10 Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Including new traditions can enhance your family's holiday celebration.



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Every family has its own holiday traditions. Whether you are celebrating Christmas on December 25 or on January 7, Epiphany, Posadas or any other seasonal holiday, there are special foods, gifts, and customs that accompany them.

It doesn't matter if it's winter or summer in your hemisphere, there are traditions from around the world that can be added or modified to enhance your holiday enjoyment.

If you have never used an Advent calendar, hit a piñata, or feasted on fish on Christmas Eve, then try out a new tradition and make it your own.

1. Advent Calendars

A major part of Germany's Christmas celebrations is Advent, which lasts from the First Sunday of Advent roughly four weeks before Christmas until December 24. Beautiful calendars and wreaths are used to count down the days until Christmas. Since the date of the First Sunday of Advent varies, most commercial calendars nowadays simply begin on December 1 and are made of paperboard with 24 small windows containing chocolates. Some of the more intricate calendars have 24 hanging bags that contain a small gift for the kids. This takes a few minutes a day and is an enjoyable family activity.

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2. Posadas Piñatas

The festivities begin in Mexico with the Posada, a series of nine parties from December 16-24. The posada's consist of a reenactment of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room at the inn. At the party, Christmas carols are sung, and a seven-point star-shaped Piñata – made of papier-mâché, decorated and filled with candy and small toys – is broken. All the children get to collect the fillings and they have tons of fun.

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3. Gifts from Sinterklaas

Children in Holland receive gifts from Sinterklaas on December 5. If the children leave carrots for Sinterklaas's horse in their shoes, they will receive candy and sweets. This is a sweet Christmas preview for the little ones.

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4. Réveillon de Noël

The Réveillon de Noël is a French tradition. This delicious meal on Christmas Eve can last five hours or more. The menus vary per region but oysters, Smoked Salmon, and Fois Gras are usually on it. The meal consists of several courses and ends with Bûche de Noël, a Christmas Yule log confection so make sure you save room for dessert.

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5. Exchanging Christmas Cards

In the US, exchanging Christmas cards is a tradition – thanks in part by greeting card companies – that are sometimes accompanied by pictures and news. Today, many people and/or end e-greetings or Facebook greetings but receiving cards in your mailbox is always exciting.

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6. Little Candles Day

Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) celebrated on December 7 marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. People place candles and beautiful paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards in honor of the Virgin Mary and the eve of the immaculate conception. If you are religious or not, candles are beautiful holiday decor.

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7. Jolabokaflod

Jolabokaflod or Christmas Book flood, is an Icelandic institution. More books are published per capita in Iceland than any other country and most of them are sold around the Christmas season. On Christmas eve people exchange books and then spend the evening reading and eating chocolates; can you think of a better combination?

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8. Yule Goat

The Yule goat dates back to the 11th century where there are legends of a man-sized goat led by St. Nicholas who had the power to control evil. Today, it is celebrated across Sweden where people hang Christmas ornaments depicting the Yule Goat. In some Swedish cities, giant Yule Goat decorations are made from straw and red ribbons and publicly displayed. Tie one on your tree today!

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9. Feast of Seven Fishes

This Italian-American Festa dei sette pesci tradition originated in Italy where it is customary to eat fish on the day before a feast day. Today, Italian-American families have made their own tradition and eat a feast of seven fish or seafood dishes on Christmas Eve. Of course, it is not a proper Italian meal without pasta. Mangia!

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10. Epiphany

Epiphany the feast of the three kings is observed on January 6 for Catholics or January 19 for Orthodox adherents. Traditions vary by country and it is celebrated by special foods and gift gifting. It’s just like a second Christmas, and what can be better?

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