Pictures of what Christmas looks like around the world

Sparkling pines, Santa Claus, and stockings are part of many people’s thoughts about Christmas, but the holiday can look very different around the world.

From Europe to Asia to the depths of Antarctica, here’s how to celebrate Christmas in nine places around the world – and one Spins around the world.


Christmas celebrations in Croatia start early, with some traditions beginning in November.

Like other Europeans, Croatians also celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day in early December, with children leaving their shoes outside, expecting Saint Nick to leave them candy and small gifts, according to the Saint Nicholas Center Christmas resource site.

In some parts of Europe, children believe that Saint Nicholas leaves chocolates and gifts in their shoes if they behave well. Otherwise, Krampus, a monster-like creature, may leave charcoal or dried twigs.

Monica Skolmoska | Image Alliance | Getty Images

“When I was a kid, I would leave my shoes on the window,” said Antonio Zdunic, who was born in Croatia. “Someone would fill her with gifts and candy during the night, and I’d wake up and be happy,”

He said many families in Croatia sow wheat on December 13 believing that if it grows well, next year will be prosperous for them.


Swede Patrick Kerto said that the people of Sweden decorate Christmas trees and exchange gifts, similar to other parts of the world.

The Disney special “From All of Us to All of You” is Sweden’s most-watched TV show of the year, competing only with the country’s trials in the Eurovision Song Contest.

LMPC | Getty Images

They celebrate with Donald Duck, too. Last year, more than 4.5 million people – nearly half of Sweden’s population – watched The 1958 Disney special “From All of Us to All of You” premiered, according to the European English-speaking news network, The Local. The show has been broadcast there every year since 1959.

Kerto said that popular foods during this time of year are meatballs, ham, smoked or marinated salmon, pickled herring, and a dish of potatoes and anchovies called anise temptation.


While parts of the country celebrate in different ways, Christian families in India usually combine Western traditions with the unique customs of India.

Mayor Kakade | moment | Getty Images

“Christmas is a very important celebration for my family because it is the only time of the year when most of the family gets together,” said Isha Melith, a Christian from the southern Indian state of Kerala. We build a Christmas bed [nativity scene] In front of the house… on Christmas Eve.”

Two popular dishes at Christmas are kheer, a type of sweet milk pudding, and kalapam, which is the coconut and rice pancake most common in South India, said Melith.


For most Japanese, Christmas is a secular affair rather than a religious one.

Many Japanese celebrate the holiday just like Valentine’s Day, with couples spending the day together, according to JR Pass, a Japanese rail travel company. It is common for people to go on dinner dates and hang out with their partners to see the Christmas lights.

One of the most discussed traditions – at least outside of Japan – is the culture’s fascination with eating fried chicken for Christmas, often from the US fast-food chain KFC.

One theory behind Japan’s custom of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas is that it was a favorite foreign food for the holiday because turkey was not available. A KFC Japan representative told CNBC that this inspired the company to market it as Christmas food.

Yuichi Yamazaki | Getty Images

Tatsuya Noguchi, representative of KFC Japan, said a 1974 holiday marketing campaign called “Kentucky Christmas” launched a practice now celebrated by millions of Japanese.

According to Noguchi, pre-orders for meals like Party Barrel or Christmas Package start about seven weeks in advance. He said the restaurant chain is also seeing its highest sales this year between December 23-25.

“Every year, December 24 is our busiest day — about five to 10 times busier than the annual average,” Noguchi said.


About 92% of the Philippines’ 110 million people are Christians. Christmas is the most important time of the year in the Philippines, and the country is said to celebrate the holiday longer than anywhere else – from September to January.

“Like many Latin cultures, my family in the Philippines celebrates Nochibuena, which is a big celebration on Christmas Eve,” said Sienna Klinzing, who is half Filipino. “It involves getting together with the family, having a big feast and exchanging gifts.”

For many Filipino families, Christmas isn’t complete without lechon, which is a crunchy, whole-skinned roasted pig.

Noel Siles | AFP | Getty Images

She added that her family would, like New Year’s Eve, wish everyone a “Merry Christmas” once midnight came.

Another important tradition is Simbang Gabi, which means ‘mass at night’, in which people wake up before dawn to attend the nine-day liturgy from December 16 to 24. It is believed that those who complete all nine days can ask for the blessing, Klinzing said.

The United Arab Emirates

Although the official state religion in the UAE is Islam, Christmas is celebrated in some parts of the country.

It is a particularly big issue in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where a large number of expats reside.

Dubai holds a lighting ceremony for large, elaborately decorated Christmas trees, such as the one at Al Wasl Dome in the heart of Expo 2020 Dubai.

AFP | Getty Images

Shopping malls and hotels are often heavily decorated with Christmas trees that span several floors, according to Visit Dubai, the emirate’s official tourism website.

Christmas markets, shows, and special holiday menus at restaurants are also common during December.


Christmas in Mexico features big parades with colorful floats and costumes, candy-filled pinatas and nativity scenes. But one of the country’s most popular customs is Las Posadas, a celebration during the nine days leading up to Christmas.

Dancers in costumes take part in a traditional Christmas and New Year parade in Chilpancingo, a city in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

Pedro Pardo | AFP | Getty Images

“Every night, people form a singing march meant to represent Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem,” Mexican food blogger Millie Martinez said.

These processions usually culminate in someone’s home, where everyone gathers for a party with food like tamales, birthday cake and dessert, she said. Other popular Christmas foods include pozole, sweet fried dough pies called buñuelos, and a hot chocolate drink called champorado, Martinez said.


Christmas is a time of migration for many in Kenya. Cities, including the capital, Nairobi, witness a mass exodus in December as a crowd of people travel to their hometowns and villages to be reunited with their families.

Believers of the Legio Maria movement, a religious movement that originated among the Luo people in western Kenya, attend a Christmas night mass near Ogunga, Kenya on December 25, 2017.

Fredrik Larenried | AFP | Getty Images

Shukriti Mandal, who grew up in Kenya, said most churches hold a vigil on Christmas Eve night, where people sing carols and carols for hours.

It’s Christmas Day, Mandal said, and families and friends have a feast that often includes roasted goat or lamb called nyama choma.


Currently, Antarctica is home to 70 permanent research stations representing 29 different countries, according to Oceanwide Expeditions, an Arctic and Antarctic tour operator.

With the usual Christmas buzz missing, stations find creative ways to celebrate among pals.

A man dressed as Santa Claus is on his way to visit the cruise ship Seabourn Quest on Christmas morning on Coverville Island in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Wolfgang Kahler | Light Rocket | Getty Images

“Each of our five research stations in Antarctica is celebrating Christmas in its own way, depending on the weather,” said Kathleen MacLean, representative of the British Antarctic Survey. Some might roast turkey and eat canned and frozen vegetables, she said, while others sing carols, watch Christmas movies and play board games.

Despite the celebrations, MacLean said, the research continues because “long-term monitoring data still needs to be collected.”

International Space Station

Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononink speaking on January 7, 2019 – Christmas Day according to the Russian Orthodox calendar.

Mikhail Gabaridze | TASS | Getty Images

Celebrations at the International Space Station include decorating the station, enjoying plastic bag copies of traditional foods like turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and cookies, and filming videos of Eid greetings being sent back to Earth.

Christmas also comes twice on the space station since it falls on January 7 on the Russian Orthodox calendar, which many Russian cosmonauts follow.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo