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How Christmas is celebrated worldwide

Clive Wedderburn December 13, 2017

Christmas is celebrated the world over and here at Hayes & Jarvis we reckon it’s a fantastic time to travel to immerse yourself in culture. We asked our specialists how the season of goodwill is celebrated in their regions and ask for their favourite recommendations too.  

Before we look at the rest of the world we have to begin with a quick look closer to home. In Austria and parts of Germany, St Nicholas (the forerunner of Santa Claus, with a sack full of presents for good kids) travels with a scarily-bizarre demon called Krampus. He also has a sack – to put children in who have misbehaved. 

It’s customary to see this demonic character on greetings cards or reproduced as chocolate figurines or in parades in towns and villages throughout the alpine regions, whipping onlookers with twigs. Ouch!

Rachael, Far East

“In some parts of Japan they celebrate Christmas with a Kentucky Fried Chicken Party bucket, a quirky tradition that started in the 1970s.

The official religions of Japan are Shinto and Buddhism; the Japanese didn’t have an existing tradition for Christmas. So KFCs advertising team suggested they sit down to dinner with a bargain Christmas bucket – and as bizarre as this sounds, the tradition stuck. To some Japanese people, Christmas would not be Christmas without KFC.

Filipinos love Christmas. Carols can start as early as September and formal celebrations continue to the second Sunday in January. People will also stay awake on Christmas Eve through to Christmas Day. If you want to say Merry Christmas in the Philippines, remember that it has eight major langauges, so it also has eight ways of saying it. Here they are: Maligayang Pasko (Tagalog)Malipayon nga Pascua (Ilonggo)Maayong Pasko (Sugbuhanon or Cebuano)Maugmang Pasko (Bicolano)Maabig ya pasko or Magayagan inkianac (Pangalatok or Pangasinense) and Maupay Nga Pasko (Warey Warey).”

Mark, South America

“One of many ways Venezuelans celebrate the festive season, beginning on December 16 is by attending early morning mass called Misas de Aguinaldo. It’s an early morning start so they will light firecrackers and ring bells to ensure everyone is awake to go to church. The difference being, in Caracas, they attend mass – on roller-skates. No one quite knows why they do, but they do.                               

In Guatemala, they clear their houses of all the evil rubbish from the previous year, pile it into a heap, put an effigy of the devil on top and burn it. This is called Burning of the Devil and is said to rid your home of evil. In Colombia festivities begin with the Day of Little Candles, in honour of the Virgin Mary on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 7th.

 

If I had my way, I’d spend Christmas in Rio de Janeiro, relaxing on Copacabana beach with a chilled drink in hand. Our winter is Brazil’s summer, so it is nice and hot, there’s a party atmosphere and the sunsets are just stunning. Plus, if you want to see the world’s largest floating Christmas tree then hire a bicycle and ride around the Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon, in the Zona Sul area of the city. Perfection!”

Isla, Deep South USA

“It’s always worth visiting New Orleans at Christmas. You’ll see streetcars decked out with holly and iron-laced balconies twinkling with fairy lights. Festivities begin in early December with the Krewe of Jingle holiday parade along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. Reveillon dinners also mark Christmas Eve. This celebration dates back hundreds of years, when Catholics would break Christmas Mass with an elaborate meal of pastries, eggnog, sugar sculptures and meringues. Yum!

 

Personally, I’d head to Nashville, Tennessee. I love this charming city. The weather’s warm and the annual Deck the Hall program at the County Music Hall of Fame is not to be missed. I’d catch the Christmas special at the Ryman Auditorium and then start the New Year in style at the Bash on Broadway New Year’s Eve celebration.”

Jess, Canada

“If you want a picture postcard style Christmas, then it has to be Canada. Begin in cosmopolitan Toronto, an amazing city to visit all year round, but at Christmas try to get a glimpse of the Cavalcade of Lights when the main square is illuminated by thousands of energy efficient light bulbs.

 

Quebec City is one of the most romantic cities in North America, and I couldn’t think of a better place for a Christmassy-Christmas. The city looks like a scene from a Dicken’s novel. So, if you love a bit of sledding too, then head to the toboggan run at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac to zoom down icy tracks at speeds of forty miles per hour. It’s a great way of spending the festive period in the city among its Christmas markets, charming boutiques and cobble streets. I can smell that mulled wine now…”

Charlie, USA and the Caribbean

“Christmas doesn’t get much classier than in New England. Head to Vermont and take your snow boots. Woodstock offers a Wassail Weekend parade featuring horse riders in holiday costumes while the local boutiques out-do each other to see who can put on the best window display.

In New York ice skating beneath the giant tree at the Rockefeller Center is a city favourite. So, if you’re thinking of treating your loved ones to a surprise New York Christmas holiday, be sure to put this activity at the top of your list. Add cosy carriage rides through Central Park and shopping at Bloomingdales, too. But don’t forget Brooklyn, Tribeca and all the other fascinating neighbourhoods too.

 

To warmer climes and in Honolulu, Hawaii Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele (Mr. & Mrs. Claus) cause quite a stir when they arrive in town. Dressed in shorts and a suitable red Hawaiian open shirt while Tutu Mele is dressed in a mu’umu’u (that’s a traditional Hawaiian dress), they open the Christmas season at a month long lights and decorations display at Honolulu Hale, the town hall.  

In Puerto Rico you may be surprised in the middle of the night by friends singing Christmas carols with guitars and tambourines. They drink coquito here, a coconut based egg-nog drink, and throw parrandas, traditional carnival street parties thrown to surprise friends with carol singing – at all times of the night.

 

Locals in Mexico City take to the streets to re-enact the journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph, going door to door to ask for posada (to ask for shelter). You can also expect piñatas and a mulled drink called ponche, particularly around the old town, its cobble streets and grand squares.

My favourite Christmas would be jetting off with my loved ones to the private island of Petit St Vincent, in St Vincent and the Grenadines to escape from technology and reconnect with my family. I would look forward to some yoga each morning, go snorkelling in Tobago Cays and just generally soak up that gorgeous Caribbean sun.”

 

            However you celebrate the festive season, from all the team here at Hayes and Jarvis, we wish you all peace and goodwill, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.