Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas is one of the world’s most widespread festivals, known by many for its twinkling lights, snowy scenes, and big-man-in-red-suit-with-flying-reindeer, and to others as an important day in the Christian calendar. Where Christmas is celebrated, as a religious festival or simply as an excuse for a party, lots of unique traditions have sprung up with fascinating stories behind them. On a Christmas Holiday you’ll get to experience those customs, while also exploring a wonderful new place; it is the perfect way to have a Christmas with a difference and find a new way to experience this most wonderful time of the year.

KFC is Christmas

While not a national holiday in this majority Buddhist country, it’s still probably a big surprise to hear that, in Japan, KFC is a big part of Christmas! When the chicken restaurants first arrived in Japan in the 1970s, they hit on the slogan ‘Kentucky is Christmas’, and the rest is history. Today, families can place their order for the annual party bucket (fried chicken, prawn gratin and a cake, in wonderfully festive packaging) in early November then gather around the 25 December to eat it together. Well, chicken’s not that far away from turkey, right?

Where there’s fire, there’s braai

The braai is a central and transcendent element of South Africa‘s culture; much more than just a barbeque, braaiing it is a serious business. Many South Africans have a braai on a weekly basis and for bigger, more special occasions they’ll have a bigger, more special braai – Christmas is no exception, especially as it falls in the middle of the summer! The fire is the social centrepiece, so friends and family gather around it as the ‘braaimaster’ cooks up the meats. These meats are served up alongside salads, sides, and desserts, given a festive twist, and must be eaten while wearing the paper hat from Christmas crackers! For those close to the coast, a trip to the beach is also a regular Christmas activity, as is getting out into South Africa’s great outdoors because, why wouldn’t you?

Midnight Mass

Only 2% of India’s population is Christian, but millions of people on the sub-continent still celebrate it with the same gusto as huge festivals like Diwali and Eid. An unexpected tradition across the country is Midnight Mass, particularly in areas where there are larger Christian populations, particularly spectacular in charming old colonial churches. Festooned with twinkling lights with full sized nativity scenes set up outside, inside the churches are adorned with candles and poinsettia and filled with the sounds of traditional carols and music, the atmosphere is fully festive and joyful.

Peace fruit

Over the past 10 years, the humble apple has become the icon of Christmases in China. As the season approaches, they are everywhere, from street markets to high-end shopping malls, fancily wrapped in red cellophane, or stencilled with the words ‘Merry Christmas’ or an image of Santa. But why are apples the perfect gift and where has this new tradition, particularly embraced by the younger generations? It’s auspicious sounding, of course! Christmas Eve in Mandarin is ‘ping an ye’ – peaceful night – derived from the carol ‘Silent Night’. The Mandarin word for apple is ‘ping guo’ or ‘ping an guo’ which is ‘peace fruit’. Naturally red is the colour of choice, symbolising prosperity, and good luck.  

Lanterns for luck

Thailand may be a predominantly Buddhist country, but when December already sees the streets decorated for a royal birthday, it makes sense to just roll Christmas into the frivolities too! Christmas markets spring up in the cities, full of delicious things to eat, live music and places to buy gifts and locals turn their minds to what foods to feature in their Christmas feasts. Thailand even has its own Christmas songs and carols, in both English and Thai, which help to spread the festive cheer. The interesting tradition takes place on Christmas Eve when people gather and release paper lanterns into the sky – a fairly common occurrence here – to bring good luck.

Here at Wendy Wu Tours, our new Christmas Collection is designed to bring all the Christmas cheer, but in some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. So, if you fancy a Christmas with a difference this year, or next, you’ve come to the right place!

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