Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! December has arrived and with it the festive vibes. There are as many traditions as countries and cultures, and Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebrations are not the exceptions to this rule. Depending on where in the world you are, there might be different ways to mark the beginning of such a special time of the year.
It doesn't matter if you follow a different theme each year to decorate your Christmas tree or if you don’t even have one! It's always fun to know how Christmas is celebrated around the globe. You never know when you’ll be faced with a Christmas trivia!
If a white-bearded man with a red suit, red-nosed reindeer, and artificial Christmas trees are the first things that come to mind when you think about Christmas, or you are running out of ideas on how to welcome the upcoming year, you might like to learn some interesting Christmas facts and get to know how people around the world say goodbye to the year.
Keep reading this article we’ve written -with the help of Santa’s elves- to find out what else the yuletide season has to offer, apart from Christmas trees and decorations.
Santa’s real name is…
Santa exists! Or well, he existed at some point, just under another name. The figure we currently know as Santa Claus is inspired by a real man, Saint Nicholas, a caritative soul that lived a long long time ago. Known for his acts of selflessness, his memory was kept alive all these years and passed from generation to generation.
During St. Nicholas celebrations kids tend to leave their recently-polished shoes outside during the night and wake up to a pair filled with candy and sugary treats the morning after, representing both the sweetness of Nicholas’ heart and the fact that miracles can happen. This tradition began in Germany and quickly spread throughout some European countries. If you visit any of them during the holidays you can probably take a picture with Saint Nicholas at the Christmas market.
Don´t let anyone tell you how many times you can celebrate New Year’s Eve!
At 12 pm on December 31st, the new year begins, that is no news. Although the hour is the same everywhere, due to the time difference among regions, with a little planning in advance you can take advantage of this asynchronous occurrence and get to live New Year’s Eve on more than one occasion or -why not- Christmas Eve? Keep reading to find out how!
Sydney to Los Angeles The 19-hour time difference between these two locations is enough to have the time of your life at a private New Years' Eve party in Sydney, overlooking the eye-catching fireworks. After that, board a Gulfstream G650 and land in Los Angeles just in time for the second celebration. The price? Only $250,450 for a one-way ticket! Includes alcoholic beverages, catering, and a comfortable king-size bed to catch up on rest, packing Christmas gifts can be very exhausting.
Tokyo to Honolulu What about starting the year in Japan and then embarking on a luxury experience like the one offered by Japan Airlines? The Sky Suite includes a premium dining experience at 30.000 feet in the air. There is also a one-of-a-kind mattress, and matching pillows to drift off peacefully before arriving at your final destination. Incredible landscapes and Hawaiian vibes are definitely a great way to welcome the upcoming year.
Finland to Sweden Everyone should witness the Northern Lights at least once in their life, and if it's during New Year’s Eve, even better! This adventure starts in Finland, where you can marvel at the colorful night sky, and if you are feeling adventurous add dog sledding or whale watching to your itinerary. The magical trip ends in Sweden, which has a 1-hour time difference from the starting point, where you’ll be able to toast again and make your wishes for a second time.
Whoever finds the pickle in the Christmas tree wins!
This tradition has its origin in a 16th-century tale. When two young men were captured and kept prisoners in a pickle barrel, they were struggling to survive when Saint Nicholas arrived at their rescue. Inspired by this, German people hide a pickle in the Christmas tree, and the first person to find it receives a special gift. To this day it is still not known if this tradition was born in Spain or Germany, as the dispute is still open, what matters is that it is a fun one!
Does the Grinch scare you? Wait until you meet Krampus.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is not the only creature that appears around the holiday season. Krampus is one of the scariest Christmas traditions that exists and could inspire a highest-grossing Christmas movie. As opposed to what happens to good boys and girls, who receive a Christmas gift as a prize for their great behavior, those who were naughty during the year run the risk of being kidnapped by a horrific beast and taken away from their families in a sack. Young men from Austria dress up as this evil-like Santa and scare little children, especially during Saint Nicholas’ Eve.
No brooms in sight!
In Norway, it is believed that on Christmas Eve the veil that divides two energetic worlds thins, this is when spirits and witches are allowed to have fun. Seeing Santa Claus flying is fine, but witches can be a bit scary, right? To prevent this, Norwegian people hide all the brooms so that these magical beings can’t use them as means of transport before Christmas dinner. They’ll have to use Santa’s sleigh instead!
This region is not the only one that has a Christmas story revolving around witches. Luckily, this tale is not even similar to a Christmas Carol and has nothing to do with nightmares. Belfana is an old woman that makes her way into Italian homes. By following the Christmas lights she can tell where children live and enter their houses. If they have been behaving well, she will fill their stockings with delicacies and sweets like candy canes. In some cases, she can also leave Christmas presents. The only difference with Santa, apart from the vetements is that this visit typically occurs on January the 5th
Santa Claus is not the only Christmas “Gordo”
Winning €600 million overnight? Sounds like great news to wake up to Christmas morning. “El Gordo” or “The Fat One” is the name of the lottery game played every year, on December 22nd. Every inhabitant in Spain, or almost everyone, buys a ticket. There are whole villages entering together, expecting a Christmas miracle. Best of luck!
Christmas Eve handmade nativity scenes
Most Christmas decorations are inspired in The North Pole but in such a colorful and unique country like Mexico, the typical Christmas tree is not all there is. As Christmas approaches, local gardens start getting full of nativity scenes that display the birth of Jesus Christ. These art samples, called “nacimientos” have different characters that are typically handmade by craftspeople. On each important day, a character is added to this scene, until it is completed with the arrival of the three kings on January the 5th.
Now that you have plenty of information about how each culture and country celebrates the Christmas season, apart from setting up a Christmas tree, dressing up as Santa Claus, or singing a Christmas song, we hope you are inspired to spend the next Christmas day discovering traditions from around the world in person, by experiencing them yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you visit Christmas tree-producing states, like Oregon or North Carolina, or decide to attend a Christmas party in Santa Claus Village, in Finland. The only important thing is getting a new stamp on your passport, and creating unforgettable memories, during these upcoming holidays!
First Christmas celebration abroad? Whether you are planning to visit Europe’s oldest Christmas markets or see how dutch children write Christmas cards, you can count on iVisa to make documentation and Visa processing easier & stress-free. Your first step to a Christmas vacation abroad might be making sure you have the right visa or travel document, you can check exactly what your nationality needs to travel using our visa checker tool.