How December Holidays are Celebrated Around the World

Marta Burgues

December is much more than Christmas: from Russia to Colombia, each country has its very own holiday traditions, celebrations and festivals as they prepare to celebrate the new year. Learn more about these celebrations in this guide to the holidays.

December is a season of celebrations throughout the world. The year starts to come to an end and seasonal and spiritual celebrations such as Hanukkah, Christmas and other festive holidays take place. But, what about the rest of the world? Do other countries celebrate the month of December differently? Keep on reading below to find out!

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A Scottish Holiday Tradition: Breaking Cardboard Cylinders and Receiving Toys

A traditional Scottish Christmas dinner includes roast turkey with stuffing (pork, onions, sage and chestnuts) with roasted potatoes (coated with goose fat before roasting), roasted parsnips, brussels sprouts, carrots, cranberry sauce and bread sauce (made with bread, milk, black pepper and nutmeg). Fingal McLafferty, a private english tutor in Scotland said: “during dinner, guests break crackers. It is cardboard cylinders that two people break at the same time, making them explode (hence the name, thanks to a small mechanism of gunpowder). The person who stays with the longest part of the cylinder gets the little toy inside. ” He explains that in Scotland, they also put on a cardboard hat and throw confetti.

As for dessert, the Scots eat Christmas pudding: “covered in brandy, then lit with a candle or lighter, a small pyrotechnic show ensues and lights up a dark room.” After dinner, guests drink whiskey, of course, and sing Christmas carols and other songs. Fingal said the most famous Scottish Christmas song, which is typically sung during New Years, is Auld Lang Syne (so long ago). The song, written by Scottish national poet Robert Burns, is about remembering old times and celebrating friendship by holding hands and drinking together. “It has become very popular throughout the English-speaking world due to Scottish immigration to Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia,” McLafferty said.

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Holiday lights in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Hanukkah: A Celebration of Light, Tradition and History 

As Christians celebrate the birth of Christ during Christmas, Jews celebrate Hanukkah. The festive holiday takes place over eight days, and begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which, usually takes place at the end of November and the end of December. The triumph of the Maccabees over the Hellenes and the recovery of the Sacred Temple of Jerusalem is celebrated and the miracle of the candelabrum is also remembered during this time, which burned for eight days in a row with a minimum amount of oil.

Also taking place during this holiday, is children receiving gifts and families enjoying an array of traditional foods such as: latkes or potato rolls fried in oil. The holiday is also said to be a festival of lights because during the eight days of Hanukkah candles on the menorah are lit for each day. As each candle is being lit families gather around the menorah, exchange gifts and recite blessings in Hebrew.

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Russia: Celebrate Christmas in January

Christmas in Russia is a religious celebration, as in other Western Orthodox countries. However, because of the 13 day difference between the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. A traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of 12 dishes, each dedicated to one of the twelve apostles and includes an Olivier salad, caviar and tangerines, among other dishes. Elena Logvina a Russia native said, “in my country, the New Year, is a very important party.” The holiday usually lasts up to 10 days.


Take a Walk Around the Block With Your luggage in South America

Despite South America being made up of different countries, the overall way the holidays are celebrated are pretty much the same, such as religious celebrations, highlighting the birth of Jesus. In Colombia, for example, it is baby Jesus who brings gifts to the children: “it’s basically two weeks of vacation with family and friends. At the end of the year we eat twelve grapes for good luck and some families will walk around the block with their suitcases to bring fortune and travel into next year, ” Juan Valdés, a master’s student in Colombia said.

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On December 25, in Argentina, the family gathers around the table and shares food with loved ones. “Many family reunions are held. Some companies close that week between Christmas and New Year and will allow employees to work from home,” student, Ximena Dilan said. Bearing in mind that it is summer during the month of December, individuals usually eat fruit salads and a typical vitel toné dish (beef, accompanied by sauce whose main ingredients are egg yolks, tuna steaks, vegetable oil and cream).

Children sing Christmas carols in Romania

Many Christmas traditions are linked to music and in Romania, thats no different, children sing Christmas carols in the streets and at peoples houses as they celebrate holiday cheer. As for food a pork takes center stage as on the 24th the meals such as cakes, pies and sarmale (meat rolls wrapped in cabbage leaves) are made. Businesswoman, Andreea Roja said that Christmas is centered on enjoying the snow and the meals, “we all also wear red and buy new clothes.”

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Hot wine in Germany

The combination of typical dishes for Christmas in Germany are quite rich, with food ranging from duck, lamb or fish. As in may other countries, a family dinner is usually held on December 24, in which each guest receives a plate with various fruits and sweets. In addition to Champagne, hot wine is served during dinner which is made of: red wine, lemon, cinnamon, cloves and or other spices and sugar.

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Zagreb, Christmas Market

The capital of Croatia, Zagreb, has been voted the best Christmas market in Europe, according to an online survey focused on finding the best European destinations. In Croatia, the holidays start on Saint Lucia, (December 13) which is when families plant wheat seeds in a bowl of water and let them grow several inches until Christmas, when the herbs are cut and tied with a red, white and blue ribbon called trobojnica. Also taking place in Croatia over a period of 40 days, is a citywide celebration filled with music and outdoor concerts at Ban Josip Jelačić Square.

During Christmas day, families go to church and eat delicious delicacies like fish and meat, and open gifts at home. Another celebration held throughout the country occurs on December 6, as they celebrate San Nicolás by opening gifts.

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Family dinners and gifts on the 25th, in the USA

The festive season in this country begins at the end of November, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, says Porter Kriney, financial advisor, who adds that on December 24th families celebrate the holiday with a great turkey dinner surrounded by family and friends. The following morning, children drink hot chocolate and open gifts under the Christmas tree.

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Many celebrations in Spain and the 12 grapes of luck

In Spain, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a big dinner on December 24, and Christmas lunch. Whereas In Catalonia, the 26th is a celebration of the holy saint, San Esteban. During the end of the year, Spaniards eat 12 grapes for good luck, each coinciding with each bell that tolls at midnight to start off the new year well. The origin of this practice dates back to the year 1909 when the harvest of grapes was higher than expected. Later, on January 6, the Magi of the Orient arrives, as children receive gifts.

Three Wise Men


Christmas in Japan, even if it is not festive

Although one of the main religions in Japan is Buddhism, Christmas is also celebrated with gifts and special decorations, although it is not an official holiday. Thanks to an advertising campaign by Kentucky Fried Chicken, Japanese people usually eat fried chicken on December 23 with family and friends, making it a unique and different way to celebrate the holidays. ■

Christmas KFC Meal in Japan

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