S. Citizens can make reservations through their Congress members (either Senate or House), and visitors from abroad can make reservations through their Embassy or contact any member of Congress.
Christmas in the Netherlands is all about spending time together. It’s cold at the end of the year, and if we are lucky, we will have a white Christmas. The days are short and dark, and the twinkling lights in houses and shops shine even brighter. People start looking for presents in early December. Families think about which tree to choose. Friends make plans for dinners together. People visit churches and sing beautiful songs. Christmas markets are a feast to visit, with clanging bells, the smell of fresh pine needles in the air, delicious treats, and the cutest Christmas decorations displayed.
At school, a Christmas dinner is organized. All parents bring snacks, and a warm welcome awaits the children by Santa-teachers laughing loudly and clinging big bells. ‘Jingle bells’ resounds through the corridors, twinkling lights and paper decorations (handmade by the kids) dangle from windows and ceilings.
At home, we will tell our children about Mary and baby Jesus (though we are not religious) and Christmas’s true meaning. We pick a tree together and decorate it together (that’s why ours is always messy 😂). We talk about Santa Claus and how he will bring presents. Our kids’ faces light up, and they eagerly await his arrival. We donate a certain amount to a good cause instead of buying too many presents. My kids will not remember all the gifts later on, but they will remember their time together.
We spend Christmas at home and invite family and friends (obviously not this year). Often we spend one day at grandmother’s place. We decide on our menu long before Christmas and always try to prepare special dishes. We eat, open presents, listen to Christmas music, eat again, and watch Christmas movies. It is a wonderful time of the year!
Growing up in a large Irish family in Zimbabwe, Christmas was all about bringing the family together. Christmas morning was all about Santa sacks and the distribution of wrapping paper over floors. It was then time for family fun, including games in the pool, tennis, or my family’s favorite pastime, cricket. One of my favorite memories is playing cricket and one of my uncles wearing my aunt’s dressing gown so he could be easily identified as the umpire.
For Hubby, being part Italian, Christmas Day is all about the food and family discussions in the kitchen. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing Christmas lunch and the many courses. It is a serious affair not to be messed with or altered in any way! On the years when we are Christmasing with Hubby’s Clan, I do my best to steer clear of the kitchen and find a safe space to shelter with my gin.
It took us a couple of years to figure out our own family Christmas tradition. I would say it began with the last time our little family spent Christmas in our own home. It was December 2013, and we were living in Laos. We decided to invite ten ex-pat families to spend the day with us and join us for Christmas dinner. And it turned out to be one of my favorite Christmases to date. There was only one family where both parents were from the same country! It was truly an international affair with all continents represented.
Since then, we have kept to the international theme, with our main tradition of getting on a plane. We are either flying to Africa or Australia or convincing our families to meet us on a beach somewhere new. This year, thanks to the international travel restrictions, we won’t be heading to Zimbabwe to meet my new niece. We can at least fly locally and head to Hubby’s hometown and explore some of the wonderful outdoor adventures Tasmania has to offer.
TIP for Christmas in Zimbabwe
When with family, breath deeply and often.
We celebrated many Christmases in Abu Dhabi, and it was especially fun when my son joined our family! The UAE is a Muslim country but extremely tolerant and celebrates other traditions and Christmas from around the world.
We would spend the festive season visiting Santa at the malls, and then we would go to a Christmas market. There you could ride a carousel, listen to Christmas carolers sing our favorite carols, enjoy a glass of mulled wine and play with fake snow! There was always so much to do and enjoy during the festive season!
TIP for Christmas in the UAE
Be patient waiting in line especially at the mall to see Santa.
Christmastime always stirs up special memories for Trisha and me! Being sisters, we’ve shared a lot of Christmases together (how do we look so young, right?!) We have such fond memories of racing downstairs together to see what fabulous 80s toys were left under our tree. Even though we now have families of our own to join in the celebrations and start new traditions with, there are still a couple of things we do each year that are the same.
