Many United States customs have been
adopted from Great Britain. Roast
turkey, beef, ham or pork are the meats usually
included in the meal. The side dishes include
stuffing, or dressing, squash, roasted root
vegetables and mashed potatoes are also
included. Some common desserts include
pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, carrot
cake, coconut cake, pecan pie and sweet
potato pie. Many of the recipes have been
handed down from generation to
generation, maybe even from the early
American settlers on their first Christmases in the
In Australia, December 25 falls during
summer vacation, so many of the
country's Christmas festivities take place
outdoors. The most popular event of the
Christmas season is called Carols by
Candlelight. People come together at
night to light candles and sing Christmas
carols outside. The stars shining above
add to the sights and sounds of this
wonderful outdoor concert.
Australian children believe in Santa, but
there's a twist. Since temperatures can
reach nearly 100 degrees in some parts
of Australia, and the eight reindeer
pulling Santa's sleigh are used to the
cold, Nordic winds, they need a rest. The
belief is that six boomers, also known as
male kangaroos, take over.
" 'Ave a good one, mate."
Merry Christmas, mate! NEVER forget the
Christmas dinner in Australia falls during the
heat of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.
So they usually eat their meats such as
ham, turkey, and chicken cold with some
cranberry sauce. They will include side
salads and roasted vegetables as well.
Barbecues are also popular because of the
heat. They will also serve various seafood
items like prawns, lobster and crayfish.
Some of the fruits of the season include
cherries and mangoes.
Devout Catholics often attend Midnight
Mass or Missa do Galo. (A galo is a rooster.)
The mass has this name because the rooster
announces the coming day. The Missa do
Galo finishes at 1 AM on Christmas morning!
On December 25th, Catholics go to church,
but the masses are mostly late afternoon,
because people enjoy sleeping late after
the dinner or going to the beach.
Decorations include fresh flowers picked
from the garden. Fireworks go off in the
skies over the cites and huge Christmas
"trees" of electric lights can be seen
against the night skies in major cities such
as Brasilia, San Paolo, and Rio de
In Brazil, the Christmas meal is quite a
feast, (served in the evening on 24
December) offering large quantities of
food, such as a wide variety of dishes which
include fresh vegetables, luscious
fruits and Brazil Nuts. There are bowls of
colorful rice and platters filled with ham and
fresh salad (sometimes cold potato salad
too) served with roast turkey. Also some
parts of Brazil feature roast pork, roast
Chicken and fish. Other Christmas items
include a variety of desserts such as lemon
tart, nuts pie, chocolate cake and
In some provinces, a big winter
festival, called Sinck tuck, is celebrated by
the Eskimos, with dancing and a presentgiving party.
In Labrador, turnips are saved from the
summer harvest and are given to
children, with a lighted candle pushed into
a hollowed out hole.
In Nova Scotia, a country settled by Scottish
highlanders, songs and carols brought from
Britain two centuries ago are sung each
In English Canada, Christmas dinner is similar to
that of England. Traditional Christmas dinner
features turkey with stuffing, mashed
potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables
and raisin pudding for dessert. Eggnog, a milkbased punch is also very popular around the
holiday season. Other Christmas items
include butter tarts and shortbread, which are
traditionally baked before the holidays and
served to visiting friends, at various Christmas
and New Year parties, as well as on Christmas
It is cold, wet, and foggy in England at
Christmastime. The day before Christmas is
very busy for families in England. They wrap
presents, bake cookies, and hang stockings
over the fireplace. Then everyone gathers
around the tree as someone tells a classic
holiday story, "A Christmas Carol." Children
write a letter to Father Christmas with their
wishes and toss their letter into the fire so
their wishes can go up the chimney. After
the children fall asleep on Christmas
Eve, Father Christmas comes to visit.
One of England's customs is mummering. In the
Middle Ages, people called mummers put on
masks and acted out Christmas plays. These
plays are still performed in towns and villages.
Christmas Crackers, invented in 1847 by Tom
Smith, are a small cardboard tube covered
with a brightly colored twist of paper. The
cracker is pulled by two people, each holding
one end of the twisted paper. When the tube is
pulled apart, friction causes a narrow strip of
chemically treated paper to create a small
explosive POP revealing a small gift inside.
Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom is
usually eaten on the afternoon of
December 25. It consists of roast turkey or
maybe goose, chicken, duck, capons or
pheasant. Roast beef or ham with stuffing
and gravy might also be served. They have
cranberry sauce breads and vegetables
like potatoes (roasted, boiled or mashed)
brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots.
