While Christmas is almost universally recognized as an occasion for festive celebration, the customs and traditions associated with the holiday vary widely from country to country. In this blog, we’re visiting a few countries that are popular relocation destinations – the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and India – for a sampling of the local interpretations associated with the holiday season.
United States: Welcome to a Winter Wonderland
In the United States, Christmas is synonymous with festivity and family. The season starts with American Thanksgiving in late November, and the excitement builds to Christmas. Decorations start appearing in homes and public spaces in the late Fall, transforming neighborhoods into enchanting wonderlands of lights and ornaments. Some families exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, others on Christmas morning, and the iconic Christmas tree, adorned with ornaments and lights, takes center stage in living rooms.
Community events, such as parades, tree-lighting ceremonies, and tours of light displays bring people together. Santa Claus, the jolly symbol of Christmas gift-giving, is a central figure, making appearances in malls and at local events, visiting children and adults alike. Christmas celebrations in the US are also increasingly reflective of the diversity of traditions of people who live here.
United Kingdom: Where Tradition is Going Strong
In the United Kingdom, Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition dating back to Victorian times and even earlier. Festivities kick off with the first lighting of the Advent candles, four weeks before the big day. British families often gather for a hearty Christmas dinner on December 25th, featuring roast turkey, stuffing, and the famous flaming Christmas pudding.
Decorations include mistletoe and holly, while Christmas crackers—a festive essential with a pop!—add a touch of surprise to the dining table. Carol singing, both in churches and door-to-door, is a cherished tradition, connecting families, neighbors, and friends.
Germany: Christkind and the One-of-a-Kind Christmas Markets
In Germany, the Christmas season is a magical time. The Christkind, a golden-haired, winged figure resembling an angel, is the bearer of gifts in many German households. Christmas markets, known as Weihnachtsmärkte, are a major draw in many towns and cities, offering an array of handmade crafts, seasonal treats, and the warm glow of twinkling lights. The markets open at the end of November and close on or before Christmas Eve so families can gather together.
St. Nicholas Day on December 6th is another special occasion in Germany and many other European countries, where children leave out shoes to be filled with sweets and small presents.
Japan: An Increasingly Popular Celebration
In Japan, Christmas is often celebrated as a romantic occasion, akin to Valentine’s Day in other countries, with young couples enjoying heart-themed decor and special meals. And yes, it’s true, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has become an unexpected Christmas tradition in Japan, with many families ordering a special KFC Christmas meal. Reservations are even required in some locations!
For holiday traditionalists, illuminated trees and festive decorations can be found in shopping districts throughout Japan. Gift-giving is not as widespread as in Western cultures, but it is becoming more common, especially among younger generations. Typically exchanged gifts include small items like cosmetics and kitchen tools that would be considered “stocking stuffers” in other cultures.
India: A Celebrations of Many Cultures
In India, where cultural diversity is vast, Christmas celebrations reflect the differences found in a population of more than 1 billion people. Christian communities attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a traditional family meal. However, the celebration has come to transcend religious boundaries, with people of all backgrounds joining in the festivities.
Christmas trees and sparkling lights make appearances in shopping malls and public spaces. Gift-giving is a common practice, celebrating the spirit of sharing and generosity. In some regions, you’ll find traditional Indian sweets and dishes side by side with Western Christmas treats.
A Truly Global Holiday
Understanding the diverse customs associated with holiday celebrations enriches our appreciation for global traditions, how they evolve, and what they mean in a local culture. Whether it's the snowy landscapes of the United States, the traditional charm of the United Kingdom, the festive markets of Germany, the romantic-themed celebrations in Japan, or the multicultural festivities in India, the essence of ‘the Christmas spirit’ is universal—a time for joy, goodwill, and the celebration of shared traditions.
No matter how you celebrate, Dwellworks is wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!