Christmas might mean ham, prawns and pavlova here in Australia, but taking a glimpse into the holiday traditions around the world reveals a multitude of unique festive customs.
SBS Staff

17 Dec 2015 - 3:39 PM  UPDATED 17 Dec 2015 - 3:39 PM


Although not widely celebrated in China, Christmas has been receiving some love in major cities, and one of our favourite quirks is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve. Many stores sell apples wrapped in colourful paper, and you might be wondering how this came about. Well, here it is: in Chinese Christmas Eve is called ‘Ping An Ye’ and the term for apple is ‘Ping Guo’ which sounds roughly the same. It’s that simple!

How do you like these (toffee) apples?



Of Griswold infamy comes the one of the biggest traditions in the mighty USA – putting Christmas lights on absolutely everything. From department stores to the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to suburban houses en-masse, the States certainly brighten up during their iconic white Christmas.  Starting in December (sometimes as early as November), the often remarkable lighting efforts of citizens gives a ‘Santa’s village’ feel that is simply wonderful to explore. Americans often wander the neighbourhood with family in tow to observe the festive magic before the big Christmas feast, which wouldn’t be complete without a traditional roast turkey. Be warned, cooking a bird takes some time!



We have Germany to give thanks to for the Christmas tree as we know it today – it was back in 16th century that dragging a tree indoors and decorating it became a thing.  Christmas time in Germany also means Christmas markets, LOTS of Christmas markets selling all things jolly including baked apples, mulled wine, hand-made decorations, gifts and…more food. Smells permeate the air and give the marketplace an aroma of hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and other tasty snacks, like this irresistible honey bread.



One word: Pepparkator. If you haven’t had them before, go and find a box right now because they will change your world to one filled with ginger snap goodness. Swedes manage to pack their lives with these delicious snacks and we can see why – they will often be consumed either side of meals!

Another popular food eaten around St Lucia’s Day (December 13th) are Lussekatts, buns flavoured with saffron and dotted with raisins. While they are most commonly eaten for breakfast, we’ll leave it up to you to satisfy cravings at any time throughout the holidays.



What could be better than blindly swinging a stick at a papier-mâché donkey for the sole purpose of earning candy? From December 16th a different household will host a Posada party each night, where our candy-filled friend will make an appearance to the delight of children.

Rather than a Christmas tree, nativity scenes (nacimiento) are the decoration of choice for many households, making Christmas in Mexico a symbolic affair - it’s also not unheard of for tamales to replace the traditional turkey!



Christmas isn’t a religious celebration in Japan, it’s a chance to spread happiness and is thought of a romantic occasion – many couples choose to have an intimate dinner on Christmas Eve, and restaurants book out quickly. Those that have missed out on a romantic reservation might indulge in some fabulous strawberry and whipped-cream spongecake (we’ve got you covered for spongecake, but the strawberries and cream are up to you!).



The Yule log is at the centre of Christmas celebrations in the jolly country of France, and if you happen to be walking down the street you are likely to be wished a ‘Joyeux Noël’. On Christmas Eve yule logs made of cherry wood are burned in French homes all through the night, often sprinkled with red wine to give off a deliciously spicy smell. A bûche de Noël (a chocolate sponge cake log) is saved for dessert after a meal of roast poultry, lobster, venison and cheeses. So Frenchy, so chic.