Dessert is Christmas pudding (plum
pudding), mince pies or trifle with butter
Christmas celebrations begin on December
5, which is St. Nicholas Eve. Christmas Eve is
the most special time in the French
celebration of Christmas. Church bells ring
and voices sing French carols, called noels.
On Christmas Day, families go to church
and then enjoy an abundant feast of
wonderful dishes, ending with the traditional
buche de Noel, a rich buttercream-filled
cake shaped and frosted to look like a Yule
On Christmas Eve, children leave their
shoes by the fireplace to be filled with
gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they
also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small
toys have been hung on the tree.
Nearly every French home at
Christmastime displays a Nativity scene
or crèche, which serves as the focus for
the Christmas celebration.
In France and some other Frenchspeaking countries, a réveillon is a long
dinner, and possibly party, held on the
evenings preceding Christmas Day and
New Year's Day. The name of this dinner
is based on the word réveil (meaning
"waking"), because participation involves
staying awake until midnight.
Families prepare for Christmas throughout
cold December. Four Sundays before
Christmas, they make an Advent wreath of
fir or pine branches that has four colored
candles. They light a candle on the wreath
each Sunday, sing Christmas songs, and eat
Christmas cookies. In the weeks leading up
to Christmas, homes are filled with the
delightful smells of baking loaves of sweet
bread, cakes filled with candied fruits, and
spicy cookies called lebkuchen.
The Christmas tree began in Germany and is
presented prior to the evening feast on
Christmas Eve. Children are not allowed to see
it until Christmas Eve. While the children are in
another room with their father, the mother
brings out the Christmas tree and decorates it
apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angel
s, tinsel, family treasures and candles or lights.
The presents are under the tree. Their
personally decorated plates are loaded with
fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and biscuits. A
bell is the signal to enter this Christmas fantasy
room. Carols are sung, sparklers are lit, the
Christmas story is read and gifts are opened.
In Germany, the primary Christmas dishes
are roast goose and roast carp, although
pig or duck may also be served. Typical
side dishes include roast potatoes and
various forms of cabbage, brussel sprouts
and red cabbage. In some regions the
Christmas dinner is traditionally served on
Christmas Day rather than Christmas Eve. In
this case, dinner on Christmas Eve is a
simpler affair, consisting of sausages
or macaroni salad.
Dutch children in Holland, or the
Netherlands, eagerly await the arrival of
Sinterklaas on St. Nicholas Day on December 6.
Sinterklaas is a kindly bishop. He wears red
robes and a tall, pointed mitre on his head.
Sinterklaas travels by ship from Spain to
Amsterdam's harbor every winter. He brings his
white horse and a huge sack full of gifts for the
children. Families celebrate St. Nicholas Eve at
home with lots of good food, hot
chocolate, and a letterbanket, a "letter cake"
made in the shape of the first letter of the
family's last name.
A popular decoration in the Netherlands is
the so-called “advent star”, a starshaped
light, to be hung in the window.
On December 5th, the children put out their
wooden shoes and fill them with carrots
and hay. They do this to feed Sinter Klaas's
horse. Sinter Klaas and Black Pete take the
carrots and hay for the horse, and then fill
the shoes with presents. On the morning of
December 6th, the children find the
presents in their shoes.
One typical Dutch tradition is that of 'gourmet,' an
evening long event where small groups of people sit
together around a gourmet-set and use their own little
frying pan to cook and season their own food in very small
portions. The host has prepared finely chopped
vegetables and different types of meats, fish, and
prawns/shrimps. Everything is accompanied by different
salads, fruits and sauces.
The Dutch also enjoy more traditional Christmasdinners, especially meats and game like roast
beef, duck, rabbit, and pheasant. This generally served
with different types of vegetables, potatoes and salads.
A popular dish to serve at christmas is called Oliebollen.
Midnight mass is a very important service
for Christians in India, especially
Catholics. The whole family will walk to
the mass and this will be followed by a
massive feast of different delicaciea,
mostly curries, and the giving and
receiving of presents.
Instead of having a traditional Christmas
tree, a banana or mango tree is
decorated. Sometimes people use
mango leaves to decorate their homes
Families also hang giant star paper
lanterns between the houses and small
clay lamps on the roofs to illuminate
In India people cook a variety of
foods, including Biryani with chicken or
lamb/mutton, chicken and mutton
curry, followed by cake
or sweets like Kheer. Some cook turkey
biryani as well, but it is less common in
The Christmas season in Italy begins on the
first Sunday of Advent, which is four Sundays
before Christmas. Christmas fairs feature
fireworks and bonfires along with holiday
music. Families go to the Christmas markets
to shop for gifts and new figures for the
manger scene. Some families set up a
Christmas tree and decorate it. Families set
up their presepio, or manger scene, on the
first day of the novena. They gather before
the presepio each morning or evening of
novena to light candles and pray.
