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  • Writer's pictureCarolina Gonçalves

Christmas traditions around the world: Do you know these 15 customs?

Christmas is celebrated all over the planet, however, the celebrations change according to the characteristics of each country. We revealed, therefore, some Christmas customs in Portugal and other distant districts, such as Brazil or Japan.


Christmas on the planet: traditions and customs


1. Portugal

In a mostly Catholic nation like Portugal, Christmas has deep-rooted customs. Families get together on the night of December 24 to celebrate Christmas Eve, when the custom is to eat cod. On the 25th, the tradition is to have stuffed turkey for lunch. In the North, octopus is also common. For dessert, you can't miss the golden slices. The Nativity scene is also an important custom from North to South of the country. In the Algarve, for example, it is normal to set up the Nativity scene on a stool, with the baby Jesus standing, surrounded by oranges, flowers and small fields.


2. Spain

It is only on January 6th, Three Kings' Day, that Spaniards exchange gifts, however, on Christmas Eve, on the night of December 24th, families also gather for Christmas dinner and then attend Midnight Mass. On the Christmas table you will find delicacies such as pata negra ham, paella, roast lamb, torrone (a sweet made with almonds and sugar) and roscón de reyes, identical to our king cake.


3. Italy

It's an extraordinarily religious Christmas and most families go to Midnight Mass. As in Spain, it is customary to wait until January 6 to open presents. On the Italian Christmas table there are a few fish dishes, specifically eels and cod, pasta, stuffed turkey and Panettone, a unique Christmas sweet from Milan that has already spread throughout the country.


4. Germany

Wreaths are common, and the four Advent candles must be lit, each in turn, on the four Sundays before Christmas. Pork dishes, sausages, chorizos and sausages are common delicacies on German tables. Stollen cake, made with grapes, almonds, and cherries, is exceptionally well-liked, resembling a longer-lasting, pie-like king cake.


5. France

As in other European nations, Catholic families go to Midnight Mass and then gather at the table for Supper. The gastronomy differs greatly from one area to another. In Paris, for example, the most traditional dish is made with oysters, while in Alsace goose is the dish of choice. Roast turkey accompanied by chestnuts is also exceptionally famous in the country.


6. Great Britain

The children put on stockings by the chimney so that St. Nicholas can leave the presents when he comes down through the fireplace. It is on the morning of December 25 that the gifts are opened. In gastronomy, plum pudding is a very popular sweet at this time.


7. Sweden

In Sweden, the temperatures are very low at Christmas and children believe that it is the elves who bring them Christmas presents. In the Scandinavian nations, which include Sweden, Norway and Finland, among others, the festivities begin on December 13, when Saint Lucy's Day is celebrated. It is customary for the eldest daughter to dress in white, put a crown of candles on her head and wake up her family with a song.


8. Finland

This is the land of Santa Claus and everything it represents to us and the children's imagination, from the snow-covered landscape to the fireplace lit at home. The spruce tree is the Christmas tree. The gift exchange takes place on the night of December 24-25, when the family gathers for the main meal. The menu includes assorted purees (carrot or potato), beetroot salad, smoked salmon, herring and roasted leg of pork. Dessert includes ginger treats, plum cream, and baked goods with organic produce sauces. As it is cold, it is customary for Finns to enjoy a sauna on this date.


9. USA

The film industry has built the image of the American Christmas, with snowflakes falling from the sky, where Christmas music echoes in the streets and there is a rush to the stores to buy gifts. Houses decorated with lights, candles, Christmas trees, Advent wreaths and snowmen complete the scene. The great cultural diversity that exists in the USA also translates into an incredible variety of gastronomic delicacies this festive season.


10. Japan

Despite being a country with little Catholic tradition, the celebration of Christmas has become well known among children and the exchange of gifts, particularly electronic gadgets, is now entrenched. As far as gastronomy is concerned, the Japanese who celebrate Christmas have imported Western customs, including the turkey feast, for example, but they have also adopted sushi and sashimi on the Christmas table.


11. Australia

The possibility of it being 30 degrees at Christmas should be considered. In Australia, this season is related to high temperatures and families often celebrate the date with picnics and trips to the beach. In celebrations by the sea, it is normal to see Santa Claus appear on surfboards or even on boats. The exchange of gifts takes place on the 25th.


12. Mexico

In Mexico there are the usual "posadas", celebrations that take place from 16 to 24 December, and in which the story of Mary and Joseph, the guardians of the Child Jesus, is told in detail. In these celebrations, the Piñata is mandatory, a common game in which there is a suspended clay pot, full of goodies inside, which the young (and the not so young) try to break with a stick, while blindfolded. Whoever wins gets the candy.


13. Uruguay

Families meet at the home of grandparents or older relatives. They have the practice of "picadita", which consists of the preparation and tasting of cold canapés, cheeses, whiskey, wines, pieces of lamb or suckling pig to snack on before Supper and throughout the night of Christmas Eve.


14. Brazil

Brazil is another country where Christmas takes place in the summer. Secret Santa is often used to exchange gifts. Christmas carols are not part of the customs of Brazilians, but turkey is now a part of the Christmas table along with tropical fruits.


15. Africa

The Catholic minority on the continent celebrates this date by replacing the usual pine tree with cypress. On the table of Cape Verdeans, for example, there is usually cozido, while Mozambicans prefer roasted goat and Angolans enjoy vegetarian dishes with cassava. Countless families hold the Christmas celebration on the street, as the weather is quite conducive to it.

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