Christmas is largely recognised around the world - but it’s not always celebrated as we know it in the UK. Here are a few ways that some other countries celebrate - it might be fun to incorporate traditions from your student’s home country into your own plans. Some of our schools even arrange regular international food parties - asking students to bring along a traditional dish from their home town.
Argentina - Largely a Catholic country, Christmas and Advent are significant events. Christmas trees are popular, despite the warm weather, and these and houses are usually decorated with lights and garlands of gold, green, red and white flowers early in December.
Christmas eve is the main day of celebration when Mass is attended in the afternoon followed by Christmas dinner in the evening. The traditional fare is turkey or pork, salads and Panetone.
After dinner fireworks are often set off to celebrate the beginning of Christmas Day. It’s a very social time when family and friends stay up late and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Happy Christmas in Spanish (the main tongue) is "Feliz Navidad".
France - France has many different Christmas traditions depending on location. Father Christmas (‘le Père Noël’) delivers on the 6th December in some parts to mark the day of Saint Nicolas. In other locations, children’s shoes are placed out on Christmas Eve to be miraculously filled with gifts by the following morning.
The main Christmas meal is usually eaten on Christmas Eve and can include seafood, oysters, snails, salmon, goose - all accompanied with great local wines and champagne.
Children are warned of Father Christmas’s partner ‘Father Spanker’, who gives naughty children a good spanking!
Italy - Cribs are the number one symbol of Christmas in Italy with most houses displaying one on the 8th of December and a baby Jesus appearing on the 24th.
Little meat is eaten on Christmas Eve - with seafood being the traditional supper before Midnight Mass.
Christmas presents are largely opened on Christmas Day, although some families wait until the Epiphany on the 6th January. Like in the UK, children hang stockings - which are filled with sweets, if they’ve been good, or ‘coal’ made of black sugar, if they’ve been bad. Father Christmas isn’t the kind benefactor in Italy but ‘La Befana’, a kind witch who got lost following the Wise Men and now wanders the earth giving gifts to children at Christmas.
Christmas lunch in Italy is a lengthy affair with pasta, pork, sausages, lamb, potatoes and lentils. Desserts include panetone, nougat and pandora - a gold fruitless cake. Nuts are very common and thought to symbolise fertility and prosperity.
Merry Christmas in Italian is - "Buon Natale!"
Japan – With the main religions in Japan being Shinto and Buddhism, Christmas is a fairly new venture in Japan. It’s largely thought to be a time to spread happiness and goodwill.
Christmas Eve is viewed as a romantic day when couples spend time together and may exchange gifts.
Fried chicken is a popular Christmas Day lunch for the Japanese - with recent reports of KFCs being inundated on this special day. Christmas cake is very much like a Victoria sandwich cake decorated with strawberries and cream.
Christmas Day is not a national holiday in Japan with business and schools still open. New Year is often a more important time with celebrations running from the 31st December to 4th January.
South Korea - With around 30% of the population of South Korea practising Christianity, Christmas is celebrated here more so than in other Asian countries. Like the UK many homes and shops put up lights with the capital Seoul decked with lights throughout the season. Giving gifts is common - especially the exchange of money - also popular in other Asian counties. As with Japan Christmas is very much seen as a celebration of romance - couples making a particular effort to be involved.
Santa Claus features at times - but he may be wearing blue rather than the traditional red!
Switzerland - Switzerland is arguably one of the most magical places to celebrate Christmas with snow, christmas trees abound and markets and parades with cow bells and drums.
As with many Christian countries the Epiphany is recognised on the 6th December with gifts delivered by ‘Samichlaus’ - St Nicolas or Santa Claus. Gifts on the 25th December are largely from the Baby Jesus.
The main Christmas meal is devoured on Christmas Eve and usually involves ham and creamy potatoes - sometimes fondue too as a treat.
Merry Christmas in Swiss is - "Fröhlichi Wiehnacht!"
Turkey - With Turkey being 99% Muslim, Christmas is not largely celebrated - although it is acknowledged by some - even if not celebrated. The more important celebration time for secular Muslim Turks is New Year - with many families celebrating at home, or in a restaurant with friends, on New Years Eve. Again roast turkey is favoured and kissing under the mistletoe practised. The Raki is opened and much dancing and frivolities ensue!
You can read about more countries and their Christmas traditions here - http://www.whychristmas.com/