Usually, the Christmas Eve supper is more important
than Christmas Dinner, because the Holy Mass is
celebrated at midnight.
The primo is a kind of soup made with filled pasta.
The secondo might eat poultry, often filled, or roasted
and seasoned with sauces, like mostarda. Others
might eat the fried capitone eel, which is typical of
Christmas Eve, because this is a fasting day. On
Christmas Day they could eat roasted lamb or fish.
Christmas sweets might include a cake enriched with
candy fruits, raisins, pine nuts, the most famous type
is panettone. Instead of cake they might serve
marzipan, biscuits, zeppole, cannoli, candy fruits, or
New Year's Day is the most important day of
the whole calendar in Japan. On New
Year's Eve the houses are cleaned
thoroughly from top to bottom, and are
decorated for the New Year. When
everything has been made clean and neat
the people of the house dress themselves in
their finest clothes. Then the father of the
household marches through the
house, followed by all the family, and drives
the evil spirits out. He throws dried beans
into every corner bidding the evil spirits
withdraw and good luck to enter.
In Japan there is a god or priest known
as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles our
Santa Claus. He is always pictured as a
kind old man carrying a huge pack. He is
thought to have eyes in the back of his
head. It is well for the children to be
good when this all-seeing gentleman is
Many western customs that observe
Christmas have been adopted by the
Japanese. Besides exchanging gifts they
eat turkey on Christmas Day, and in
some places there are even community
Christmas trees. They decorate their
houses with evergreens and
mistletoe, and in some homes Christmas
carols are sung gaily.
Families shop in market stalls called puestos.
They decorate with lilies and evergreens.
Families cut designs in brown paper bags and
add candles making lanterns, or farolitos. These
are set outside to illuminate the community
with the spirit of Christmas. Las Posadas
(Spanish for "the inn") is a traditional Mexican
festival which re-enacts Joseph's search for
room at the inn. They carry a doll, representing
the Christ Child, along with images of Joseph
and Mary riding a burro through the
community streets. They stop at a selected
home and ask for lodging. All are invited in to
read scriptures and sing Christmas carols.
The poinsettia is native to Mexico. and is
believed to have first been used in
connection with Christmas in the 17th
century. There is a legend connected with
the flower. A little boy named Pablo was
walking to the church in his village to visit
the Nativity scene, when he realized he
had nothing to offer the Christ Child. He
saw some green branches growing along
the roadside and gathered them up. Other
children scoffed, but when he laid them by
the manger, a brilliant red star-shaped
flower appeared on each branch.
Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve
evening. Common dishes are fruits
(oranges, lime, tropical fruits) and salad
(composed of several ingredients
including jicama, beets, bananas, and
peanuts). Stews , stuffed turkey, tamales, and
bacalao, or codfish, are some of the main
dishes served at Christmas. For dessert, atole (a
thinned hot pudding) with buñuelos (fried flour
tortillas sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon), or
buñuelos soaked in sugar (piloncillo) and
cinnamon water, are served. There are also
sweet tamales: corn with raisins or sweet
beans, or strawberry flavored. Stuffed turkey or
ham is also common.
In Sweden, the Christmas festivities begin on
December 13 with St. Lucia's Day, which
celebrates the patron saint of light. The
eldest daughter gets up before dawn and
dresses as the "Queen of Light" in a long
white dress. She wears a crown of leaves.
Singing "Santa Lucia," the Lucia Queen
goes to every bedroom to serve coffee and
treats to each member of the family. The
younger children in the family help, too. The
whole family helps to select the Christmas
tree just a day or two before Christmas.
After the meal, the "Tomte" comes. He is
the Christmas elf who lives under
floorboards of the house or barn and
looks after the family and livestock
throughout the year. "Tomte" often brings
presents and children graciously leave a
dish of porridge for him during the night.
The Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord consists of
three courses. The first is fish like pickled
herring and salmon eaten with boiled potatoes
or on crisp bread.
The second is cold cuts of meat, with
the Christmas ham being the most important.
Sausages and cheeses are also common and
eaten with boiled potatoes or on crisp bread.
The third course has warm dishes
like meatballs, small fried sausages
and Janssons frestelse.
Lutfisk is sometimes served with the third course
or as a fourth course.