How do Christmas traditions vary around the world? See the photos

For many, Christmas is a time of gift exchanges, log cakes and turkey feasts.

But not everywhere.

In an annual series, CNBC Travel highlights various Christmas celebrations around the world.


Christmas comes with a macabre twist in Austria, Germany and other Alpine countries that celebrate St. Nicholas Day in the first week of December.

“Grambuslaff,” It translates to “Krampus Run” in German and is an annual parade usually held on December 5th or 6th in which participants dress up as half-goat, half-ghost Krampus and frighten onlookers.

According to Helen Pitchnau, a representative of the Austrian National Tourist Office, Krampus costumes often consist of a mask, horns, a coat made of sheep or goat wool, chains, beads and a wire.

Jure Magovec | Afp | Good pictures

According to the legend, St. Nick accompanies Krampus on his travels to give gifts to well-behaved children, according to Helen Pitchnau, a representative of the Austrian National Tourist Office.

However, the children, who have been bad, face the wrath of Krampus. “The function of Krampus is to punish all that is bad with a rod or a horse’s tail,” said Pitchnau.

A mix of anticipation, excitement and some nervousness fills the Krampuslaf air, Pitchnau said.

“If you’re good all year – there’s nothing to worry about,” he said.

Bitschnau added that he had “always been afraid of Krampus.”

“Now I want to go to Krampuslauf in my hometown because I know everyone behind the Krampus costumes. [which] It makes me less scared.”

Oaxaca, Mexico

Every year Dec. On the 23rd, participants gather in Oaxaca’s main square to enter intricately carved radishes in the “Night of the Radishes” competition.

These aren’t bite-sized radishes – they’re about the size of a baby’s foot.

“Artists spend whole days carving radishes for the competition, soaking them constantly so they don’t dry out,” said Ileana Jimenez, who was born and raised in Oaxaca.

Winners of the radish-carving contest are awarded small cash prizes, resident Ileana Jimenez said.

Patricia Castellanos | Afp | Good pictures

“There are people waiting patiently for their turn and appreciating the wonderful work. [of] Oaxacan artisans,” he said.

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The atmosphere in the Zocalo, Oaxaca’s town square, is lively, with live music, fireworks and crowds of locals and tourists, Jimenez said.

“It’s a party that keeps people excited.”

Gavel, Sweden

Standing 42 feet tall and weighing more than 7,000 pounds, a giant handmade straw goat is an annual Christmas fixture in the Swedish town of Gavle.

It took more than 1,000 hours to build this year’s goat, said Anna-Karin Niemann, a spokeswoman for the Special Committee for the Protection of Goats.

The Gavle goat is moving to a new location this year for the first time in 56 years, according to Visit Gavle, the city’s visitor guide.

Mats Astrand | Afp | Good pictures

Although it is a crime to burn or destroy it, the first goat built in 1966 has been the subject of several arsons.

The arsonist who ended the last goat’s four-year survival was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay 109,000 Swedish kroner ($10,450) in damages, a Swedish news agency reported.

Sweden’s treasured goat figure is tied with straw despite its flammability because “it’s tradition,” Niemann said.

“He means a lot to us at Cowley and he’s a big part of the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Miniature versions of the goat make fun souvenirs for travelers or Christmas ornaments, said Mark Wolters, creator of the popular travel YouTube channel Wolters World.

Those interested can observe how this year’s goat looks via live web cam.

Ukraine via Krakow, Poland

In a show of resilience among Christmas celebrators, 40 Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, Poland, sold handmade items such as candles, tree ornaments and gingerbread cookies at a Christmas craft fair organized with the help of the UN Refugee Agency.

A stall at the Ukrainian Christmas market in Krakow, Poland.

Omar Marx | Anadolu Agency | Good pictures

Sales from the Christmas market provided the refugees, most of whom are women, with a source of income, said Tariq Arkaz, a representative of the UN refugee agency.

The market was attended by locals, tourists and the Ukrainian community, he said.

Arkas said it was an opportunity to showcase “the best talent in the refugee community,” and the idea for the event was born when United Nations staff were presented with an “intricately painted” rock by one of the residents of a joint center. It is a hostel that hosts a large number of refugees.

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During the festive season, houses in the Philippines are decorated with star-shaped lanterns called “parole”. said the travel blogger Kach Umandap, Born and raised in the Philippines.

The paroles were originally used to illustrate the tradition of Simpong Gabi, a nine-day pre-dawn mass from Dec. 16 to 24 — as well as a midnight service on Christmas Eve called the Misa de Gallo, Umantab said.

Teachers, students and parents hold Christmas lights made from recycled materials during a campaign for sustainable Christmas celebrations at an elementary school in Quezon City, Philippines.

Ted Aljibe | Afp | Good pictures

“Nowadays, lamps are used as decoration,” Umantab said. “Parole represents the triumph of light over darkness and faith.”

According to Harvard Divinity School, 90% of the people living in the Philippines identify as Christians – mostly Catholics. The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christianity is the national religion.

He said that many Filipinos use things like shells, glass and LED lights to make the paroles bright and colorful.

Umantab, who now lives in Europe, said the lights remind him of home.

“When I see them, they [give] Whatever struggles I face, I believe I can overcome them,” he said.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazilians love their parties, said Bruna Venturinelli, editor of the Brazilian blog I Heart Brazil. That’s why their Christmas parades are “infectious fun” with “lots of laughter and cheer,” he said.

Costumed characters dance with Santa and his elves and interact with children at meetings, he said.

Christmas parades in Brazil usually feature characters from Corvatunduri, a mountain region in Lapland where Santa Claus lives.

Chris Faga | NoorPhoto | Good pictures

“There are many Christmas parades across the districts that are organized by the city council or a private organization to promote the start of their festive season, like the shopping mall parade pictured,” he said.

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“If I’m in Brazil during Christmas, I take my nephew and niece to the Christmas parade and we have a blast! … They take the opportunity to write a letter to Santa and say they’ve been good all year. That last part is not 100% true.”

He said many people in Brazil would celebrate Christmas Eve by sharing a Chester hen.

On Christmas Day, people gather again for lunch while listening to Brazilian music, he said.

North Pole’

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the modern tradition of writing letters to Santa may have been started by American Fanny Longfellow, wife of poet Henry Wadsworth.

But in the beginning, Santa wrote to the children, rather than the other way around.

The magazine says Longfellow has written letters to her three children about their behavior over the past year.

In one of Longfellow’s letters, dated 1853, “Santa” said:[Y]”You have picked up some naughty words, which I hope you will throw away like sour or bitter fruit,” the article read.

A child sends a letter to Santa Claus in Fort Worth, Texas.

Richard Rodriguez | Getty Images Sport | Good pictures

As the practice caught on, parents began leaving letters from Santa in fireplaces or in the stocking, and their children would write the answers instead, it said.

Today, the tradition of writing to Santa has expanded beyond the home.

In the United States, the US Postal Service runs an annual program called Operation Santa, where needy children and families write anonymous letters to Santa about what they want for Christmas. According to the USPS, these letters are “adopted” by people across the country, who buy and send requested gifts to families.

Royal Mail, the United Kingdom’s postal service, offers personalized responses to children who write “Father Christmas.”

But some parents are using other ways to contact Santa, including apps and balloons.

In 2021, a pair of four-year-old twins in Kansas, USA, released balloons containing letters to Santa. A couple living in Louisiana found one and, through donations, fulfilled the twins’ Christmas wish list, which included giving them a puppy.


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