Glittering pine trees, Santa Clauses and stockings are many people’s ideas about Christmas, but the holiday can look very different all over the world.
From Europe to Asia to the depths of the Antarctic, Christmas is celebrated in nine locations around the world – and in one place around the world.
Christmas celebrations in Croatia start early, with some traditions starting in November.
Like other Europeans, Croatians celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day at the beginning of December, when the children leave their shoes and expect St. Nick to leave them sweets and small gifts according to the St. Nicholas Center Christmas resource website.
In some parts of Europe, children believe that Santa Claus will leave chocolates and gifts in their shoes if they have behaved well. Otherwise, Krampus, a monster-like creature, may leave charcoal or dried twigs.
Monika Skolimowska | Image Alliance | Getty Images
“As a child, I always left a shoe out of the window,” says the native Croat Antonio Zdurich. “Somebody filled it with gifts and candy at night and I woke up and was very happy.”
Many families in Croatia plant wheat on December 13 with the belief that the next year will be successful for them if it grows well, he said.
People in Sweden decorate Christmas trees and exchange gifts, much like in other parts of the world, said the Swede Patrik Kerttu.
The Disney special with the title “From All of Us to All of You” is regularly Sweden’s most-watched TV show of the year and only competes with the country’s try-outs for the Eurovision Song Contest.
LMPC | Getty Images
They also celebrate with Donald Duck. In the past year, more than 4.5 million people – almost half of the Swedish population – looked the 1958 Disney special “From All of Us to All of You”, according to the English-language European news broadcaster The Local. The show has been broadcast there every year since 1959.
Popular foods this time of year include meatballs, ham, smoked or marinated salmon, pickled herring, and a potato and anchovy casserole called Jansson’s temptationsaid Kerttu.
While parts of the country celebrate differently, Christian families in India typically combine Western traditions with customs unique to India.
Mayur Cockatoo | Moment | Getty Images
“Christmas is quite an important holiday for my family because it is the only time of the year that most of the family get together,” said Isha Meleth, a Christian and from the southern Indian state of Kerala. “We’re building a nativity scene [nativity scene] in front of the house … on Christmas Eve. “
Two popular Christmas dishes are kheer, a type of sweet milk pudding, and kallappam, a coconut rice pancake that is more common in southern India, Meleth said.
For most of Japan, Christmas is more of a secular than a religious affair.
Lots of Japanese Celebrate the holiday similar to Valentine’s Day, with couples spending the day together, according to JR Pass, a Japanese rail travel company. It is common for people to go to dinner and run around with their partners looking at the Christmas lights.
One of the most talked about traditions – at least outside of Japan – is the culture fascination with fried chicken for Christmas, often from the US fast food chain KFC.
One theory behind Japan’s custom of eating KFC at Christmas is that for foreigners it was the food of choice for the holiday since there was no turkey. This inspired the company to market it as a Christmas dinner, a representative from KFC Japan told CNBC.
Yuichi Yamazaki | Getty Images
A 1974 marketing campaign called “Kentucky Christmas” launched a practice celebrated today by millions of Japanese, said Tatsuya Noguchi, a representative for KFC Japan.
Pre-orders for food like the “Party Barrel” or the “Christmas Pack” start around seven weeks in advance, according to Noguchi. The restaurant chain also had its highest sales of the year between December 23rd and 25th, he said.
“December 24th is the busiest day of the year – that’s about five to ten times as busy as the annual average,” said Noguchi.
Some 92% of the 110 million people in the Philippines are Christian. Christmas is the most important time of the year in the Philippines, and the country is said to celebrate the holiday longer than anywhere else – from September to January.
“Like many Latin American cultures, my family in the Philippines celebrates Nochebuena, which is a big festival on Christmas Eve,” said Siena Klinzing, who is half Filipino. “It’s about getting together with the family, having a big party and sharing gifts.”
For many Filipino families, Christmas is incomplete without lechon, a whole roast pork with a crispy skin.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images
She said her family was staying up like New Year’s Eve to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas” as soon as the clock strikes midnight, she added.
Another important tradition is Simbang Gabi, which means “mass at night”, where people wake up before sunrise to attend mass for nine days from December 16-24. It is believed that those who have completed all nine days can ask for a blessing. Klinzing said.
United Arab Emirates
Although the UAE’s official state religion is Islam, Christmas is celebrated in some parts of the country.
This is particularly large in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where many expats live.
Dubai has light ceremonies from large, elaborately decorated Christmas trees, like this one in the Al-Wasl Dome in the heart of Expo 2020 Dubai.
AFP | Getty Images
Shopping centers and hotels are often heavily decorated with Christmas trees stretching over several floors, according to Visit Dubai, the emirate’s official tourism website.
Christmas markets, performances, and special holiday menus in restaurants are also common in December.
Christmas in Mexico is marked by large parades with colorful floats and costumes, candy-filled pinatas and Christmas cribs. But one of the most popular customs in the country is Las Posadas, a festival held during the nine days leading up to Christmas.
Costumed dancers take part in a traditional Christmas and New Year parade in Chilpancingo, a town in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Pedro Pardo | AFP | Getty Images
“Every night the people form a singing procession to represent the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem,” said The Mexican food blogger Mely Martinez.
These processions usually culminate at someone’s home, where everyone gathers for a party of food like tamales, Christmas punch, and candy, she said. Other popular Christmas dishes include pozole, sweet deep-fried pastry donuts called bunuelos, and a hot chocolate drink called champurrado, Martinez said.
For many in Kenya, Christmas is a time of migration. Cities, including the capital, Nairobi, experience an exodus in December as crowds of people travel to their hometowns and villages to reunite with their families.
Believers from the Legio Maria, a religious movement that arose among the Luo in western Kenya, take part in a Christmas mass near Ugunja, Kenya, on December 25, 2017.
Fredrik Lerneryd | AFP | Getty Images
Most churches keep a vigil on Christmas Eve where people sing Christmas carols and hymns for hours, said Shikriti Mandal, who grew up in Kenya.
On Christmas Day, families and friends celebrate a festival that often includes grilled goat or lamb called nyama choma, Mandal said.
The South Pole is currently home to 70 permanent research stations from 29 different countries, according to Oceanwide Expeditions, a tour operator for the Arctic and Antarctic.
In the absence of the usual Christmas hustle and bustle, broadcasters find creative ways to celebrate among colleagues.
A man dressed as Santa Claus is en route to the Seabourn Quest cruise ship on Christmas morning on Cuverville Island in the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Wolfgang Kähler | LightRakete | Getty Images
“Each of our five Antarctic research stations celebrates Christmas in its own way, depending on the weather,” says Kathleen Maclean, representative of the British Antarctic Survey. Some roast a turkey and eat canned and frozen vegetables while others sing Christmas carols, watch Christmas movies, and play board games, she said.
Despite the celebrations, research continues as “long-term surveillance data remains to be collected,” Maclean said.
International space station
The Christmas spirit is so great that people have found a way to celebrate it 227 nautical miles (420 kilometers) above the earth.
According to the NASA website, astronauts did Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve were celebrated on board the International Space Center for 21 years and have developed some traditions in the process.
Celebrations on the ISS include decorating the station, enjoying plastic bag versions of traditional foods such as Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and cookies, and filming holiday greetings sent back to earth.
Christmas also comes twice on the space station, as it falls on January 7th on the Russian Orthodox calendar that many Russian astronauts follow.