How do Christmas traditions vary around the world? See the photos

For many, Christmas is a time of gift exchanges, log cakes and turkey dinners.

But this is not the case everywhere.

In an annual series, CNBC Travel highlights various Christmas celebrations around the world.


Christmas comes with a spooky twist in Austria, Germany and other Alpine countries that celebrate St. Nicholas Day in the first week of December.

“Krumpslaf” Which translates to “Kramps Run” in German, is an annual parade usually held on December 5 or 6 where participants dress up as half-goat, half-devil Krampus to frighten onlookers.

According to Helen Batsano, a representative of Austria’s National Tourist Office, Krampus costumes often include a mask, horns, a coat made of sheep or goat wool, as well as chains, bells and a stick.

Javor Makovic | AFP | Getty Images

As the legend goes, Krampus accompanies St. Nick on his journey to give presents to well-behaved children, according to Helen Bittschnau, a representative of the Austrian National Tourist Office.

However, children who have been spoiled face the wrath of Krampus. “Krampus’ job is to punish everything bad with a stick or a horse’s tail,” Bitschnau said.

Bitschnau said a mixture of hope, excitement and some trepidation fills the air at Krampslaf.

“If you’ve been good all year – there’s really nothing to worry about,” he said.

Bitschnau added that she has “always been afraid of Krampus.”

“Now I want to go to the Krampuslauf in my hometown, because I know all the people behind the Krampus costumes. [which] It makes it a little less scary for me.”

Oaxaca, Mexico

Every year on December 23, participants gather in Oaxaca’s main square to add delicately carved radishes to the “Night of the Radishes” competition.

These aren’t bite-sized radishes – they can be as big as a baby’s leg.

“Artists spend all day carving radishes for the competition, constantly soaking them so they don’t dry out,” said Ileana Jimenez, who was born and raised in Oaxaca.

Resident Eliana Jimenez said winners of the radish carving contest are awarded small cash prizes.

Patricia Castellanos | AFP | Getty Images

“There are queues of people waiting patiently for their turn and appreciating this wonderful work [of] Oaxacan craftsman,” he said.

Jimenez said the atmosphere in the Zocalo, Oaxaca’s town square, is lively with live music, fireworks and crowds of locals and tourists.

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“It’s a party that keeps people’s spirits high.”

Gavel, Sweden

Standing 42 feet tall and weighing more than 7,000 pounds, the giant handmade straw goat is an annual Christmas spectacle in Gavle, Sweden.

This year’s goat took more than 1,000 hours to make, said Anna Karen Neiman, spokeswoman for the Special Committee to Protect the Goat.

According to Visit Gavel, the city’s visitor guide, Gavel Goat is moving to a new location this year for the first time in 56 years.

Matt Ostrand | AFP | Getty Images

Although it is a crime to burn or destroy it, the Gawle Goat has been the target of numerous arson attacks since it was first built in 1966.

The arsonist who broke the last goat’s four-year survival streak was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay 109,000 Swedish kroner ($10,450) in damages, according to a Swedish news outlet.

Niemann said Sweden’s treasured goat figure is made with straw, because it’s a tradition.

“He means a lot to us at Gavle, and he’s a big part of the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Mark Wolters, creator of the popular travel YouTube channel Wolter’s World, said miniature versions of the goats make fun souvenirs or Christmas ornaments for travelers.

Those interested in what this year’s goat looks like can watch it live via webcam.

Ukraine via Krakow, Poland

In a show of resilience among Christmas celebrators, 40 Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, Poland, sold handmade items such as candles, tree ornaments and gingerbread cookies at a Christmas craft fair organized in cooperation with the United Nations refugee agency. .

A stall at a Ukrainian Christmas market in Krakow, Poland.

Omar Marquez | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Sales from the Christmas market provided the refugees, most of whom were women, with income to cover their expenses, said Tariq Argus, a representative of the UN refugee agency.

He said that the market was attended by local people, tourists and the Ukrainian community.

It was an opportunity to “showcase the great talent within the refugee community,” Argus said, adding that the idea for the event came about when UN staff members met with residents at a community center. An “intricately painted” rock was given by one. which is an accommodation in which a large number of refugees live.

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The Philippines

During the festive season, homes in the Philippines are decorated with star-shaped lanterns called “parol”. said the travel blogger Catch Umandap, Who was born and raised in the Philippines.

Parole was originally used to light the way for the Sambang Gabi tradition, a nine-day period of pre-dawn gatherings from December 16 to 24 – as well as a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. , called Mesa de Gallo, Omandap said.

Teachers, students and parents hold Christmas lanterns made from recycled materials during a campaign for sustainable Christmas celebrations at an elementary school in Quezon City, Philippines.

Ted Aljeeb | AFP | Getty Images

“Now, the lanterns are used as decorations,” Umandap said. “Parole symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and hope.”

According to the Harvard Divinity School about 90% of people living in the Philippines identify as Christians – mostly Catholics. The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christianity is the national religion.

He said many Filipinos use materials such as shells, glass and LED lights to make the parole brighter and more colorful.

Umandap, who now lives in Europe, said the lanterns remind her of home.

“When I see them, they [give] I hope that whatever difficulties I face, they can be overcome.”

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Bruna Venturinelli, author of the Brazilian blog I Heart Brazil, said Brazilians love their parties. That’s why their Christmas parade is “contagiously fun” with “lots of laughter and joy”.

Chatting with children in the crowd, he said costumed characters danced with Santa and his elves.

Brazilian Christmas parades usually feature characters from Korvatntori, a mountain region in Lapland where Santa Claus is believed to live.

Chris Faga | norphoto Getty Images

“There are several Christmas parades across the districts, organized by the city council or a private organization to promote the start of their festive season, such as the shopping mall parade pictured,” he said.

“If I’m in Brazil during Christmas, I take my nephew and niece to the Christmas parade, and we have a blast! … They even take the opportunity to say that they wrote a letter to Santa. Wrote and behaved well throughout the year, although the last part is not 100% true.”

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He said that many people in Brazil will celebrate Christmas Eve by sharing Chester Chicken with their family.

On Christmas Day, people gather again to eat leftovers for lunch while listening to Brazilian music, he said.

‘North Pole’

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the modern tradition of writing letters to Santa may have been started by American Fanny Longfellow, wife of poet Henry Wadsworth.

But in the beginning, it was Santa who wrote to the children, rather than the other way around.

According to the magazine, Longfellow wrote letters to her three children about their behavior over the past year.

In a letter from Longfellow, dated 1853, “Santa” said:[Y]You have picked up some naughty words which I hope you throw away like you throw away sour or bitter fruit,” according to the article.

A child posts a letter to Santa Claus in Fort Worth, Texas.

Richard Rodriguez | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

It said that as the practice took off, parents began leaving Santa’s letters in the fireplace or storage, where their children would write the responses with a pen.

Today, the tradition of writing to Santa has spread beyond the home.

In the United States, the US Postal Service runs an annual program called Operation Santa where children and families in need can write an anonymous letter to Santa about what they would like for Christmas. According to the USPS, the letters have been “adopted” by people across the country, who buy the requested gifts and send them to the families.

The United Kingdom’s postal service, Royal Mail, provides personalized responses to children who write to “Father Christmas.”

But some parents are using other ways to contact Santa, including apps and balloons.

In 2021, a pair of four-year-old twins in Kansas, United States, released balloons with Santa’s name on them. A couple living in Louisiana found one, and with the help of donations, fulfilled the twins’ Christmas wish lists, which included getting them a puppy.


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