How Different Cultures Celebrate Christmas

December & January are a festive holiday time of year all across the world, but how will we all be celebrating this year? Globetrotting families who usually come together at Christmas for their once a year gathering might have to be more creative and have Zoom calls or send recorded messages to each other if there are time differences.

Same, same, but different

Depending where you are in the world might determine how and where you celebrate. Varying seasons, religions, culture and national holidays will all play a factor. While we know Christmas as 25th December in the UK and as a time for family, eating turkey and opening presents delivered by Santa Claus, many countries have similarities, but also differences. We look at some different cultures from around the world to see how they might traditionally be celebrating.

Christmas Gift - Made in Santa's Workshop

Japanese Christmas -  A time to spread happiness

Japan isn’t a Christian country, so the focus is instead on a Buddhist figure and gift giver called Hoteiosho, a god or priest who closely resembles Santa Claus, a kind old man carrying a huge sack and with eyes in the back of his head, and knows when children are behaving.

Japanese culture sees Christmas as a time for spreading happiness and Christmas Eve as a romantic day for young couples to exchange gifts, have a meal and enjoy the Christmas lights. Christmas dinner in Japan is traditionally fried chicken!

Australian Christmas - Sun, surf and sandmen

Australia shares some of the common Christian traditions such as decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols and exchanging gifts on 25th December, but Christmas ‘Downunder’ means that it’s the summer season and some of the cultural customs have been adapted to suit the warmer, sunnier climate.

Australians typically have a feast al fresco, in their back garden, with prawns cooked on the barbeque or cold ham or turkey, cooked in advance. Beach culture sees many Australians taking a trip to the ocean to surf and cool down, pictures of people in swimwear or even ‘sandmen’ wearing a Santa hat on the beach make for a contrasting, but fun, scene to snowy winter wonderlands in the Northern hemisphere.

Gone to the beach sign on a Christmas tree

Greek Christmas - Saint Basil, boats and blessings

A typical Greek Christmas is celebrated between 25th December and 6th January. As a maritime country, boats feature heavily and the main symbol of Christmas, in many of the islands and seaside areas, decorating boat is still common. Everywhere else, much like the rest of Europe, families decorate a Christmas tree.

Greeks have their own version of Santa Claus, known as Saint Basil, he is an old man with a white beard and red cape and he is celebrated on Saint Basil’s feast day 1st January, the day gifts are exchanged in Greece.

The last day of the Christmas seasonal celebrations in Greece is Epiphany, celebrated on 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus’s baptism when he was a man. It is also known as ‘Blessing of the Waters’ where a cross, blessed by a priest is thrown into open water and people dive into to retrieve it. The first one to find it, is blessed with good luck for the year ahead.

A group of people swimming in open water

UK advice for Christmas gatherings this year

In the UK the Government advice is between 23-27th December a Christmas bubble can be formed of no more than 3 households and travel between tiers and UK nations is allowed. Advice for ‘bubbles’ gathering indoors is to ensure as much fresh air is circulated inside as possible and washing hands regularly. Take care and have a safe and happy festive period!

A bubble with snowflake print on the inside

Let us know how you will be celebrating this year and by dropping us a message in the comments below, or send us a DM via @wearewo_uk

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