[Advertising – unpaid and unsolicited – because of credits of restaurants and recreation centres.in the blog article and on the photos.] Last year, I was in Beijing over Christmas, even though I love the pre-Christmas period, the Christmas markets, the Christmas decorations in German cities, and the smell of home-baked cookies. Christmas in Beijing was different and yet it was a beautiful celebration. This made me curious about how Christmas is celebrated all over the world. That is why I asked some other travel bloggers about their experiences. In this article, you will learn more about the Christmas traditions in 18 countries on five continents.

 

Asia

Beijing, China

Traditionally, Christmas does not matter in China, but more and more young Chinese people are gathering to celebrate the feast together in good style and with good food. Beijing is festively decorated in many places and everywhere it glitters and flashes. Even at Renmin University, where I studied Mandarin for five months, Christmas decorations were hanging everywhere and in the entrance hall of the student residence where I lived, there was a Christmas tree and a plastic Santa Claus.

Beijing – Photo: The Travelling Colognian

The German Embassy in Beijing has been organizing a Christmas bazaar every year on the first weekend of Advent for almost 20 years. It is popular with many expats, not just among the Germans living in Beijing. I visited the bazaar with a group of friends.

At the cultural exchange center “The Hutong”, where I had already done a few cooking classes during my previous trips and visits to China, the Winter Fayre, also a kind of Christmas bazaar, took place on the second Sunday of Advent.

The International Student Office of Renmin University and Hutong School, a private Chinese language school, where I also took Mandarin classes, each also held a Christmas party.

I celebrated Christmas Eve with a few friends in a restaurant. We then ended the evening in a café on the university campus. The other Christmas holidays were very quiet and relaxed. Although Christmas in Beijing was very different from home, it was a great experience I would not want to miss.

Beijing, China – Photo: The Travelling Colognian

 

Singapore

Weihnachten Singapur Südostasien ASIENSingapore – Photo: The Road Most Traveled

It is about 30 degrees Celsius outside, it is the rainy season and the humidity is high. There are big Santa Clauses and reindeers, the garlands illuminate the streets and there are alternating “Last Christmas” and “All I want for Christmas is you” songs sounding from the shops. It is not even December. Welcome to Singapore! For my semester abroad, I traveled to Singapore in October 2017 and was soon able to find the above situation shortly after arriving. Christmas is not the festival traditionally celebrated in Asia. In Singapore, it has found its place mainly because of the children, so was the statement of a colleague. There is only the “German first Christmas holiday” in Singapore, which actually counts as a free day at work. The second Christmas day is not celebrated. At Christmas, the malls are just as full as usual and the shops are open all day. Therefore, a shopping trip on December 25, was possible and I got myself a present in a mall.

Singapore – Photo: The Road Most Traveled

Although, Christmas is not really celebrated there, a huge decoration is raised. Every year, Orchard Road is lavishly decorated. In 2018, the motto is “Disney Magical Moments”. In 2017, we found Santa Claus in astronaut suits and reindeers with oxygen balls. And on the buses, there was the Cookie Monster and Minions in Christmas outfits on sleighs. In the Gardens by the Bay around the Supertrees, a kind of Christmas market is being built, which costs admission, so I was not there. But the lighting could be seen from afar and the light show of the Supertrees ran with a Christmas medley.

Christmas in the tropics is a special experience, but I prefer the cold winter with children’s punch, lard cake and the family. I missed this family chaos in Singapore.

Michelle from The Road Most Traveled celebrated Christmas 2017 in Singapore.

 

Yangon, Burma

Yangon, Burma – Photo: 2 on the go

We as avowed cold-haters have no problem with fleeing before Christmas in warm climes. Therefore, we have already spent the pre-Christmas period in Cuba and on the Canary Islands. For our trip to Chile, we even left on Christmas Eve. All of these countries have a common Christian background, and so the tourist is also provided with Christmas trees and sparkling decors there. Only mulled wine and gingerbread are missing…

On our trip around the world, we spent Christmas in Southeast Asia. The pre-Christmas season in Thailand was characterized by tropical temperatures. Thailand is touristic enough that at least in some places, Christmassy jewelery could be seen there as well. I must confess that at 28 degrees under palm trees only little Christmas mood came up. The glittery plastic tree did not change that either.

