The Babbel Blog

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Roast Turkey or Fried Chicken? Christmas Around the World

Posted on December 18, 2015 by



Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but even among the billions who do, this time of year can look very, very different indeed. So, in the interests of “peace on earth and goodwill to all men” (and everyone else, of course), we’ve put together a handy primer to make sure our well-traveled readers aren’t taken by surprise when joining in the festivities away from home.


Here, in no particular order, are some of the more out-there ways to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.



As a company founded in Berlin, Babbel would like to apologize to any Germans who object to appearing on this list. It’s just that your version of Christmas looks, well… a little unusual to outsiders.


Here’s the issue: Sankt Nikolaus is like Santa Claus, but not. Santa Claus is der Weihnachtsmann (the Christmas man), and he brings presents later in the month. It’d be easier to tell the two apart if they didn’t both dress in red and have huge white beards, but that’s okay. Nikolaus’ helper Knecht Ruprecht, however, is a cause for concern. He dishes out treats to good children and – in southern regions of Germany, at least – allows his horrifying goat-man companion the Krampus to beat the bad ones with sticks. How festive.


In the interests of fairness though, we ought to at least debunk the pickle thing. See, in the US, there’s a widely held belief that German families hang a glass pickle on the tree, saving this most precious of ornaments for last. Although that would be a lovely tradition, it really isn’t one. Germans’ Christmas trees are disappointingly normal, which makes total sense – they invented them.



An all-American corporation has a firm grip on Japanese Christmas, but it’s not Coca-Cola. No, this jolly bearded man goes by the name of Colonel Sanders. A smart ad campaign that began in the 70s has seen Kentucky Fried Chicken become the Christmas dinner of choice for Japanese homes. So successful was this push, that many chicken fans now order their meals months in advance to avoid the inevitable in-store lines on the big day itself.


Despite the fact that Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan (the country has relatively few Christians), the Japanese seem to have a pretty solid grasp of the Christmas spirit: this time of year is seen as a time to spread happiness among friends and family and for romance between couples.



For the strangest of Spanish traditions, we need look no further than the northeastern region of Catalonia. Here, you’ll find ornaments that make the mythical German pickle seem positively humdrum.


El caganer is a small figure that’s depicted squatting down, trousers dropped, and ahem… doing it’s business. It’s a frequent feature of nativity scenes across the region and further afield. Along the same lines, but even more spectacular is the Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log), more affectionately known as the caga tió (sh*tting log). To cut a strange story short, children lovingly look after the log and “feed it” throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas. Once the magical day arrives, they place it in the fire, beat it with sticks and order it to defecate. The children then exit the room, before returning to find that the log has miraculously produced presents from its rear end.


Who needs Santa Claus?



Christmas in Australia is a lot like Christmas in other English-speaking countries, just upside-down. Owing to the magic of Christmas, or perhaps basic geography, Christmas in Australia occurs at the height of summer. The traditional dinner is therefore served flame-grilled and on the beach, and Santa’s reindeer really are replaced by kangaroos (the six white boomers).


Also owing to the magic of geography, Christmas comes nearly a full day earlier in Australia than it does the US West Coast and about a half day earlier than in Western Europe.



Every December, the sleepy Swedish town of Gävle sacrifices a giant straw goat to the spirit of Christmas. Kinda.


What actually happens is that, in accordance with tradition, the town erects a huge goat in its central square each year. A short while later, also in accordance with tradition, arsonists and vandals try to destroy it. To date, competition is fierce, with approximately an equal number of goats perishing as surviving the holidays.

If you, like us, are concerned for the goat’s welfare, you can keep an eye on it 24-7 via the town’s webcam.


thanks a lot … i love all the details given about culture from other countries !!
help us to know more about people from all around the world

I enjoyed your comments less those trivial, we should remember what is the reason for Christmas.
We also study French, so it would be nice to have all the wishes in French.
Joyeux Noel!
Bonne annee!

i am muslem but i am happy because all child’s happy with Christmas – happy new year

In Trinidad and Tobago, Christmas is cleanest season of the year. 🙂 We literally clean out our entire house, painting over everything and preparing the Christmas food. New curtains traditionally go up at midnight.
We also go house to house singing Christmas songs in Spanish that we call “Parang”. When people “parang” your house, you are supposed to give them food. The favourite is ham.
We also have lots of special foods and drinks like pastels, black cake, ginger beer, sorrel and punch a ceme.
Merry Christmas!!

You are so right: learning a language is much more than just learning grammar and vocabulary. i really enjoyed your insights into Christmas traditions around the world.
PEACE ON EARTH for 2016!

Also! You have another tradition called “Cantas às Estrelas”, its similar to USA tradition of singing christmas carols on peoples door. HOWEVER, here it means “singing to the stars” so everyone joins and sings traditional songs to the stars from December 25th until mid January. Usually people offer food and beverages after they end up singing. 🙂

I would like to unsubscribe please and have the £17.95 refunded to my account. I was not asked if I wanted to continue. Please let me know when this is completed. Thank you

Hi Liz, thanks for your comment. For subscription queries, you’ll need to get in touch with Merry Christmas!

