Christmas Around the World
Did you know that Father Christmas has lots of different names?
Father Christmas is called different names around the world. The list below is what you will need if you spend Christmas in another country.
Austria: .... Christkind ("Christ child")
Belgium: .....Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) and De Kerstman ("Father Christmas")
Canada: ......Santa Claus; Père Noël ("Father Christmas")
France: ..... Père Noël ("Father Christmas");
Germany: ..Weihnachtsmann ("Christmas Man"); Christkind in southern Germany
Hungary: ...Mikulás ("Nicholas"); Jézuska or Kis Jézus ("child Jesus")
Italy: .........Babbo Natale ("Father Christmas"); La Befana
Netherlands & Flanders: ...Sinterklaas
Poland: ......Swiety Mikolaj
Portugal: ...Pai Natal ("Father Christmas")
Russia: ......Ded Moroz, "Grandfather Frost
Spain: ...... Papa Noel
United Kingdom: ..Father Christmas; Santa Claus
United States: ..Santa Claus
What do you think the most popular names is?
What do you call Father Christmas?
Facts about Christmas
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. Click here to find out more...
The name Santa Claus came from the Dutch name Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas is also known as De Goedheiligman, The Good Holy Man or more commonly Saint Nicholas
The name Santa Claus was created by the Dutch who went to live in the New York region of America.
In Holland Christmas is celebrated on December 6th which is St Nicholas Day.
Sinterklaas travels by boat from Spain to Amsterdam and hands out gifts to children with the help of his white horse.
In Poland children receive their gifts on St Nicholas day which is December 6th.
The character of Santa Claus was based on Saint Nicholas, who was known to be kind and generous to children.
Polish Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with garlands, fruit, wrapped chocolate, candles, painted eggshells, and other homemade ornaments. At the top of the tree a star is placed.
Merry Christmas in Polish is Wesołych Świąt.
In Greece kids receive presents from Saint Basil on January 1st.
Saint Basils name was Aghios Vassilis, his story is the story of St Nicolas.
January 1st is St Vasilis's Day
There are two sides to Christmas in Greece; one is religious and solemn, while the other is festive and glamorous.
According to tradition, during the Greek 12 days of Christmas (December 25 to January 6), goblins come out to tease people and eat their food
The largest Christmas tree in Europe is lit in Syntagma Square, the location of the capital's Christmas village, where little elf houses sell candy and children can take part in a number of activities.
St.Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged and a famous dessert carries its name, the 'Vassilopita' (St. Basil's pie), which is a pie that holds a golden coin.
In Russia Santa does not bring presents and gifts, they are bought by an old woman called Babouschka
Christmas in Russia strangely falls on January 7 and not on December 25 like in Europe and all Catholic and Protestant countries, since the Orthodox Church of Russia still adheres to the Julian calendar.
In Spain Christmas celebrations begin on 8 December, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Presents are exchanged on January 6th, the Twelfth Night, the same night that the Three Kings gave gifts to baby Jesus.
Beléns are elaborate nativity scenes – it is the Spanish word for Bethlehem.
Many Spanish people go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, known as La Misa Del Gallo (The Mass of the Rooster) to celebrate their faith.
Often the main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, just before or just after the mass.
A Christmas tradition unique to the Catalonia region is the Caga Tió, or pooping log. (It is a piece of log, which has been dressed up with the addition of small wooden legs, a face, a blanket and a barretina (Catalan hat). Children keep the Caga Tió in their homes or schools in the run up to Christmas and feed it small pieces of bread or orange peel each evening. Then, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, they hit the log with a stick, singing the special Caga Tió song, asking him to poo out lots of turrón (a sweet nougat) and other sweets for them)
December 28, a few days after Christmas, is known as the Dia de los Santos Inocentes and is the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day. This is the day for playing pranks, or dressing up in funny wigs and hats.
It’s the Three Kings, or Reyes Magos (Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar), who bring children their gifts in Spain, not Santa Claus (although he is becoming more popular now, too).
On January 6, not Christmas Day is the day when the gifts are given.