On December 23, we flew to Burma and spent Christmas in Yangon. Here, everything was Asian through and through. We only found a glitter tree once in a touristic Skybar.

But the gleaming golden domes of the Shwedagon Pagoda and other temples glittered all the more. It was easy for us to get involved. In this environment, we missed nothing of the German Christmas. The lively life around us, the fascinating Buddhist cultural treasures and the friendly smile of the people of Burma almost made us forget that Christmas is celebrated at home in the cold, dark winter. As a concession to Christmas, we indulged in a delicious Indian food in a slightly more upmarket restaurant than usual.

Yangon, Burma – Photo: 2 on the go

Gina and Marcus from 2 on the go celebrated Christmas 2016 in Yangon.

 

Vietnam

Vietnam – Photo: explorervibes.com

Last year at Christmas time, we had actually considered taking a trip to Indonesia… Unfortunately, this was not possible because of the outbreak of Mount Agung and instead, we booked a flight to Vietnam. I think, that we would not have experienced such extreme Christmas decorations in Indonesia. Already in Saigon, we were quite flashed by the whole Christmas decoration – we felt as if we stumbled into an 80s-year American Christmas movie (by the way, the frozen soundtrack was played in every 5th bar). The bigger the decoration, the better. In the other cities not only the hotel and shopkeepers seemed to be wagering, the houses were richly decorated as well. Although in Vietnam most of the population is atheist and practices a kind of “ancestor worship,” there are plenty of Christians here – and these seem to clearly show their faith to the outside world. A curious curiosity are all the life-sized statues of Mary which you can see on the balconies and terraces of houses – but not only for Christmas. Since Vietnam was once a French colony, some influences from our neighboring country are noticeable here: Santa Claus is called “gng già Noël” and also the typical Christmas cake sounds quite “French” with “bûche de Noël”. Around Christmas, there are some masses in the Catholic churches, which – like in Mexico – are decorated with garlands.

Vietnam – Photo: explorervibes.com

Mario from explorervibes.com celebrated Christmas 2017 in Vietnam.

 

Australia

Australia – Photo: Carly’s Adventures Afar

Christmas in Australia is not your typical, traditional Christmas. There is certainly no white Christmas here! That’s because we’re in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s summer at Christmas (oh and it doesn’t snow in most parts of Australia in any event!).

Many Australians make the most of the summer weather for Christmas enjoying backyard pools or heading to the beach. Bondi Beach is particularly famous for its Christmas celebrations especially amongst travellers and backpackers.

But for me Christmas in Australia is represented by a chill, relaxed day with my family in Sydney eating plenty of delicious food and hanging out in the backyard pool.

And when it comes to food my family does a bit of a twist on the traditional Christmas dinner. We still have roast turkey (and maybe roast lamb or roast chicken) but because it’s summertime, and it’s usually hot, we serve the roast meats cold alongside salads.

Seafood is also a super popular Christmas tradition in Australia with Sydney’s fish markets opening extra early on Christmas Eve and with huge quests.

Australia – Photo: Carly’s Adventures Afar

And nothing represents Christmas in Australia like a huge bowl of bright, deep red cherries!

But despite Christmas in Australia being a little bit different don’t worry it will still feel like Christmas as there are lots of Christmas decorations and plenty of Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas from Australia!!

Carly from Carly’s Adventures Afar lives in Australia

New Zealand

Last year, I was lucky enough to celebrate Christmas in New Zealand. We were in the middle of our trip around the world and after many months in the Caribbean and in Africa, the huge supermarkets were culture shocks and Christmas presents for us at the same time. The pre-Christmas season has no meaning with the Kiwis, so only a few garlands and the well-known Christmas songs in the stores suggest that Christmas Eve is just around the corner. Speaking of, gifts in New Zealand are given one day later. And then, people celebrate Christmas with a barbecue on the beach. After all, it is high summer and most people are on vacation. If you want to travel to New Zealand at this time, you should definitely book early, because even the Kiwis love camping in their own country. December 26, is “Boxing Day” – the shops are opened again and there are great deals everywhere.

By the way, for our Christmas, we have set our minds on celebrating white Christmas even at the other end of the world – and we have succeeded in doing so.

