Secret pickles, fried caterpillars, and yule goats: Christmas traditions from around the world

As the holiday season approaches full swing here in the UK, you might be getting curious about the different Christmas traditions found across the globe.

From the quaint living rooms of Germany to the sunny beaches of South Africa, each country has its own unique customs and ways to celebrate at Christmastime – some of which are familiar, others not so much!

In this article, StovesAreUs explore five global festive celebrations, offering a glimpse into the cultural differences that set these traditions apart from the familiar Yuletide scenes of the UK. Prepare to be enchanted as we embark on a joyful adventure around the world, celebrating the magic of Christmas in its many vibrant forms.

Germany: Secret pickles and opening presents on the 24th

Our tour kicks off with the cosy warmth of a German Christmas, where Gemütlichkeit reigns supreme. In Germany, the festive season is a harmonious blend of centuries-old customs and modern merriment. From adorning the Christmas tree with a secret pickle, to savouring Stollen and Lebkuchen, each tradition adds a touch of familial joy.

The anticipation builds with the countdown on the calendar, which reaches its crescendo with gift-opening on December 24th rather than on the 25th. With wooden nutcrackers and empty stockings by the fire, Germany’s Christmas is a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Japan: KFC, strawberry shortcake, and origami swans

Step into the captivating world of Japanese Christmas, a fusion of modernity and unique cultural twists. In Japan, Christmas Eve holds a special place akin to Valentine’s Day, marked by the glow of lights and the aroma of KFC and strawberry shortcake. Origami swans grace the Christmas tree, adding an artistic touch to the festive atmosphere.

With none of the traditional fireplaces or stockings, the Japanese celebration takes a departure from UK traditions, instead showcasing a delightful blend of global and local influences.

The Netherlands: Shoes by the fire and celebrating on the 5th

Experience the enchantment of a Dutch Christmas, where Sinterklaas takes centre stage. The scene unfolds with a shoe by the fire, awaiting the arrival of presents. The midwinter horn resonates with ancient Dutch folklore, while dolls of Sinterklaas and Sooty Piet add another touch of tradition to the ambiance.

Pine, holly boughs, and candles create a festive setting, a nod of familiarity to the typical Christmas tree found in UK homes. However, the Dutch celebration takes place two weeks early on December 5th, making it one of the more unique Yuletide customs.

South Africa: Fried caterpillars and cricket

Swap snowflakes for sunshine in the South African Christmas celebration, where the holiday season takes on a distinctly summery vibe. Picture a window overlooking a sunny beach, a table adorned with plates of fried caterpillars and braai (grilled BBQ meat), and the promise of outdoor sports for some Yuletide fun.

A stocking by the fire and a calendar counting down to December 25th add a touch of familiarity, while the tradition of a post-lunch nap with an eye mask on the sofa offers a unique twist to the UK’s winter festivities.

Sweden: Yule goats and log gifts  

We end our adventure in Sweden, where Christmas magic unfolds under the cover of darkness. Picture a window shrouded in night, a Christmas tree draped in flags, and a traditional festive smorgasbord on the table.

The exchange of gifts takes place in the evening on Christmas Eve, adding a sense of cosiness to the festivities. A Yule goat toy and a log of wood as a humorous gift highlight the Swedish penchant for unique and playful traditions.

Have a wonderful Christmas – wherever you are

Christmas is a special time to celebrate the home, family, and warmth, and so it’s understandable that different countries have their own unique ways to mark the occasion.

This article aims to provide an insight into the similarities and differences between the way we celebrate Christmas and the customs of the rest of the world, emphasising the distinctiveness of each country’s Christmas traditions while noting what we have in common.

Whether you’re having Christmas in a warm country or a cold one, during the day or at night, make sure the atmosphere you create is as cosy as can be. Serve delicious food, exchange gifts with your loved ones, get a roaring fire going, and do what makes you merry – it is Christmas, after all!

StovesAreUs, part of the Stores Direct Group and one of the largest online retailers in the country, is based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Leaders within the retail sector, StovesAreUs are committed to bringing high-quality products and excellent levels of customer service at the best value, with two large showrooms located in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Photo by Tim Gouw