Christmas Celebrations Around the World

By: Bambi Turner
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

While Americans may find it hard to imagine a Christmas without Santa Claus, sugar cookies and plenty of pretty packages, the traditions of the holiday can vary dramatically depending on where you are in the world. Across the globe, people have their own special meals, celebrations and gift-giving legends that help to define the holiday for different cultures. Take our quiz to see how much you know about Christmas celebrations around the world!

What country is plagued by mischievous goblins in the days leading up to Christmas?

In Greece, kallikantzaroi -- tiny goblins who are generally up to no good -- spring loose in the 12 days leading up to Christmas to wreak havoc on holiday festivities.

What date are holiday gifts exchanged in Greece?

In traditional Greek celebrations, the exchange of gifts doesn't take place on Christmas Day. Instead, Greeks wait until St. Basil's Day on January 1 to pass the presents. They also sing carols, known as kalanda in Greek.

What country refers to Christmas as Il Natale?

Italians celebrate Il Natale, or "the birthday" instead of Christmas. They also rely on Babbo Natale, rather than Father Christmas, to bring the gifts.

What date do decorations generally go up in Italy?

Italians wait until December 8 -- the Day of the Immaculate Conception -- to start the festivities, with holiday decorations and Christmas markets generally set up on this day.

What is the 12th day of Christmas called?

January 6th is known as Epiphany in many cultures. In Italy, it is recognized as the 12th day of Christmas and is celebrated with family dinners and the exchange of gifts.

What is the most popular dish to eat on Christmas in Japan?

Like many eastern cultures, the Japanese don't really celebrate Christmas. Thanks to a very effective 1970s marketing campaign by KFC, however, many Japanese line up to patronize their favorite fried chicken restaurant on December 25.

Christmas lights go up in September in the Philippines.

The Philippines beats even the U.S. for getting Christmas decorations up well in advance of the big day. Particularly popular in the Philippines are lighted star lanterns known as parols, which represent the Star of Bethlehem.

When is St. Lucia day?

St. Lucia Day, celebrated on December 13, originated in Sweden before spreading throughout Scandinavia.

Which family member acts as St. Lucia?

The oldest daughter in each family rises before the rest of her family members to celebrate St. Lucia Day. She dons a white gown and lighted crown before waking the rest of the family for a candlelit breakfast.

What does the word Yule translate to in the Norse language?

The modern Yule log likely originated in Norway. The word Yule comes from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a wheel of fire, so all Yule festivities are really a nod to the sun itself.

Where did the first Christmas trees come from?

The Germans were the first to celebrate the holiday with an evergreen tree back in the 17th century. By the 1820s, German immigrants had brought the tradition to Pennsylvania, and the concept quickly spread throughout the Western world.

Which country gave the poinsettia its Christmas connection?

John Poinsett brought the colorful plant from Mexico to the U.S. in 1828. Within half a century, U.S. stores were selling poinsettias specifically during the Christmas season thanks to their bright red leaves.

Where did the Christmas card originate?

John Callcott Horsley produced the first Christmas cards in England in the 1840s, and the printed paper greetings quickly spread through Europe and the U.S.

Plum pudding has plums in it.

The traditional English holiday dessert, which dates back to medieval times, contains no plums. Instead, it consists of flour, sugar, raisins and nuts which are boiled until they expand -- or plum up.

Where do people celebrate simbang gabi?

The nine-day period before Christmas in the Philippines is known as simbang gabi and largely consists of special daily masses that Christians attend to celebrate the holiday.

What do Swedes use instead of a Yule log?

While nearby neighbors in Norway incorporate the Yule log into traditional celebrations, people in Sweden construct Julbok -- a Yule goat made from straw. Like the Yule log, it has ancient, pagan roots.

What country hosts a Declaration of Christmas Peace every December 24 at noon?

Finland holds a Declaration of Christmas Peace at noon on Christmas Eve. That night, Joulupukki -- that's Santa to English speakers -- travels with his reindeer to deliver gifts throughout the country.

What do the French do during Reveillon?

The French usher in Christmas with Reveillon, in which they stay awake all night on Christmas Eve to welcome the holiday.

How many desserts do you need to host a traditional Christmas meal in Provence?

In Southern France, Christians hold a feast known as les treize desserts, or the 13 Desserts. Twelve of the treats represent the 12 apostles, while the 13th represents Christ himself.

Where can you celebrate Las Parrandas?

Las Parrandas is one of the oldest holiday festivals in the world. It starts on December 16 and runs through the 24. During this period, Cubans throw wild parties, parades and fireworks shows to usher in Christmas.

What does Ded Moroz translate to?

Ded Moroz replaced Saint Nicholas as the traditional Christmas gift giver in Russia during the Communist era. The name translates to Grandfather Frost, and he is often accompanied by a young girl known as the Snow Maiden.

What is a traditional decoration on Ukrainian Christmas trees?

In a popular Ukrainian folk tale a woman too poor to decorate her tree woke to find it glistening from the webs of a spider. Modern Ukrainian families still add spiders and webs (typically fake ones) to their trees to pay homage to this tale.

Where do people celebrate Jonkunnu?

People in Jamaica welcome Christmas with a festival called Jonkunnu, which consists of a parade and African-inspired dances. A holiday shop known as the Gran' Market allows people to buy last-minute gifts and generally springs up between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

What day do children in Holland receive holiday gifts?

Sinterklaas brings gifts to good children in Holland on December 5.

How many gift-givers hand out presents in Iceland?

In Iceland, there's no need for a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Instead, 13 Santas -- known as Yule Lads -- travel on foot to deliver gifts to children in each town or village. Gifts arrive on Christmas Eve, but the festivities last until Epiphany on January 6th.

What date do Russian children receive their holiday gifts?

Some Russian families wait until after Epiphany to deliver gifts on January 7. Instead of Santa, gifts come from an old woman named Babouschka. The tale is inspired by a biblical story of an old woman who refuses to give a gift to the baby Jesus.

In what country does Befana deliver gifts to children?

Befana, whose name derives from Epiphany, delivers gifts to children on January 5 -- Epiphany Eve -- in Italy.

What do people in Norway hide in their homes in Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve is a magical time all around the world. In Norway, people hide their brooms so that mischievous witches won't steal them to take a nighttime flight on Christmas Eve.

What country celebrates Three Kings Day on January 6th?

Families in Spain exchange gifts on January 6 to celebrate el Dia de Reyes, a day that honors the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus.

What is el Gordo -- another Spanish Christmas tradition?

Forget gifts -- Spaniards buy tons of tickets for one of the world's biggest lotteries, which is awarded during the Christmas season. Known as el Gordo, or The Fat One, the lottery dates back more than 200 years, and features hundreds of millions in prizes.

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