For several years now, both of our families have participated in Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse. The idea is simple, fill a shoebox with items for a child and take it to a designated drop-off location near you. It will then get delivered to a child in need, somewhere across the globe. Many of these children have never received a gift before. Although you won’t know the recipient’s identity, you can track which country your box is delivered to. Our kids love knowing they are helping people their own age and learning about the country our boxes were sent to for Christmas around the world.
Another Christmas tradition you’ll find us both doing with our families is wandering about outdoor light displays. We just can’t get enough of the twinkling beauty and love supporting local public displays, as well as our neighbors around the community.
Trisha regularly decorates the outside of her home, while I’m new to the game. My husband has always wanted to do it, and last year, our kids and I surprised him by decorating the trees out front of our home with lights and ornaments. We had the lights turned on when he came home from work that night. He was so surprised (and confused), he thought he had turned down the wrong street. Seeing his excitement was the best! I’m happy to report that the decorations are returning again this year to my front yard! Merry Christmas!
Hyvää Joulua is how we wish Merry Christmas to each other in Finland. I come from an orthodox country, and Christmas is a relatively new holiday for me, at least as a celebrated holiday. And it’s becoming a tradition for us to spend it with my husband’s family.
We start celebrating Christmas already on the 24th of December. During the day, people visit the graveyard and respect family members’ memory who will forever stay in their hearts. At Christmas time, the Finnish cemetery looks special – candles are burning in the dark like a thousand angels’ eyes. The sauna, of course, isn’t forgotten. Later in the evening, we drink mulled wine (glögi) and after step into the most fun part of the holiday – giving presents. Usually, each of us receives a lot of gifts.
Christmas day is celebrated around a family dinner. Traditional Finnish dishes are oven cooked ham, salmon caviar, rosolli (salad from boiled vegetables), rutabaga and carrot casserole, and Karelian stew. I am not a big fan of this food (except caviar😁), so Tom’s mom always cooks a shrimp salad. And of course, we go to the sauna.
As everyone knows, Santa Claus lives in Finland, in the village Korvatunturi, on the Polar Circle. Rovaniemi is a very popular destination for the Christmas holiday because of this. Christmas markets aren’t a very Finnish thing, but in past years we had one in the main square right in front of Helsinki Cathedral.
This year, despite everything going on, we consider ourselves to be extremely lucky. We will be celebrating the holidays in our new home in Basel, Switzerland. We moved to Basel on October 2nd from North Carolina, and we are so thankful for this opportunity.
Basel is well known for its magnificent Weihnachsmarkt (Christmas Markets). They are filled with delicious treats, Glühwein (mulled wine), and amazing artisan items. Unfortunately, it has been canceled this year, but we have still enjoyed the holiday decorations and Christmas treats all over town.
In Switzerland, December 6th is the traditional Santa day! St. Nicholas (Samichlaus) visits the children and leaves chocolate, mandarins, and nuts in their shoes. Samichlaus and his companion “Schmutzli” walk around town with a donkey in tow. Unlike the United States, Christkind (Christ Child) is the one who brings the presents for the children on Christmas eve.
Switzerland is a magical place to enjoy Christmas around the world. And we cannot wait to experience more of it during our time in Basel!
Christmas fever in the Netherlands (where we live) begins at the beginning of December. Christmas trees start appearing for sale on every corner. Many shops have massive sales. Christmas itself is celebrated with a family dinner.
Traditionally, on the first day of Christmas, the Dutch eat wild meat, meat rolls, cooked pears, pudding, turkey, brussels sprouts, puree, cranberries, sour cabbage. On the second day, cheese fondue is usually served.
