Christmas in Germany: Facts About German Christmas Traditions

How is Christmas celebrated in Germany? Read on to discover all about the traditions, Christmas foods, and festive rituals that are common in German households during the festive period.

  • In Germany, Christmas gifts are exchanged after dinner on Christmas Eve (24th December).
  • One of the most popular Christmas Eve meals in Germany is potato salad with sausages. Carp is also eaten in some parts of the country.
  • The traditional meal on Christmas Day is roast goose, duck or rabbit, served with red cabbage, dumplings made from potato, and sausage stuffing.
  • In many parts of Germany, St Nicholas is more important than Santa Claus. Traditionally, children in Germany leave polished boots outside their houses on 5th December, and in the morning wake to find them filled with nuts, small gifts and sweets.
  • St Nicholas is thought to travel with a devilish sidekick called Krampus. It is the job of Krampus to scare naughty children into behaving better.
  • Advent calendars have traditionally been used in Germany as a way of marking the countdown to Christmas. Starting on 1st December, a window is opened each day, revealing sweets, small gifts, or parts of a story. Many families make their own advent calendars.
  • An advent wreath is an important Christmas decoration in Germany, and the tradition of burning candles during advent can be traced back to the 16th century. In Germany, advent wreaths are called Adventskranz, and they consist of candles, pine cones and branches, Christmas decorations and dried flowers.
  • Lebkuchen, a type of gingerbread, contains honey, nuts, and a range of Christmas spices. It can be baked hard or soft, and is often decorated with icing and served at Christmas fairs, festivals and markets.
  • Mulled wine (called Gluhwein) in Germany is often drunk at Christmas events.
  • Another German Christmas alcoholic drink is Feuerzangenbowle. Rum is added to mulled wine, making the drink very potent.
  • The tradition of holding Christmas markets can be dated all the way back to the Middle Ages. There are more than 1000 Christmas markets in Germany during the festive period, with stalls selling Christmas food, ornaments and decorations.
  • Christmas angels are one of the most wll-loved types ornaments in a German household. Used to decorate Christmas trees and German houses, they are often made of wood, and usually show the angels playing musical instruments.
  • German Christmas cake is known as stollen. Full of fruit, nuts and spices, and sprinkled with icing sugar, it is enjoyed in the majority of German houses at Christmas time.
  • In the seventeenth century, German families started to bring pine trees into their houses at Christmas time. Early decorations included apples, gingerbread shapes and flowers. By the 19th century, nearly every house in Germany had a real Christmas tree in their living rooms, and this tradition has been carried on to this day.
  • Another traditional Christmas decoration in Germany is the nativity scene, with carved wooden figures and animals.
  • Other Christmas foods eaten in Germany include Christmas cookies (Platzchen) and chocolate Santas.

What next? Find out about how other countries celebrate Christmas, discover some Christmas facts, or learn more about Germany.

Christmas in Argentina: Facts About Argentinian Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Argentinian Christmas traditions, celebrations and customs.

  • Christmas in Argentina is a popular holiday, which starts in early December, and lasts until Epiphany on January 6th. It is a blend of European, Hispanic and American traditions.

  • Many celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. Most Argentinians are Catholics and attending Midnight Mass on December 24th is an important part of celebrating the holiday.
  • The main Christmas meal is enjoyed on Christmas Eve, often late at night. Roast turkey, roast pork or goat is popular, as is salad, and a selection of festive breads and cakes.
  • One of the most popular desserts during Christmas in Argentina is pan dulce. This sweet bread is stuffed with nuts, raisins and dried fruit and enjoyed all through the season.
  • Barbecues and picnics are popular at Christmas, as it is summer in Argentina. Many restaurants are also open on Christmas Day, and offer a special seasonal menu, as well as live music.
  • Many Argentinians enjoy fireworks on Christmas Eve, as well as globos. These are traditional paper decorations with lights inside them, which are released in to the night to float away.
  • Houses are often decorated with wreaths of coloured flowers, and red and white garlands hung in doorways. Cotton balls are often hung from the Christmas tree to represent snow.
  • An important decoration in many homes and churches during Christmas in Argentina is a traditional nativity scene, or pesebre. It is usually placed close to the Christmas tree.
  • Children are usually given their presents on January 6th, a day known as Three Kings Day. The custom is to leave shoes outside the door, filled with water and hay for the Wise Men’s horses.
  • Most people in Argentina don’t give or send Christmas cards. Christmas presents are usually only given to family and close friends.

