Christmas traditions around the world

Dec 9, 2009 at 2:30 a.m. ET

In simpler times, families came together at Christmas out of tradition and practiced meaningful, faith-based customs past down from generation to generation. Although gifts were exchanged, it was not the focus of celebration; it was the coming together of families that was important and it was the family's traditions that enriched the holiday experience for everyone.

Christmas Nativity Scene

Today, tradition for many families is simply a collection of routines, accepted, not because of significant beliefs, but merely because things have always been "done that way". The commercialism of today's gift-giving Christmas has many families celebrating a hurried and stressful holiday without the benefit of tradition giving it any meaning.

With the economy the way it is right now, the emphasis on gift-giving needs to be challenged. It's time for us to put meaningful traditions back into Christmas and enjoy the holidays the way our ancestors use to. Tradition enhances the memory, and memories last a lifetime.

Here are some time-honored traditions from around the world to help inspire you to create some new Christmas customs for your family this year.


Mummering is a tradition which takes place in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. People dress up in costumes and knock on someone's door and say in a disguised voice, "Are there any Mummers in the night?" or "Any mummers 'loud in? Once invited in they sing and dance and have Christmas cake and a cup of something nice before moving on to the next house.

Costa Rica

During Christmas in Costa Rica, people like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers and sometimes fruit. The whole family gets involved in hand making a large nativity scene that is placed in the centre of the house.

Czech Republic

At Christmas in the Czech Republic, a place is left empty at the Christmas Day meal in case the Christ Child should come to eat.


In France, Yule Logs made out of cherry wood are often burned in French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and red wine is poured over it that gives off a nice aroma when it is burning.


In Spain, after the midnight church service, people walk through the streets carrying torches, playing guitars and beating on tambourines and drums. One Spanish saying is 'Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no Es noche de dormir' which means 'Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping!'


In Germany, they make white dough called Christbaumgeback. They use this dough to make different shapes and bake them for tree decorations.


In Greece on Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the equivalent of carols. The children are frequently rewarded with sweets and dried fruits.

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