Birte from Waiting is Happiness celebrated Christmas in New Zealand on her trip around the world.

 

South America

Argentina

Argentina – Photo: Senioren um die Welt

I experienced my first Christmas away from home in the 1960s in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata. At that time, I was doing an internship at a German company. In the streets, I saw little Christmas decorations, only a few shops had decorated the shop windows. Large Christmas trees were set up in several public buildings and in foreign companies during the pre-Christmas period. They were decorated with colourful balls and their candles were always flashing which was unusual for me.

Argentina – Photo: Senioren um die Welt

The German-born kept the old traditions also in Argentina. There was a lot of baking, singing and crafting during the Christmas season. It was midsummer, and it was hot with high humidity. Therefore, it was not that easy to get into the pre-Christmas mood. For Christmas Eve, December 24, I was invited to attend a typical German Christmas party with a church walk, a festive dinner and a quiet get-together. But my friend, with whom I had rented a small house in a suburb of Buenos Aires, wanted to go to the sea. Therefore, we went on a short break by night to Mar del Plata about 400 kilometres south from Buenos Aires, which was a well-known and well-visited seaside resort already at that time.

On Christmas Eve, we swam in the sea and then went along the beach. And suddenly, it was back, the homesickness that I thought I had long since overcome. I thought about my family in faraway Germany, about candlelight and the scent of fir and everything that made Christmas for me. Fortunately, the feeling passed quickly, especially as I thought of my friend next to me, who had neither parents nor other family members.

By a lucky coincidence, we met an Argentine family, who spontaneously invited us to their house for the next day to celebrate the officially only Christmas day in Argentina on December 25. The Argentines are very hospitable, so such invitations were not uncommon.

The house of the family was decorated with fir garlands and in the hall, they had teddy bears attached to a garland for the children. In addition to the family members, relatives and friends were there, and in the garden everything was prepared for the typical Argentine festive meal: the asado. Several cattle halves and innards hung on large grills above the fireplace. Besides the meat, salads, white bread and red wine were served. It was a very happy, typical Argentinean Christmas, as my German -born friend had never experienced before.

Marie from Senioren um die Welt celebrated Christmas as part of an internship abroad in Argentina in the 1960s.

 

North America

New York City

New York City – Photo: Full Time Explorer

There’s something truly magical about New York City at Christmas. After living there for eight years, it never seemed to get old. New Yorker’s are different around the holidays, and you can feel the buzz in the air. The city lights up with festivities around every corner. My personal favorite is going to the Christmas market at Bryant Park which is called the Winter Village. I always grab a fresh hot apple cider from one of the vendors and weave my way through the alleys of booths selling an assortment of gifts and goodies. Afterwards, I’ll go for a skate on the famous Bryant Park rink. To me, this is the epitome of Christmas.

While Bryant Park is my all-time favorite way to spend the holidays, there’s really no shortage of magical things to do in New York City at Christmas. A walk through Central Park after freshly fallen snow can best be described as a fairy tale. Around 82nd Street on the Upper East Side, you’ll find a hill perfect for sledding. St Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, Grand Central Station, Columbus Circle, and Rockefeller Center are all hits among tourists and locals. One year, I went for a tour on The Ride which has a Christmas theme during the holidays, and allows you to see all the best lights with a comedian on board. And don’t forget the famous Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s Christmas decorations. It’s the only place in the world where I’ve seen people line up to look at window displays!

New York City – Photo: Full Time Explorer

Michelle Della Giovanna from Full Time Explorer lived in New York City for eight years.

Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada – Photo: Penguin and Pia

Celebrating Christmas in Canada is, admittedly, exactly as wintery and festive as you might imagine. At least, it is in Ontario! Because of the location surrounded by The Great Lakes, there is usually quite a bit of snow – making it a true “winter wonderland”.

I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate Christmas north of Toronto, Ontario, with my boyfriend’s family. For starters, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25th – which is still a little strange for me! In Canada, celebrations take on slightly different traditions and customs given the diverse backgrounds of many families. My boyfriend’s family is mainly of Eastern European descent – and it shows when it comes to the food!