What next? Visit our Christmas Around the World page to find out how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.

Christmas in New Zealand: Facts About New Zealand Traditions

Here are some facts about the Christmas traditions, celebrations and customs of New Zealand.

  • Like nearby Australia, Christmas in New Zealand occurs right in the middle of the summer. As a result, many people like to go camping or spend Christmas on the beach with friends.

  • Many New Zealanders decorate their own unique Christmas tree, the Pohutukawa. The tree has bright red flowers and is often shown on the country’s Christmas cards.
  • Christmas cards in New Zealand often feature other symbols of the country, rather than the usual wintry scenes. These include tattooed Maori warriors, kiwis and native plants.
  • Barbecues are popular for Christmas dinner because of the hot weather. Grilled ham, venison or fish is common, as well as desserts including fruit salad, meringues and ice cream.
  • A popular gift at Christmas in New Zealand is a pair of jandals, a shoe that is a combination of sandals and flip-flops. Father Christmas is often shown as wearing sandals.
  • Santa comes down the chimney, visits homes and delivers gifts on Christmas Eve, as in the UK and the US. Children often leave a carrot for the reindeer and some pineapple chunks for Santa.
  • The window display at Smith and Caughey’s department store in Auckland is a popular sight at Christmas. The display often features animated puppets and traditional New Zealand music.
  • Also popular is the Santa parade in Auckland. It has taken place since 1934, and today attracts over 250,000 people who watch the almost 300 floats make their way through the city.
  • The first store Santa appeared at in New Zealand was in 1894. In 1960, Farmers department store in Auckland began the tradition of constructing an 18 metre high Santa outside the store every Christmas.
  • Singing seasonal songs and carols in church is popular during Christmas in New Zealand. However, the words have been changed on some Christmas songs to reflect a sunny and hot weather.

What next? Visit our Christmas Around the World page to discover how people from other countries celebrate Christmas.

Christmas in Belgium: Facts About Belgian Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Belgian Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations.

  • Christmas in Belgium includes some traditions from nearby Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

  • Visiting Christmas markets is popular, and people buy presents, decorations and seasonal food and drink.
  • Children in Belgium are visited by two Santas — Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas arrives first on Christmas Eve and children who have been bad are given stones and twigs.
  • Children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace, rather than hang up a stocking. St. Nicholas is said to have a horse, rather than reindeer, so a carrot is often left.
  • The main Christmas meal is usually eaten on Christmas Eve. Seafood is popular, along with a Christmas cake in the shape of a yule log, and plenty of red wine.
  • Venison, boar and rabbit dishes are also popular at Christmas time in Belgium. Deep fried sweet dumplings are also enjoyed over the holiday, as well as sweet bread shaped like the baby Jesus.
  • Chocolate advent calendars are popular, as well as advent calendars made from flowers and branches.
  • Belgian Christmas wreaths traditionally have four candles, and one is lit each week in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
  • Nativity scenes are popular Belgium. Many churches have a ‘real’ nativity scene with live oxen, donkeys and sheep and regular performances by the local choir.
  • Brussels has a wonderful Christmas market over the holidays. Over 250 stalls are packed into one of the city’s squares, selling chocolates, baked goods, mulled wine, and Christmas decorations.
  • Belgium is proud of its chocolate, and special Christmas chocolates are filled with nuts, cream or liquor. Belgians also drink a lot of its more than 600 varieties of beer during the holiday season.
  • As in other countries, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. Children dress up as the three Wise Men and go from door to door, asking for money or treats, and singing.

What next? Learn more about Belgium, or visit our Christmas Around the World page to discover how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.

Christmas in Malta: Facts About Maltese Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Maltese Christmas customs, traditions and celebrations.

