How do countries around the world celebrate Christmas?

Day 5 of 12 Days of Stories


A Christmas tree stands at the center of the Tanger Outlets in Hershey, PA. In many countries including the United States, the Christmas tree is a popular holiday decoration. (HHS Broadcaster/Ashley Bu)

Ashley Bu, Science and Technology Editor

With Christmas quickly approaching, billions of people all over the world are rushing to plan their festivities. However, each person has different ways of celebrating the special holiday.

Throughout different parts of the winter, people on all seven continents celebrate Christmas with various traditions. Some traditions, such as church services, are universally shared, but others are unique to each specific country.


Although Antarctica has no permanent residents, researchers across the globe commemorate the holiday with a variety of festivities. 

One such activity is known as the “300 Club,” which is an act of relaxing in a hot sauna. As reported by Cool Antarctica, the name of the 300 Club derives from the 300 degree Fahrenheit difference in temperatures between the sauna and its surroundings. Temperatures in saunas can reach over 200 degrees in Fahrenheit, which contrast from the freezing temperatures of Antarctica. 

People in Antarctica sometimes jump into the cold sea in swimsuits as a way to celebrate Christmas. However, they do not stay in the water for too long to prevent hypothermia from occurring.


Residents of Argentina often celebrate Christmas with a fireworks display, which is also known as a “quemar pólvora.” According to the travel site Trafalgar, many of these firework shows occur in the capital city of Buenos Aires where people gather at parks and streets to enjoy the celebration.

Gift giving in Argentina extends into January. On January 6, families celebrate Three Kings Day. Children set their shoes under their bed, Christmas tree, or outside their house to allow the Three Kings to give them small presents.


On the island country of Iceland, the idea of the 13 Yule Lads, a group of mischievous Christmas creatures, is prevalent. Over time, the reputation of the Yule Lads has gone from inconvenient pranksters to beings that bring humor and joy, according to Iceland based travel agency Gray Line Iceland.

Each Yule Lad is named after the impish activities that they enjoy during Christmas time. For example, the “pottasleikir” steals leftover food from pots.

Some Icelandic foods such as smoked lamb, or hangikjot, are a staple in Christmas meals. Leaf bread, or laufabrauð, is a popular side dish that is eaten with lamb or ham. It resembles a snowflake and is fried with oil.


According to the travel advice site LiveJapan, most Japanese inhabitants do not believe in Christianity, so Christmas is often celebrated as a holiday for couples to bond. Some couples spend the holiday going on dates and looking at light displays. However, Christmas can also be spent with family and by going to church services for the 1% of the Japanese population that observes.

Food is also a central part of Christmas celebrations in Japan. People often eat different types of cakes. For example, the strawberry shortcake, a soft, spongy cake made with strawberries and whipped cream, is a popular dessert around Christmas time.

New Zealand

Because New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, inhabitants celebrate Christmas Day during the summertime. According to the New Zealand History website which is run by the New Zealand government, beaches and coastal vacation homes are a popular area to spend Christmas.

New Zealand stores also celebrate Christmas with large parades featuring large floats of Santa Claus. The tradition originated in the 1900s where companies created large floats of Santa and other creatures to attract customers into their stores.

Sierra Leone

According to the French news site RFI, Christmas street carnivals crowd cities in Sierra Leone. Performers in these carnivals often showcase their music and other works of art. Other festival goers enjoy the variety of food offered, which can include pepper soup and cassava leaves.

Apart from the festiveness of the carnivals, citizens of Sierra Leone spend Christmas Eve at the church. Such services can last for around three hours, and swing-style Christmas songs play while friends and family spend time together.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Christmas songs begin to be played as early as the end of October, according to Loop, a Caribbean-wide news app. Famous carols and hymns such as “Silent Night” are played in Sunday schools and on various radio stations.

In St. Kitts and Nevis, candle services and Christmas carols are performed at Sunday schools. People light candles while children sing songs and recite poems to the audience. When the service is finished, the children receive Christmas presents for their performance.