In additional to the traditional turkey dinner with classic stuffing, dessert consisted of a Hungarian cake known as Dobos Torte. It’s a good thing that there are so many diverse nationalities represented in the Greater Toronto Area – it makes getting authentic cuisine and baked goods even possible!

Other than the food, I’ve honestly not noticed many other differences. There was a Christmas tree, the house was festively decorated, and the whole family spent time together. I guess a difference is that there was no advent wreath, they actually hung stockings by the chimney, and gifts were opened on the morning of the 25th.

All in all, Christmas in Canada is a festive time spent with family – and if there’s an ice rink around, there might also be some skating or hockey to be played!

Lisa from Penguin and Pia lives in Toronto, together with her Canadian boyfriend.

 

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada – Photo: Ways2Travel

It really is the first Christmas without our families that we spend in Vancouver. And indeed, the city is really festive in the pre-Christmas season. If you forget the “Raincouver” – and yes, the rain does not seem to stop – there are fairy lights, Santa Clauses and decorated streets everywhere.

Only one thing is completely different than what we enjoy so much in Germany: the Christmas markets. There is a lot of effort in North America to imitate the European traditional markets, but unfortunately, this is only possible to a very limited extent. Not only the fact that you have to pay an entrance fee on the enclosed area, also the minimum age and the strict rules to drink alcohol quickly spoil the joy. At the bar of the Feuerzangenbowle, a German Working Holiday Maker greets and explains to me that I unfortunately, I can only get two paper cups with punch, because more he cannot serve me more at a time. The group of friends at the table, 10 metres away, looks at me … We sit there, reminiscing about home and smile at the Käthe Wohlfahrt stand, where the Chinese tourists let the money pull out of their pockets.

There is a lack of contemplation on Christmas in North America. The shopping delusion and the almost 24/7 shops are even more noticeable than at home in Germany. And yet, we just make ourselves comfortable, and enjoy our day off on Christmas Day, traditionally December 25. And there is even white Christmas for us. With snowshoes on our feet, we enjoy the view from Dam Peak down to the city. There’s nothing like Christmas at home.

Regina und Chris from Ways2Travel celebrated Christmas in Vancouver, Canada.

 

Africa

Lesotho

Lesotho – Photo: Kind im Gepäck

Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world. We visited it in 2017 and for us it was like a journey through time: back to the world 100 years ago. Back to a time without electricity, cars and bells and whistles. But also a journey into an incredibly fascinating country. A country, in which you can learn a lot, especially joy about the everyday things.

In such a poor country, one wonders how Christmas is celebrated here. Are there presents at all? Of course! No matter in which region, whether in the city or in the countryside, whether rich or beggar – also in Lesotho presents will be given. Even the poorest families will do that. Most of them give new clothes.

Like everywhere else, the party is celebrated with family and/or friends, namely from the morning of December 25. While the children roam around the houses, like at Halloween, and are pleased about small gifts, the adults celebrate with a lot of alcohol. Mostly home-brewed and thus high-proof since most of the people have only little money.

Traditional food does not exist in Lesotho. In most cases, besides meat (own slaughter of one’s own animals), as much as possible is served: noodles, rice, potatoes. In some families, the money is even enough for a dessert.

This post about Christmas in Lesotho was written by Mel from Kind im Gepäck.

 

Togo

Togo – Photo: Traveloskop.de

Already for the second time, I celebrate Christmas in the small, West African state Togo. Many elements that I know from home, I also find in the Togolese Christmas party. However, Christmas is quite different here:

  1. Feast of the family: Also in Togo, Christmas is a feast of the family. At Christmas, everyone gets together and eating together is very important.
  2. Worship: In Togo, faith and church – in many different faiths – has a great significance. Therefore, at least one visit to the fair may not be missing on Christmas Eve.
  3. The decoration: Instead of tinsel, stars or cozy fir green, colorful balloons hang under the palm roof over blue plastic chairs in the courtyard.
  4. Christmas dinner: A goat replaces the roast goose. It is an important ingredient of the sauce of the traditional Foufou.
  5. Gifts: The commerce around Christmas in Togo is a lot less distinctive. Especially in the poorer families, gifts (if at all) play only a minor role. That does not mean that Christmas is not all the more cordial.

Britta from Traveloskop.de has been living in Togo for two years.

 

Middle East

Middle East – Photo: Breaking Barriers

In the predominantly Muslim Middle East, Christmas is celebrated in some countries, accepted in others, and in others it is only recognized by an expat population in the privacy of their own homes.

The countries that are currently open to tourism and have large expat populations will have Christmas trees and decorations around their cities and shopping malls. They recognize that it is an important part of the lifestyle of their expat communities and will make it as festive as is possible for them. In cities like Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Manama in Bahrain you can celebrate a Christmas dinner buffet in the hotels and you will see people out in the bars wearing Christmas hats and other reminders of the time of year.

Middle East – Photo: Breaking Barriers

In the Northern countries of the Middle East such as Lebanon and Syria, where there is a large Christian population of citizens, it’s an important time of year. In the same way that the Christian population will respect the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, the Muslims will respect and celebrate Christmas with their Christian neighbors.

In Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to display signs of any other religion apart from Islam, you won’t find any evidence of Christmas being celebrated. Here, only in the comfort and privacy of your own home, (and only if this is in a compound) can you put up decorations or a tree. However, there have been many changes that have taken place in the country in the last year, including the re-introduction of cinemas and the issuance of driving licences to females, so perhaps in the future Christmas will also be accepted in this country.

 Martin from Breaking Barriers lives in Saudi Arabia and also knows the Christmas traditions of the other countries of the Middle East.

 

Europe

Catalonia, Spain

Catalonia, Spain – Photo: Vickiviaja

Do you think German Santa Claus is boring and have you ever wanted to hit a wooden block while singing for so long until he defecates presents for you? If so, you should definitely spend your next Christmas in Catalonia. No kidding, that’s exactly how the Catalan kids celebrate their Christmas. Since the actual Christmas presents in Spain are usually given on the day of the three Magi on January 6, children will receive small gifts and sweets for Christmas in this way.

The painted wooden block which has a face and is decorated with a Catalan hat is aptly called Cagatió. That means as much as craping wooden block. It is already set up on December 8, and “fed” by the children until Christmas who care for it to keep it warm and cozy, The back is covered with a blanket, so when the children hit the cagatió with their sticks while singing at Christmas, the parents pull out the presents from under this blanket which the block of wood defecated by the blows. If this is not the craziest Christmas tradition in Spain.

Vicki from Vickiviaja lives in Barcelona.

 

Sweden

Sweden – Photo: Nikas.reisen

The Swedes and many other Scandinavian countries are ringing in the Christmas season on December 13, with the day of Santa Lucia. People are singing and baking and many other Swedish Christmas traditions sweeten the Christmas season. God Jul!

 

Denmark

Denmark – Photo: Nikas.reisen

Our direct neighbors, the Danes, even have a real Christmas brew, the Julebryg, which is served every year at the beginning of the Christmas time. This is extensively celebrated throughout the Christmas season. God Jul!

 

The Netherlands

The Netherlands – Photo: Nikas.reisen

The Dutch start the Christmas season on St. Martin’s Day. On November 11, Sinterklaas with his servants Zwart Piet drives into the ports and many people come and listen to the spectacle, which also reminds a little of the carnival time. Prettige Kerstdagen!

Nika from Nikas.reisen reports about Christmas traditions in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

 

Cologne, Germany

In Cologne, the pre-Christmas season starts at the end of November. Then, the city is beautifully decorated for Christmas. In Cologne, you can visit nine major Christmas markets. Furthermore, there are the Christmas markets in the districts, the alternative Christmas markets and many beautiful Christmas markets in the surrounding area around Cologne.

Cologne – Photo: The Travelling Colognian

I love to stroll over the Christmas markets and absorb the Christmas spirit. Even if I have a lot to do, I try to make it to my favourite Christmas markets – the Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral, the “Markt der Engel” at Neumarkt, the “Nikolausdorf” at Rudolfplatz and the “Markt der Heinzel” in the old town – at least once a year.

In Germany, the most important day of Christmas is December 24. This year I am back home and I spent Christmas Eve with my parents. By candlelight, we enjoyed tea in the afternoon and then prepared dinner together. For many years, we have Raclette at Christmas. Afterwards, we sat together in the living room, gave presents to each other and let the evening end comfortably.

Merry Christmas!

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