On the night of January 5, the Kings parade through the towns across the country with helpers, animals and elaborate floats, throwing sweets out for the children. When the kids return home, they leave out their shoes for the Kings to fill with presents overnight.
The Basques have their own version of Father Christmas or Santa Claus, in the form of Olentzero, a mythical giant, dressed in peasant’s clothing and smoking a pipe.
In Bilbao, on the night of December 23, Olentzero travels all the way down Gran Via towards the Arriaga Theatre, ready to bring gifts for children on Christmas Eve.
Christmas in Australia falls in summertime
Christmas starts quite early in Australia! Usually, the decorations start going up in shops around mid to late October.
School children have about 6 weeks off school, starting around a week before Christmas
Some families head to the beach either for an all-day picnic or just for the afternoon, while others take a dip in backyard swimming pools.
In China Christmas is called the festival of Sheng Dan Jieh, which means Holy Birth Festival.
Homes are decorated and the traditional Christmas tree is called the "tree of light"
In Hong Kong, the figure who visits children is known as Lan Khoong or Dun Che Lao Ren.
On Christmas Eve in Norway farmers leave a bowl of porridge, called nisse, in their barns. This is to please the magic gnomes who will in return protects their farms.
Christmas wasn’t celebrated in Norway until about 1000 or 1100, when Christianity first came to the area. Before this people celebrated jul (pronounced yule) in the middle of winter.
Julenissen is one of the most popular figures of Julaften (Christmas). In the evening of December 24th, Christmas Eve, Julenissen arrives with gifts for the children
Jule means Christmas and nisse is an elf-spirit dating to pre-Christian days.
In Norway, many families might hang a julenek: (pronounced YUH-le-neck), a stalk of oats tied to a branch or pole on Christmas Eve as a symbol of hope for good farming, and now in cities as a symbol of Christmas
Christmas Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom on December 25.
It traditionally celebrates Jesus Christ's birth but many aspects of this holiday have pagan origins.
Prior to Christmas Day, people decorate their homes and gardens
Decorations may include - Christmas trees. Small coloured fairy lights. Leaves and berries from holly trees and mistletoe bushes.
Various other decorations with rich colors that spark the Christmas mood
Many people spend Christmas Day with family members, with whom they exchange gifts and cards. Many children wake up to find a sock or stocking filled with small gifts on their bed or somewhere else in the house
Gifts have been brought by 'Father Christmas' or 'Santa Claus', who lives for most of the year at the North Pole.
The abbreviation Xmas originally derived from the Greek word X, which means Christ! The use of Xmas dates back to the 16th century
The popular Christmas red leafed house plant named the Poinsettia was introduced into America from Mexico during the early 1800's
Glass Christmas tree ornaments were first produced in Germany during the 1850s
Due to world time zones Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island, is the first place to celebrate Christmas each year, closely followed by New Zealand
How can Santa travel the world within 24 hours? NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) reports that Santa is able to travel within his own time range or time-space continuum. After all there is a lot of magic at Christmas!
A guide to Sinterklaas
A guide to a Polish Christmas
A guide to a Greek Christmas
A guide to a Russian Christmas
A Spanish Christmas Carol
Christmas in Australia
A guide to Christmas in China
Some Christmas food around the world
Click on the words in red that are underlined to be taken to the website with the recipe on...
Polish Christmas Food
During Advent (the period leading up to 25 December) many Polish households bake piernik (gingerbread). Pierniki are made into the shapes of hearts, St Nicholas figures and animals.
On Christmas Eve, December 24th, the appearance of the first star on the sky marks the beginning of one of the most beautiful evenings in the year. An entire day of fasting ends with a prayer, the sharing of the Christmas wafer and wishes of good luck. After that, supper is served.Traditionally, there are 12 dishes served over Christmas Eve, symbolising the 12 apostles as well as the 12 months of the year. It’s said that you should ensure you eat at least a little bit of everything so that you’ll be blessed with prosperity in the new year.
Sour soup Typical soups served on Christmas Eve include sour rye soup (also known as white borscht), red borscht soup traditionally served with uszka, and mushroom soup. All of these soups are made with fermented ingredients.
Moczka and siemieniotka
Kutia Made of roasted pęczak (pearled barley) to which a mixture of mead and water is added, kutia is one of the most popular dishes in Eastern Poland
Dried fruit kompot
Carp, herring, and tench - Fish, the main type of food served at Christmas Eve dinners of the Polish nobility, were not always that common with the rest of the populace. With the latter, fish would often be served if there was a river close to the village. Otherwise, families would go without a fish dish or use herring from the Baltic Sea, which was cheap and easily available.
Cabbage with mushrooms or peas
Pierogi - They are an indispensable part of the Christmas Eve supper in all parts of Poland
Greek Christmas food
Melomakarona and kourabiedes are the two varieties of Christmas and New Year's cookies in Greece. The first are semolina, cinnamon, and clove cookies drenched in honey, while the second are rosewater and fresh butter cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar that are normally served on New Year's.
Vasilopita is a cake that is eaten on New Year's Day. Before the cake is baked, a coin covered in foil is placed in it. The New Year is written on top of the cake with almonds. The person who cuts the cake makes the sign of the cross three times above it and then starts serving the pieces, one to each person, the house, Christ, The Virgin Mary and Saint Vasileios. Whoever has the coin in his piece of cake will have luck for the rest of the year.
Chicken Soup Avgolemono - Greek Egg-Lemon Chicken Soup - Either as the first meal after Christmas Eve church services, or the first course at the main meal of the day.
Lahanodolmathes (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Christopsomo: Greek Christmas Bread
Melomakarona: Honey Cookies With Walnuts
Kourabiethes - Greek Shortbread Cookies with Confectioner's Sugar and Almonds
Spanish Christmas Food
Spanish Christmas recipes that have been passed down through the generations are the main event. The holiday season starts with a huge dinner on Christmas Eve and doesn’t let up until the final slice of Roscón de Reyes cake is finished on Three Kings Day on January 6. Christmas in Spain is celebrated, above all else, at the table. Families pack into overflowing dining rooms for holiday meals.. Spanish Christmas recipes that have been passed down through the generations are the main event. The holiday season starts with a huge dinner on Christmas Eve and doesn’t let up until the final slice of Roscón de Reyes cake is finished on Three Kings Day on January 6.
There are five giant meals in all before the season is over: Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day lunch, New Year’s Eve dinner, New Year’s Day lunch, and Three Kings Day lunch.
Each goes a bit like this:
Appetizer: Giant buffet of tapas
First course: Soup
Second course: Roasted meat or fish
Dessert: Three-part banquet of Christmas sweets
A typical Christmas meal is a barbecue, which the Australians call a barbie, consisting of steak, prawns and fish (surf and turf). Ice-cream Cake is a popular Christmas dessert
Rather than have a Christmas pudding or mince pies for dessert, in the summer weather the most popular Christmas desserts are pavlova (a meringue based dessert, covered in cream and fruits, and claimed to be invented by both the Aussies and the Kiwis), ice cream and trays of summer fruit, such as watermelon, strawberries, cherries and pineapple.
Norwegians are traditional when it comes to Christmas food. Nine out of ten eat roasted pork ribs (or belly) and dried mutton ribs on Christmas Eve, and most people continue to enjoy Norwegian Christmas food throughout the holidays.
Common foods include lutefisk (LOO-te-fisk, codfish soaked in lye), julekake (YUH-le-kah-ke, sweet bread with raisins), lefse (flat sweetened bread eaten with butter and sugar), and cookies. For Christmas Eve meal, it is common to eat pork with boiled potatoes, cauliflower, and sweet and sour cabbage. There is special rice porridge (risengrynsgrøt) served with whipped cream and berry sauce, and with a magic almond inside (and a prize for the person who finds it), gingerbread and a spicy punch called gløgg with raisins and chopped almonds. The following day there is another large meal that can last for hours.