  • Christmas in Malta is celebrated all over the country’s three main islands. Children receive gifts on Christmas morning, and most people attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

  • A child aged between 7 and 10 usually gives the sermon on midnight mass, instead of the priest. It’s considered a great honour, and children rehearse for weeks ahead of time.
  • The British ruled Malta for over 150 years, and many British foods are now popular during Christmas in Malta. These include a turkey with stuffing, Christmas pudding and a rich Christmas cake.
  • Cribs were introduced into Malta during the early 17th century and have been popular ever since. At Christmas, mechanical moving figures in cribs are popular in many churches.
  • The Friends of the Crib Society was founded in 1986 to keep the tradition of cribs alive. The society has an exhibition of hundreds of different cribs during the month of December.
  • Maltese people decorate their homes with wreaths, candles and lights. Some homes place a large figure of the baby Jesus in a window or on a balcony, and surround it with lights.
  • About five weeks before Christmas, many Maltese people plant seeds on cotton buds. On Christmas Day, the shoots from the seeds are used to decorate the family crib.
  • Most children take part in a school concert during the Christmas season. Children act and sing, recite poetry, and exchange gifts, often donating money to charity at the same time.
  • Spending time with family is an important part of Christmas for Maltese people. Family reunions are common on Christmas Day, and these gatherings often last most of the day.
  • Christmas parades have been popular in Malta on Christmas Eve since the 1920s. People dress in period clothing, sing and sometimes  carry a life size statue of the baby Jesus through the streets.

What next? Visit our Christmas Around the World section to discover how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.

Christmas in Canada: Facts About Canadian Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Canadian Christmas celebrations, customs and traditions.

  • Christmas in Canada has many different customs and traditions because of the country’s diverse population. Most people celebrate on December 25th.

  • The Santa Claus parade has been held every Christmas in Toronto since 1905. Almost 1,800 people take part in the parade, and about 500,000 people line the parade route.
  • Every Christmas, homes in Labrador City in Newfoundland have a Christmas lights competition. Homeowners also try to outdo each other with huge ice sculptures and light displays in their gardens.
  • Also popular is the festival of lights at Niagara Falls. The waterfalls are decorated with over 2 million lights, and visitors can also enjoy concerts and fireworks over the falls.
  • Turkey or ham is the traditional Christmas meal for most English speaking Canadians. Other popular seasonal foods include mince pies, plum pudding and a rich Christmas fruit cake.
  • Attending midnight mass is customary among French speaking Canadians, as well as attending feasts on Christmas Eve. A stew made from pigs’ feet is a traditional Christmas meal in parts of Quebec.
  • Every year, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia gives a Christmas tree to the US city of Boston. The tree is in appreciation for help given by Boston residents after a ship exploded in Halifax in 1917.
  • Mummering is a popular tradition at Christmas in Canada, in parts of Newfoundland. Children go from door to door, sing and dance, and are given snacks and a drink.
  • Cookie, or biscuit baking parties are very popular in Canada around Christmas. Cookies are baked and recipes are exchanged, and each person at the party leaves with a selection of cookies.
  • In Quebec, people celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. One tradition is baking a cake with a bean in it, and whoever finds the bean is named the king or queen of the feast.

What next? Visit our Christmas Around the World section to discover how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.

Christmas in Switzerland: Facts About Swiss Christmas Traditons

Here are some facts about Swiss Christmas traditions, celebrations and customs.

  • Many Swiss Christmas traditions have similarities with the Christmas customs of their neighbours –France, Germany and Italy. Festivities usually begin on Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve.

  • Advent calendars are popular in which a cardboard flap is opened every day leading up to Christmas.
  • Real Christmas trees are popular in many homes during Christmas in Switzerland. Hiking through the forest to find the perfect tree is often an important part of the Christmas celebrations.
  • Many people light real candles on the tree on Christmas Eve, and again at New Year to bring good luck. Children often open presents while the candles are being lit, as is the custom.
  • Father Christmas is known as Samichlaus and he usually visits on Epiphany, January 6th. In some parts of Switzerland, the Three Kings are said to bring gifts on that day too.
  • Some villages celebrate the coming of Father Christmas on December 5th. In some areas, people ring bells, play musical instruments and wear a large lace and cardboard bishop’s hat.
  • Parades and processions are popular during Christmas in Switzerland. During New Year, people march through villages, wearing masks and costumes and making as much noise as they can.
  • The traditional holiday meal, eaten on Christmas Eve, is ham with scalloped potatoes and melted cheese. Walnut cake is usually eaten for dessert, and most families make lots of holiday biscuits.
  • The winter sports season in Switzerland traditionally starts on Christmas Day, and many people go skiing or sledding. The week between Christmas Day and New Year is usually spent visiting family and friends.
  • Some Swiss believe that animals were given the power to talk on the first Christmas. Many farm animals are given extra food on Christmas Eve to thank them for their part in the birth of Jesus.

