Transparent Language Blog

Christmas Traditions Around the World Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Archived Posts

‘Tis the season… but not just in America! People around the world are in the holiday spirit, so let’s take a look at how they celebrate Christmas.

You might not think to associate Christmas with the Arab world, but the holiday is widely accepted by many Arabs, and rightfully so considering that the birthplace of Christianity took place in what is now known as the Arab world. Though Arab Christians are in the minority, the Christmas holiday is increasingly popular among non-Christian and non-religious groups. Arabic Christmas music has emerged, and it is not uncommon for both Christian and Muslim families set up a Christmas tree in their home.

And what would a Christmas tree be without Santa to put presents underneath it? Well, in Japan, they have someone even more magical (and potentially creepy) carrying the sack of toys. Hoteiosho, a chubby Buddhist monk determines whether or not children have behaved badly using the eyes in the back of his head… a little creepy right? That’s not the only unique part of a Japanese Christmas though. Instead of a fancy turkey or ham dinner, the Japanese like to chow down on some KFC for their holiday meal. Because nothing brings the Christmas spirit like the Colonel, right?

The Christmas spirit is also alive and well in China. “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” greet you in subway stations and shopping centers around Beijing. Santa Con is in its sixth year in China, attracting huge groups of Santas who parade around the city. Many Chinese people do not know or understand the history or traditions surrounding the holiday (who is Santa anyway?), but they sure love the shopping that accompanies it. Malls deck their halls and mark down their prices, drawing in throngs of shoppers.

If you’re looking for a place to shop, check out les marchés de Noël in France, or the Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany. Where else could you wander the beautifully decorated streets, browse for festive gifts, and drink le vin chaud (warmed wine) or Eierpunsch (a warm, egg-based alcoholic beverage)?

The Danes are so excited for Christmas that they burn kalenderlys, or calendar candles with the numbers 1-24 printed on the side. Every day in December, they burn the candle and watch one more day melt before Christmas finally arrives. When the big day does arrive, the Greeks will be out caroling, a tradition that dates back to Ancient Greece.

But nobody does Christmas better than the Dutch, who have designated Eerste Kerstdag (First Christmas Day) and Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas Day). That’s right—two days. It’s common for Dutch families to celebrate one day with one side of the family, and the second day with the other side.

Meanwhile the Poles, who don’t actually start celebrating the holiday until Christmas Eve, will continue celebrating until Candlemas on February 2nd, which is just enough Christmas for us. It gets a little confusing though, since gifts are often given by St. Nick on his nameday, December 6th. So who gives presents on Christmas itself? It depends on what region of Poland you live in, but ranges from the baby Jesus to the Starman.

So to those of you who celebrate, we wish you a Merry Christmas, عيد ميلاد مجيد, Prettig Kerstmis, Fröhliche Weihnachten, 圣诞快乐, Wesołych Świąt, Joyeux Noël, and so forth! To those of you who do not celebrate, we wish you a joyous season regardless!

Happy holidays & happy language learning! Consider giving the gift of language this season with a subscription to Transparent Language Online, available in 80+ languages.

Keep learning a language with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!


  1. Sheena:

    Why wouldn’t we associate Christmas with the Arab world considering the birthplace of Christianity is in what is now considered the Arab world and that those who are of the oldest Christian traditions are Arab? Us Westerners owe our Christian heritage to Semitic peoples… And Arabic Christmas music? Try Byzantine chant. Eastern and Oriental Christians (yes, there is a difference), while not the majority, still exist in the Arab world and have been there prior to Islam took root. Perhaps the article should be rephrased/clarified. I understand it’s speaking for mainstream America, but I found it misleading. Maybe add the fact that Christians, while ever present, are in the minority and that how Christmas has become more widespread, not just among Christians, but among other faiths and those who are non-religious. Now, I may be the only one to interpret it this way, so forgive me. Maybe if you give more specific examples. Given the sheer size of the Arab world, it could be that some regions/areas celebrated Christmas, while others did not, and now there’s a shift. A Lebanese Shiite friend of mine once told me (a decade ago) that even Muslims put up Christmas trees. You linked to an article that gives a sample of the Lebanese singer Fayrouz who was in her prime, probably before many of your readers were born! So, clearly, Christmas in the Arab world is not new, hence the call for elucidation. Just my two cents. Thank you for the article!

    • Tarek:

      @Sheena I, as an Arab Christian, thank you from the deepest bottoms of my heart. Most western Christiams have forgotten that they have taken everything related to Christianity from us, Eastern Christians. Christmas has been always here in the Arab world. About a decade ago, a Christmas tree would be brought from Jerusalem to Gaza -my hometown- and would be put in the center of the city with everyone enjoying the season, being Muslim, Christian or non-religious. The stereotype about the Arab world nowadays is so orientalist in a sickening way. I was really happy to read your reply. You just said everything I always wanted to say but never found the right words. Thank you again.

    • Transparent Language:

      @Sheena Hi Sheena! Thank you for the insightful reply. Indeed we were speaking from the mainstream mindset that Christmas is typically thought of as a Western holiday, but you’re 100% correct that we should be educating people to the contrary. We have updated the article to reflect your comment! Thank you again, your two cents are always appreciated! 🙂

Leave a comment: