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The diversity of Christmas celebrations across the world

By Katie Reed | December 5, 2022 | Blog Language Facts

The Language Factory has created our new Christmas Selection Box, a guide to Christmas and seasonal greetings across the world, with a glimpse into the more unusual traditions behind the greetings.

A big thank you to our wonderful team of translators for giving us a snapshot of their Christmas experiences.


We noticed some common themes…

Festivities start early in some parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany, with the celebration of St. Nicolas or Nikolas Day on 5th or 6th December.

In Germany, for example, Nikolaus is rather like Father Christmas, with his characteristic long white beard and red robe. Children leave their boots outside on the evening of 5th December, hoping to wake up on the morning of 6th December to sweet treats and small gifts. In times gone by, Nikolaus was joined by a rather less friendly sidekick, known as Krampus, who was said to take naughty children away in his big sack!


Christmas Eve is the centre of celebrations

Across large parts of the world, it’s 24th December that’s the important day in the Christmas calendar.

In Mexico for example, families exchange presents over a dinner of turkey, romeritos (a dish with mole [1]) and bacalao a la vizcaina (cod), usually eaten after Christmas mass. Christmas Day itself is actually known as El Recalentado (the re-heating day), as Mexican families ‘reheat’ their Christmas dinner and share it with whoever comes to visit.  [1] The spicy sauce, not the short-sighted mammal!

Not only that, but Mexicans love to party! They have nearly a month of festive celebrations, from 12th December with Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Day of the virgin of Guadalupe), through Christmas and Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) on 26th, December, finishing with a flourish on Día de Reyes (King’s Day) on 6th January. Who says Christmas is only one day!

Of course, seasonal food is at the heart of festivities

The Czechs have an old tradition of not eating meat on Christmas Eve, sitting down instead to a meal of soup, usually fish, mushroom or lentil, followed by carp and potato salad and finished off with homemade Christmas biscuits and stollen.

If you were celebrating Christmas in Brazil, the tipple of choice to wash down your festive meal, wouldn’t be hot chocolate or mulled wine. Brazilians enjoy a cold glass of bubbly, wine or beer. What else would you want to drink when celebrating at height of the summer?

The Brazilians also have their own unique take on Christmas dinner. Alongside the traditional turkey and gammon, they also eat something known as chester, a sort of genetically-modified chicken that only seems to be on the plate at Christmas time. All this is accompanied by the quintessentially Brazilian dishes of arroz à grega (rice with raisins, peas and carrots), farofa (seasoned and fried cassava flour), salpicão (a mixture of pulled chicken, sweetcorn and crisps, mixed with mayo) and rabanada (fried eggy bread with sugar and cinnamon) – yummy!

The most unusual festive meal, though, has to be in Japan, where eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is part of their Christmas tradition. It dates back about 150 years when it was impossible to get turkey in Japan, so they substituted chicken as it was more readily available. KFC capitalised on this custom with seasonal advertising campaigns and it’s now very common for Japanese families to eat KFC for their Christmas dinner.


Thank you for joining us on our delve into weird and wonderful Christmas traditions across the world. What are your favourite festive traditions?  We would love to hear from you.

And don’t forget to download The Language Factory Christmas Selection Box to greet your clients and colleagues across the globe in their own language.

Joyeux Noël and einen guten Rutsch from The Language Factory!

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