Christmas is a time of celebration and a time for giving. People celebrate the birth of Christ all over the world but their traditions and folklore make their celebrations unique in themselves.
Read our guide to some of the most interesting Christmas traditions in the world and also learn to say 'Merry Christmas' in ten different languages.
1. Hockey for Christmas - Ethiopia
In Ethiopia and Eritrea, the public holiday for Christmas is on January 7 and is accompanied by colourful music and dance celebrations led by priests, which is followed by the celebration of the Epiphany twelve days later. The afternoon of Christmas day is devoted to a game like hockey called Gaana which is believed to have been played by the shepherds tending their flocks on the night Jesus was born.
Say Merry Christmas Melkin Gena or Melkin Yelidet Beaal
2. Returning home - Nigeria
In Nigeria, Christmas is a time for ‘successful’ people return to their ancestral villages inadvertently emptying urban towns and cities on Christmas Day. Less fortunate relatives back home demand gifts from them following the celebrations. The urban visitors thereby give gifts in the form of money or elaborately wrapped gifts to their poorer relatives.
Say Merry Christmas Ukhisimusi Omuhle (Zulu) or Happy Christmas
3. Freezing Epiphany day - Bulgaria
Jumping into ice-cold waters is the last thing anyone wants to do this festive season, but not so for Bulgarian men, and some women. On January 7, also known as the Epiphany Day, the priest throws a holy cross into the water and the men jump in to retrieve it. The first one to get the cross is believed to have good health for the upcoming year.
Say Merry Christmas Vesela Koleda
4. Christmas in the sauna - Finland
While some jump into freezing waters, others stroll into saunas for Christmas. In Finland, sub-zero temperatures and knee high snow is characteristic for Christmas but so are wooden saunas in the midst of all that snow. On Christmas Eve, it is a common practice to step into a sauna with family and friends. This is considered a cleansing ritual for the mind and body though going in the sauna intoxicated is strictly discouraged.
Say Merry Christmas Hyvaa Joulua
5. Santa blues - South Korea
In South Korea, Santa Horabji or Santa Grandfather is frequently seen wearing a blue suit rather than a red one. It is also believed that the original Santa was dressed in green with silver trimmings.
Say Merry Christmas Sungtan Chukahaeyo
6. Shoes for the three Magi - Argentina
Instead of stockings, children in Argentina leave out their shoes for gifts which are given by the three wise men or the three Magi on January 6. They may also leave hay and water for the horses of the Magi on their onward journey to Baby Jesus. In Columbia and Venezuela, presents are brought not by Santa or the Magi, but by Baby Jesus or as they say ‘El Nino Jesus’.
Say Merry Christmas Feliz Navidad
7. Always space for one more - Poland
In Poland, one seat is left empty at the Christmas Eve dinner for someone who is alone for Christmas or is less fortunate and they are invited in. Another belief is that the seat is left empty so Jesus, the Holy Spirit or spirits of family members who have departed can join in on the festivities. The dinner traditionally has twelve dishes, one for each of the Apostles.
Say Merry Christmas Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Wesolych Swiat (Happy Holidays)
8. Elvish Gifts - Estonia
In Estonia, in the days before Christmas Eve, it is believed that Christmas elves peep in through the windows to check on the behavior of children. Children leave slippers on the window sill in which elves leave candy or other small gifts.
Say Merry Christmas Roomsaid Joule or Haid joule
9. Yule lads trek down - Iceland
The Icelandic version of Santa Claus is in the form of mischievous, and sometimes rogue legendary characters called Yule Lads who reside in the Dimmuborgir mountains. There are thirteen Yule lads, each going to varying lengths of mischief when they visit the Icelandic people during the thirteen days before Christmas. According to folklore, they place rewards or punishments for children in the shoes left on the windowsill based on their behavior.
Say Merry Christmas Gledileg Jol
10. Sing Hallelujah - Georgia
In Georgia, people, mostly children go on a mass walk called Alilo which is a modified version of Hallelujah. The children on the march sing carols and are given sweets by adults.
Say Merry Christmas Gilotsavt Krist'es Shobas