In Ukraine (where we are from), Christmas is celebrated on January 7th with a ‘Holy Supper’ on January 6th. Traditionally the meal has 12 dishes, which represent Jesus’s 12 disciples. A special dish, kutya (porridge with raisins and honey), has to be tasted before any other food. Among other dishes are mushrooms, sour cabbage, ‘borsch’ (beet soup), dumplings (varenyky), ‘holubcy’ (cabbage rolls with rice and addings inside), ‘pyrizhky’ (buns with filling). You can’t start eating until the first star is seen in the sky.
After the meal, people sing carols or ‘Koliadky’: around the table or in the streets. Traditionally, people carry colored stars on poles when they go out caroling. The Ukrainian carol ‘Shchedryk’ is the original song of ‘Carol of the Bells’.
The reason for this “delayed” timing is that the Orthodox Church didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar. And still lives according to the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind. In addition, religious holidays are mixed with pagan traditions. From January 7th to 19th (Epiphany), “the heavens open,” and girls can fortune-tell to see how their love will look like during this holy time.
Georgia celebrates Christmas on the Orthodox calendar, meaning the holiday doesn’t actually happen until January. This is really nice as an ex-pat who celebrates on December 25 because the malls are not crowded at all on Christmas Eve. You can get in all the last-minute shopping without the craziness.
In Tbilisi, the city is decorated with tons of light displays. Christmas lights are hanging over all the major roads in the city. There are also a few Christmas markets you can visit. We like the one at Fabrika – an old soviet sewing factory turned modern hostel and restaurant area.
Instead of Santa Claus, in Georgia, they have Tovlis Papa (Father Snow). However, you can see the western Santa ready for free pictures in the malls, and I never saw lines! Georgians have a unique type of Christmas tree called a chichilaki. It is made from the branch of a walnut tree. The bark is shaved off, and then the carver shaves the knife up the branch creating a cascade of curly tendrils. Georgians decorate the chichilaki with dried fruits and put an orange on top. They come in all different sizes – some are small enough to fit in your suitcase. On the day before Epiphany, you are supposed to burn your chichilaki for good luck in the next year. New Year’s Eve is when gifts are exchanged. Christmas Day is reserved for church and spending time with family.
On New Year’s Eve in Georgia, there are big parties and an astounding amount of fireworks exploding in the sky. The entire city sky is a blanket of sparkly fireworks as far as you can see. There isn’t a big coordinated show, but more of a free for all of private citizens lighting fireworks starting around 11:45 and continuing for about 30 minutes. It’s the most impressive display of fireworks we have ever seen!
We are a Dutch family with two teenagers currently living in Taiwan as Expats.
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Taiwan. Only 5% of the people in Taiwan are Christians. Even though it’s not officially celebrated and a typical working day, people put up Christmas decorations everywhere. Almost every cafe, shop, restaurant, and apartment building has Christmas trees and colorful decorations.
To get into the Christmas spirit, we visit a Christmas market and have a Christmas party with friends. Everyone brings small snacks, and for the little ones, there are Santa presents. The older kids arranged a secret Santa gift exchange. We also want to visit the Christmasland festival in Taipei during this holiday. They will feature a Disney-themed light show with beautiful light-tunnels and other festivities for the whole family. We are lucky enough to live in a country without Covid-19, so we can celebrate in larger groups and join festivities in the city.
We will have a family night with a nice dinner, some gifts, and a classic Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. The more traditional way of celebrating Christmas as we are used to in the Netherlands. On the day of Christmas, we go out with friends for a nice lunch all together. We will end our Christmas day by skyping with our family to alleviate the lack of family. Christmas will be different this year for all of us, but let’s make the most of it. We wish you all a wonderful Christmas around the world, and cheers to a better 2021!
The Christmas season in Ecuador starts with La Novena, which is the nine days before Christmas Eve. It is a prayer for Christmas that tells what happened in the nine-month pregnancy of Maria. Each day of the novena corresponds with a month of Mary’s pregnancy. And finally ending with her arrival in Bethlehem and Jesus’s birth. These days have become important social events for families to celebrate with drinks and food in many communities.
