happy people on Christmas

How is Christmas Celebrated in other Countries?

Here is a lesson in contrasts.  Our famous museum piece seeker Banana Jones never gets tired of searching for the elusive Crystal Banana in order to take it to its proper resting place in a museum!  Many of our gamers never get tired of seeking the elusive strategy for how to win on slot machines.  The big difference is that Banana Jones succeeds from time to time but the gamers who seek a sure-fire way to win at slots don’t find it.

The key element in both of these quests is luck.  The only way you can help Banana Jones find the Crystal Banana is with luck and the only sure-fire way to win at slots is to get lucky.

So, this Christmastime, let’s look at the tried and true: Christmas and New Year’s customs from around the world!


Many ancient tribes thought that mistletoe was a holy plant since it didn’t die out in the cold, northern winter and, in fact, continued to bear fruit well into winter.  Because mistletoe is so hardy, many cultures associated it with fertility and virility.  Even before Christians began to recognize December 25 as the birthdate of Jesus, many societies used mistletoe in their winter festivals.

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe probably began in ancient Greece as they felt that mistletoe represented strong unions between men and women, strong families, and healthy and plentiful reproduction.  Later, some societies signed peace treaties under mistletoe.

Christmas Tree

The tree is supposed to be an evergreen.  The hardiness of the evergreen is a powerful symbol for the belief among Christians that Jesus was born on Christmas and brings everlasting life to believers.

The first decorated Christmas tree was shown in the 16th century in the Latvian capitol city of Riga.

300 Years without Christmas Celebrations

In the 16th century, a pastor named John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.  He felt that only Biblical holidays should be celebrated so he began strongly denouncing all celebrations of Christmas.

Christmas celebrations were banned by law in Scotland from the middle of the 17th century until the law was rescinded in 1958!


Fried pickles might be a delicacy in parts of Virginia but a Christmas pickle custom is more widespread especially in the United States.  An ornament shaped like a pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree and the lucky person who finds it gets an extra gift from Santa.

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There are even myths surrounding the origin of this odd custom.  The most common myth is that the custom originated in Germany which has been disproven but nevertheless lives on.

A town in the state of Michigan, Berrien Springs, holds a pickle-themed festival every year in December.

Christmas in Hawaii

The palm tree serves Hawaiians as their Christmas tree.  There is a custom to add Hawaiian symbols to the decorations and, while people on the mainland of the United States eat holiday fruit cake laced with that native American whisky, bourbon, and mainland Americans relish their chestnuts roasting on an open fire, pineapple and macadamia nuts play a role in celebrating the holiday in Hawaii.

Where is the Snow in Argentina?

In Argentina, Christmas takes place in the summer.  There is little if any snow in Argentina so people put small balls of cotton on their trees to symbolize snow.  Ironically, even in the United States most places do not have snow on the ground for Christmas, yet no one puts cotton balls on their trees to symbolize snow!

Also in Argentina, families get together on Christmas Eve and the kids get their gifts at midnight instead of in the morning.

Christmas in Ethiopia

Christmas is not a strongly-felt holiday in this country.  Ethiopians have a game they call genna which is similar to hockey but without ice in tropical Ethiopia.  The national tradition in Ethiopia is to play genna only on Christmas day.

Santa through History

Early depictions of Santa had him as a very stern old man taking the idea of naughty or nice very seriously.  The modern depiction of Santa as a ho-ho-ho type of guy started very recently when an artist depicted him as a jolly fellow for a soft drink advert.

Christmas in the Middle East

In Lebanon, children can veritably demand a gift from any adult.  As a result, many adults hold small coins or candies in their pockets so they can give something to any kid who demands a gift.

In Syria, the tradition is that all of the gifts come from a camel!  By tradition, this camel belongs to the wisest man in the village.

In Egypt, despite the fact that the country is overwhelmingly Muslim, Christmas decorations are allowed in the vast capitol city of Cairo.

The United Arab Emirates are several small united countries that don’t have enough local people to do all the work that needs to be done so they bring in foreign workers.  Many of these foreign workers come from Europe with Christmas traditions of their own.  As a gesture of good will, the Muslim government of the UAE encourages Christmas celebrations throughout the country.


You might expect that a small country that lives in the shadow of a massive icecap would have an unusual Christmas tradition and Greenland certainly does.  Fully seven months before Christmas, people disembowel a seal and stuff the massive cavity with as many small birds as fit in it. 

By tradition, the Greenlanders use the auk as the bird they stuff the seal with.  They put the entire bird in and close the sealskin and wait seven months for the birds to slowly ferment within the seal.  Most people outside of Greenland have never tasted this “delicacy” but Greenlanders swear by it!

Another odd food associated with Christmas are the deep-fried moths eaten probably only in South Africa.

In Japan, the home of sushi and many fancy seafood dishes, many families go to a fast food restaurant for their big Christmas feast!

Kenya and Uganda

Christmas is a much more serious religious holiday in these two east African countries.  People buy gifts of fine clothes, good enough to wear to church.

Christmas Cheer

As you can see, there are many Christmas traditions around the world.  We have mentioned just a small fraction of the many different ways people celebrate Christmas.

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and great health, happiness, and prosperity in the year to come.

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