What next? Learn more about Switzerland, or visit our Christmas Around the World section to discover how Christmas in celebrated in other countries.

Christmas in Scotland: Facts About Scottish Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Scottish Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations.

  • Christmas in Scotland was actually banned in the 17th for religious reasons. Until the early 20th century, Christmas was celebrated quietly and discreetly. Today, it is widely celebrated, along with the Scottish New Year, called Hogmanay.

  • Many Scots practice ‘first footing’ on New Year’s Eve. The first person to enter the home after midnight should be male, dark and carry a traditional gift of shortbread or whisky.
  • Edinburgh, Glasgow and other large cities all hold large Hogmanay celebrations, with bonfires and fireworks. In some years, almost 400,000 people crowd the streets of Edinburgh on New Year ‘s Eve.
  • Some Scots believe in keeping a fire going all through Christmas to keep away evil spirits. Mistletoe hung from the ceiling or in doorways is also said to keep evil spirits out and bring good fortune.
  • A traditional dinner at Christmas in Scotland includes broth, smoked salmon, turkey and Christmas pudding. Bannock cakes, made from oatmeal are also popular during the festive season.
  • Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day, is also a public holiday in Scotland. Tradesmen and servants were once given Christmas boxes or gifts, which is probably where the name came from.
  • Burning the branches of a Rowan tree is a popular Scottish Christmas custom. It is thought that any bad feelings among friends or families are removed as the wood is consumed by the fire, to ensure a happy year ahead.
  • In some parts of Scotland, Christmas Eve is also known as Sowans Nicht. The name may come from a dish of oat husks and water, known as sowans.
  • Fire is an important part of Christmas in Scotland. Some Scots dance around a bonfire on Christmas Day, and in Burghead, residents take turns to carry a huge burning barrel on their head.
  • The Scottish enjoy watching pantomimes, which are traditional British plays performed at Christmas They are often based on a fairy tale, have childish humour and lots of audience participation.

What next? Learn more about Scotland, or visit our Christmas Around the World page.

Christmas in Italy: Facts About Italian Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Italian Christmas traditions, celebrations and customs.

  • Christmas in Italy is an extremely popular holiday, and is celebrated all over the country. Festivities last from about the 6th of December until Epiphany, the 6th of January.

  • Most Italians give and receive gifts on the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th. A witch known as La Befana is said to bring gifts in the night to put in children’s stockings.
  • Attending midnight mass and eating a meatless dinner on Christmas Eve is an important part of Christmas in Italy. In parts of southern Italy, families eat a meal of seven fishes.
  • St. Peter’s Square in Rome is a wonderful place at Christmas. The square is decorated with a large Christmas tree, and the Pope gives his Christmas address at noon on Christmas Day.
  • Many children dress up as shepherds a week before Christmas in Italy. They sing and play musical instruments, and are given money to buy gifts.
  • One of the world’s largest Christmas trees is created every December on a mountain side near Gubbio. Thousands of lights spread across the mountain form a tree shape, covering over 1000 square metres.
  • Nativity scenes can be seen in Naples, while the city of Verona is known for its decorative lights. Traditional bonfire celebrations are held all over Italy on Christmas Eve.
  • Italian Christmas cake, known as panettone, is often served after mass on Christmas Eve. It is a dry fruit cake, and is typically eaten with a cup of hot chocolate.
  • Sweet snacks and treats are eaten in Italy all through the holiday season. Popular goodies include sweet honey breads, marzipan, nougat and gingerbread, all symbolizing the sweetness of life.
  • The Yule Log is important in Italian homes, and many families keep it burning nonstop until New Year. In Tuscany, a huge log is set on fire, during the Festival of the Log.

What next? Find out more about Italy, or visit our Christmas Around the World section to discover more facts about how other countries celebrate Christmas.