Christmas would not be complete without decorations. Most cities and towns often decorate. You can usually find a very tall Christmas tree decorated in the center of town. The tree is traditionally shaped from wire and then covered in beautiful lights and ornaments. Most households decorate the inside of their house but not the outside. So, do not be surprised when driving down the street and houses are not lit up.
On Christmas Eve, most families gather around and have a big family meal. It is common to prepare the meal together. One of the traditional dishes for Christmas is roasted turkey. Another traditional dish is Hornado de Chancho, a roasted pork leg marinated in garlic and beer. A small dish that is common to eat at Christmas is Buñuelos, a deep-fried ball. It is like a doughnut. The balls can be filled with a variety of fillings, either sweet or savory.
Aside from all the food, there are also traditional drinks for Christmas like Rompope and Mistela. Rompope is a drink made of eggs, liquor, milk, and vanilla flavoring, like eggnog but more potent. The other drink, Mistela, is a liquor made from grapes. It has a sweet taste and is often consumed with desserts.
Pase del Nino is a celebration that also takes place on Christmas Eve. During this celebration, local people carry a statue or image of baby Jesus through the streets. This is often accompanied by people dressed up as Mary, Joseph, and the Three Kings, traditional musicians or bands, and folkloric dancers. It is a beautiful parade and can be found in many communities throughout Ecuador.
We always put up an artificial tree in our household and decorate our home with fun Christmas decorations. It is impossible to find a real pine tree in Ecuador, but a palm tree is a fun alternative. During December, Christmas music rings through our home, and at night we snuggle up to watch Holiday classics like “Home Alone, Elf, and Christmas Vacation.”
It’s common for people living on the coast to head to the beach and relax on Christmas day. Since moving to the coast, we have adopted this tradition as well! Our Christmas morning is spent opening presents, eating a traditional American breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and donuts, and then we pack up our beach bag and spend the day by the ocean!
Tips for Christmas in Ecuador
If you are staying in a small town, it might be a good idea to pre-arrange your evening meal or make sure restaurants aimed at tourists will be open.
Christmas in Canada usually involves cold and snow! As this is the darkest part of the year, a lot of Christmas celebrations revolve around lights. Family homes get decorated with Christmas lights and decorations. Each city works with private business owners to light up storefronts and downtown streets to light up holiday shopping. Many downtown centers hold some form of “Light Up” event where the community gathers for an official lighting up of the street and City Centre Christmas Tree.
In our neighborhood, a crew of local firefighters volunteers to erect a giant tree of lights up on the highest hill for all to see. Generous neighbors donate electrical power, and it is a gathering place for the whole community. We always take our kids on a walk or drive around town to see all of the Christmas lights and displays. And there is always a little bit of good-natured competition from one neighbor to another when the Christmas display gets put up, but it is all in good fun!
Our family’s favorite holiday tradition is cutting down a Christmas tree. You can buy a pre-cut Christmas tree at local shops, or you can visit a Christmas Tree Farm where perfectly spaced and sized evergreens are yours for the choosing. Simply grab a toboggan and a saw and walk until you find the perfect tree! Follow it up with a cup of hot apple cider and a Christmas cookie to complete the holiday tradition!
Greetings from MN! ❄🎄❤
We should be covered in snow over here this time of year, but unfortunately, we may not have a white Christmas this year. We love playing in the snow and sledding, and it definitely adds a special magic to the season. But we also equally like getting away from the cold and traveling somewhere warm soon after Christmas for the holiday break. Other holiday highlights are driving around with cocoa, looking for twinkly lights, and going to our small town’s main street because it looks like a Hallmark movie all lit up.
Our girls are still young, and we continue to add holiday traditions, including baking Christmas cookies, reading the story of Jesus’s birth, and lots of holiday movie nights with homemade stovetop popcorn. Family is the center of our celebrations, and while this year looks different, we look forward to renewing all of our Christmas parties with extended family and friends next year. If I could describe how we celebrate Christmas, it’s a cozy feeling in our home this time of year, full of the hope of Jesus. There is magic in the air and so so much love.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Goodsons!
