Christmas Traditions Around the World

For many, this time of year holds a major Christian holiday, Christmas. In the spirit of learning (which we libraries like to foster), let’s explore Christmas traditions around the world! I’ve chosen my highlighted countries mostly at random.

Being married to an immigrant, people have asked me what kind of Christmas traditions Albanians have. Albania was a communist country from 1946 to 1992. During this period, all religion and anything to do with religions was outlawed. Because of this, people my husband’s age grew up without Christmas or any religious holidays. New Years is a much bigger deal and involves a big meal, deep cleaning your whole house and setting off a lot of fireworks in the streets.

In the Philippines, Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas day. Most folks stay awake all night on the 24th into Christmas day. In the evening on Christmas Eve, people go to church to hear the last ‘simbang gabi’ or the Christmas Eve Mass. After this comes a midnight feast, called Noche Buena.

Christmas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more religious than commercial. Most families don’t give any presents. Christmas Eve night is also a big deal here. One church might perform a nativity play and have 5 or 6 choirs sing. The plays often last until 1 am, starting with creation and ending with King Herod’s order to kill all the baby boys. Church starts the next morning at 9 am!

A tradition that’s becoming popular in China is giving apples wrapped in colored paper on Christmas Eve. This is because Christmas Eve is called “Ping’an Ye” which means quiet or peaceful evening, which was translated from the carol Silent Night. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” which sounds like the word for peace.

In Latvia during December, children learn to say poems by heart. This is because they often have to recite a poem next to the Christmas tree to get a present. Latvia also claims to be the home of the first Christmas tree! The first documented use of an evergreen tree at Christmas was in the town square of the capital city Riga, in the year 1510.

In Chile, Christmas is in the middle of the summer! After a late Christmas Eve meal (about 10pm) with friends and family, people head to a church service. Children open their presents at midnight and then go to friend’s houses to show off their new toys. On Christmas day people mainly relax, sleep in, and maybe go to the beach!

Whatever your Christmas or winter holiday looks like, we wish you a merry one!