Around the world, Christmas traditions vary, but sharing a joyous spirit is a common theme:

Christmas traditions in Australia

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Photo: Pinterest

For Australians, living Down Under in the Southern Hemisphere means that Christmas falls during the summer season. On Christmas day, many families will celebrate with a lunchtime barbie to grill, and then head to the beach. Father Christmas, as Santa is known to Australian kids, is even known to make an appearance at the beach, sometimes even arriving by surfboard instead of his signature sleigh.

Another Australian tradition is "Carols by Candlelight", which takes place in cities and towns across Australia, where groups of people gather and sing Christmas songs, holding candles. The biggest celebrations in Melbourne and Sydney are even televised.

Christmas traditions in Iceland

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Photo: Momondo

In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 tricksy troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland. The Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic) visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.

Clad in traditional Icelandic costume, these fellas are pretty mischievous, and their names hint at the type of trouble they like to cause: Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod), Giljagaur (Gully Gawk), Stúfur (Stubby), Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker), Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper), Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker), Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer), Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler), Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper), Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper), Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer), Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) and Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer), as Momondo cites.

Christmas traditions in Germany

Not to be confused with Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas), Nikolaus travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6 (Nikolaus Tag) and leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany, and particularly in the Bavarian region. St. Nicholas also visits children in schools or at home and in exchange for sweets or a small present each child must recite a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. In short, he’s a great guy. But it isn’t always fun and games.

St. Nick often brings along Knecht Ruprecht (Farmhand Rupert). A devil-like character dressed in dark clothes covered with bells and a dirty beard, Knecht Ruprecht carries a stick or a small whip in hand to punish any children who misbehave.

Christmas traditions in Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the big celebration is on Christmas Eve, where a traditional feast, including fried carp is served. Many families will buy the fish live in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and keep it as a sort of pet in their bathtub until it's time to feast. However, nowadays many families will release the carp into a river on Christmas Eve, rather than eat it to avoid animal cruelty.

There are also various fortune telling superstitions associated with the holiday, especially for single ladies. Young women hoping for love will face away from a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands pointing toward the door, the young woman can look forward to a marriage proposal in the coming year, according to CNN.

Christmas traditions in China

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Photo: Thatsmags

While in many countries around the world candies and pastries reign supreme when it comes to a Christmas sweet, in China, apples are the festive treat of choice. It's believed the tradition comes from the similarity of the Chinese word for apple -- ping guo -- to the Chinese word for Christmas Eve -- ping'an ye.

Although Christmas isn't an official holiday in China, it is becoming more and more celebrated each year. 'Peace apples' have become the go-to gift to give -- they are regular apples packaged in special boxes or wrapped in colorful paper, sometimes adorned with Christmas messages.

Christmas traditions in Japan

In Japan, a white-bearded man has become associated with Christmas, and it's not Santa Claus. KFC's Colonel Sanders makes an appearance at millions of Japanese Christmas dinners, via his smiling face on red buckets of fried chicken. That's right, the American fried chicken fast-food restaurant has become the go-to for Christmas dinner in Japan.

The story is that in the early 1970s, the manager of the first KFC in Japan began marketing a "party barrel" of fried chicken to be sold on Christmas, after it came to him in a dream. He said it was inspired after he overheard foreigners in his restaurant talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas. He thought a dinner of fried chicken would make a great substitute, and began marketing it as a way to celebrate Christmas. By 1974, KFC took the Christmas marketing plan national across Japan, and it took off.

As of 2016, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families celebrate the Christmas holiday with a KFC dinner tradition.

Christmas traditions in Mexico

In cities and towns across Mexico, the Christmas festival of Las Posadas is celebrated between December 16 and 24. Las Posadas commemorates the long journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of lodging, a safe place where Mary could give birth to baby Jesus. During Las Posadas, which is Spanish for "the inns" or "shelter," children dress in robes, with an angel, Mary and Joseph represented. Adults and musicians follow the procession, stopping at preselected homes.

Each home represents an inn and when the procession requests lodging, they are provided with refreshments, and Christmas songs are sung. The celebration lasts nine nights in honor of Mary's nine months of pregnancy. On the final night, the children celebrate by breaking open piñatas filled with candy and toys.

Christmas traditions in Venezuela

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Love Christmas, but think it could be improved by a spot of roller-blading? If the answer is yes, visit Caracas, Venezuela this year. Every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents head to church in the early morning – so far, so normal – but, for reasons known only to them, they do so on roller skates.

This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church in safety, before heading home for the less-than-traditional Christmas dinner of ‘tamales’ (a wrap made out of cornmeal dough and stuffed with meat, then steamed).

Christmas traditions in Norway

For some Norwegians, newer Christian Christmas traditions are mixed with ancient pagan ones. One Christmas Eve tradition is to hide all broomsticks before going to bed, as it is said that wicked witches and evil spirits that come out the night of December 24 will steal any broomsticks they see to fly on.

A sweeter Norwegian tradition is the serving of "riskrem," a chilled rice pudding with berry sauce, for dessert. Families will place a single blanched almond inside the rice pudding, and whoever finds it will get a small prize, and is also said to have good luck.

Christmas traditions in Philippines

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Photo: Momondo

The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven barangays (villages) take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern.

Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a metre in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six metres in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns.

Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
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