I’m Puerto Rican, and when I was a little girl, Christmas was for going to church. You’d go home afterward and eat lots of amazing food before joining a paranda (which is like caroling, only much more boisterous) to friend’s and relative’s houses for more food and celebrating. The parandas continue right through the holiday season, which culminates on January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany.
In Puerto Rico, Three Kings Day is the major gift-giving holiday, especially for children. It’s based on the magi from the Bible, who bring gifts to the infant Jesus. In Puerto Rico, children collect grass clippings in their shoeboxes to feed the magi’s camels. They set out the boxes before going to bed, and in the morning, the grass is gone, and the presents are there. It’s such a fun holiday, more biblically sound than Santa Claus, and there’s no need to explain the lack of chimney or snow.
Our family now lives in Alabama, located in the South Eastern United States, and my husband is an American. Unlike the Midwest where he grew up, we see very little snow down here. That means that the holiday traditions he grew up with, like sledding and ice skating, are replaced by things like visiting live nativity scenes – complete with baby animals to feed. It also means we’ve had to navigate how to combine our different holiday traditions in a way that works for our family.
Some of these decisions have been easier. My husband grew up in a religious home where they didn’t celebrate Santa Claus, and I grew up on a tropical island with no snow for reindeer sleds, so we were in agreement that we wouldn’t “play” Santa in our home. My birthday is Christmas Eve, so it’s important to me to keep that day free of Christmas activities. That means no opening presents early like some families.
Our biggest compromise has had to do with when we do open presents. My husband thinks it’s important for our children to open presents on Christmas day, so they maintain American traditions. I love Three Kings Day and wouldn’t mind that extra time to finish my gift shopping. Our compromise? Celebrate both!
TIP for Christmas in the US
When visiting the United States, be sure to check the weather in the area where you are traveling. While the northern US may get lots of snow, folks in the south generally alternate between cool days and warmer ones. Bring lots of layers!
For the past decade, Walt Disney World has been our go-to place for Christmas fun! The Christmas decor goes up in the parks in early November and is completed resort-wide by Thanksgiving. While all of the parks look magical at Christmastime, there’s really nothing like seeing Magic Kingdom decorated in all her holiday glory to get you ready for the season.
Normally, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held on select November/December evenings and offers exclusive character meet and greets. The Once Upon a Christmastime parade, special fireworks, and even “snow” falls on Main Street. We like to dress up in ugly Christmas sweaters or Christmas jammies to really get in the holiday spirit!
Like many things this year, the party was canceled, but WDW is still celebrating the holidays in a big way. Character cavalcades are rolling down the streets, the parks are decorated with Christmas lights, wreaths, giant Christmas trees, and Christmas-y treats are still available for purchase. Even with all of the changes and chaos this year brought, we visited our happy place and started the Christmas season with a smile, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’re spending our first Christmas here in Kanazawa, Japan. And we’re pretty excited!
Apparently, having Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner is a popular tradition. You have to order the Christmas dinner menu in advance to avoid the long lines on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Christmas cake is another Japanese tradition. Strawberry Shortcake is what most people have on Christmas Day.
Light up and illumination events start the festive season in Japan. Most big cities have light-up displays. The illumination at Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Garden are places to visit in Kanazawa during this season.
Our family always does a Christmas Gift Scavenger Hunt. The kids truly enjoy this tradition. They always look forward to this every year, and they say that it is the best part of Christmas.
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Thank you so much for sharing this! Lovely to read about others Christmas traditions!
Thanks, Clare! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Such a great blog post idea! I always love reading different installments of xyz around the world to learn what’s the same and what’s different.
Thank you! Yes, it’s so interesting how people spend the holidays around the world. 🙂