You should mention Portugal too. Especially the Azores Islands. Here we have a tradition called “O Menino Mija”, which means “Does Baby Jesus Pee?”, yes weird name. HOWEVER, this means lots of food and alcohool drinks, you visit the entire day (December 25th) and sometimes December 26 friends and family and before you get inside you have to say “O menino mija?”, usually the answer is always the same “yes, it does!” and you get inside and you eat and drink as much as you can.
And then onto you go to the next house and do the same over and over again, until you are completely drunk or can’t eat anymore. Ahhh, holidays!

Dear Lisa and the Babble Team!
thank you for the Christmas around the world details have a very happy christmas !
in baby Jesus,Mary & Jo ,

In Mexico we combine traditions in Christmas. On December 25 children receive toys from Santa Claus and also and most important on the 24th. we have a formal dinner and we put a Nativity in front of the Christmas tree and baby Jesus is born on the 25th.and baby Jesus brings presents to the children and since we are mainly a catholic country we go to mass on the midnight of the 24th. or on the 25th of december. And also on january 6th come the 3 wisemen and also bring toys to children!! So, December is a very festive month in Mexico! Patricia

I loved the spanish blog about the christmas log. Very amusing blog. Thank you and Merry christmas. (Feliz Navidad)

Happy christmas.

Loved the interesting comments, being in Italy this Christmas would have enjoyed one from Italy!

i would love to hear/learn of Ukrainian christmas traditions…..not all aussies have xmas at the beach over a bbq..some go to the pub lol .

My country, the Philippines maybe have the longest Christmas celebration. After Nov.1, we start to decorate , and until January, just after the 3 Kings.Dec.16, starts the first Aginaldo Mass, and until Dec 24th midnight..

thank you very much for sharing your stories about Xmas in other countries.
Nice to hear and learn about those traditions.

Love to hear how other parts of the world celebrate the festive season.

Interesting stories to what happens in other parts of the world at Christmas time. Keep them coming.

thank you lisa happy new year

I never used to know these things, if I need it again I am going to keep it, just in case! I love these facts!#

Dear Lisa and the Babbel Team!

Thank you for the Christmas around the World details.

Have a very Happy Christmas.

We in Romania also have well… two giftbringers during December. On the 6th we celebrate St. Nicholas (it’s actually the Christian Orthodox St. Nicholas day). During the night before St. Nicholas day, the saint himself (Father Nicholas) is visiting the children. Children are supposed to clean and polish their shoes or boots and leave them next to the door. During the night of 5th to 6th of December, St. Nicholas will leave sweets and fruits in the boots of good children and beating sticks in the boots of naughty ones.Then there’s the actual St. Claus who comes during Christmas Eve night (24th to 25th of December), who in Romanian Christian mithology is another person, different from St. Nicholas. He is called Father Christmas and some stories say he was the leader of the shepperds, the one that received Virgin Mary in the barn or cave where he lived with his livestock and hired hands. Other stories say he was a bad man, the husband of the midwife that helped deliver Jesus into the world. Upon the vision of Jesus’s birth, he repented and gave all his fortune to the poor, becoming a good person. So… Well it’s nice to be a kid or even an adult in Romania. There are two separate occasion to receive gifts each December.

Hi Lisa, thank you for your Christmas newsletter. I found the traditions across the world very interesting and entertaining. Here in Australia we live on a property about 140klms south of Sydney. The past four days it has been 38 to 42 degrees. Last night at 7.00pm it was still 41.9 in the sun!! Christmas Day, thank goodness, is supposed to be around 26 degrees celsius – not too hot for preparing Christmas Dinner. Wishing you and all at Babbel all the best for Christmas and 2016. Regards Barbara

Thanks for this. Very

Lisa and all at Babbel

Have a wonderfully Happy Christmas and a joyful New Year.
Big thanks for the great job you all do, it’s great and a lot fun.
All the best, Ba

I am very offended by your comments about our German Christmas Tradition.I was born and raised there and have very fond memories of Christmas
Live in Canada now and miss my traditional German Christmases

Hi Christa, thanks for getting in touch. We really love German Christmas too, but we wanted to explain one or two of the things that would be interesting for people who don’t have these traditions. Merry Christmas!

Very interesting, I never heard of these stories. I wish all people around the world a Merry .Christmas, Peace on earth to all man kind and Happy New Year


You have made a big mistake about Australian Xmas, we have a normal Xmas with Santa in full rig doing his rounds on a sleigh visiting shopping malls etc and we also have Xmas in July when we have a proper Christmas dinner and enjoy the snow also.

You’ve left out Suriname Sinterklaas

I will share the +Babbel list with my goup

I think you should try and write about more countries around the world cause I am really keen to find out about Christmas in other countries.

Poor goat!

Een ieder zeer vredig kerst toegewenst voor alle mensen in deze wereld

Have a very good and happiness
Cristmas 2015 white peach in every hart from all the people in this world.

Happy Christmas and happy new year for all of us .
Let be peace and love among
us ! I wish all this for you , me and whole people of the world .

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