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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

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Christmas Traditions From Around the World

Christmas Traditions From Around the WorldAround the world, people are preparing for the elaborate Christmas celebrations of their respective countries. Because the United States is the "melting pot" nation, we have the pleasure of indulging in a great number of Christmas traditions from all over the world.

Still, there are some traditions that never quite made it to the States, and others that have simply gotten lost in the mix or have gone out of fashion over time.

Why not expand upon your family's holiday traditions by including some interesting ways of celebrating from around the world? Below, we have compiled a list of our favorite ways of celebrating, so you can pick and choose what you like and add to your family's Christmas festivities.

St. Nicholas' Day

In Germany and Holland, little boys and girls eagerly await St. Nicholas' Day. This holiday is celebrated on December 6th and involves a lot of feasting and gift giving. Additionally, children leave their shoes out the night before, and kindly St. Nicholas fills them with small toys and treats to be enjoyed the next morning. 

While making a huge deal out of St. Nicholas' Day might not be practical for an American family, reading about the Saint and letting the children leave out their shoes to receive a small token gift are fun ways to celebrate.

St. Lucia's Day

For the Swedish, the holiday celebrations begin on St. Lucia's Day, which is celebrated on December 13th. On this day, the oldest daughter in the household wakes up early to don a white dress and place an evergreen wreath upon her head before serving the rest of the family coffee and pastries. 

Of course, the rest of the kids could be just as involved if you'd like to make this a fun family tradition in your household. Include a bit of reading about St. Lucia as your family enjoys their morning treats to round out the celebration. 


While caroling was once a common Christmas tradition here in the U.S., it has seen a rapid decline in popularity in recent years. Still, in many European countries such as England, the tradition is alive and well. In fact, it is one of the most beloved holiday traditions for many English families. 

Why not gather some friends and family for a fun Christmas-caroling outing? Just don't forget to pack hot cocoa and mittens!


Christmas decorations all over the world involve light. One of the most interesting light decorations is the Mexican farolito. This paper lantern decoration is used to light up the streets in celebration of Christmas, and is made by placing sand (for weight) and a candle inside of a paper bag. The candle is then lit in order to give a beautiful glowing effect to the bag.

Obviously this isn't the safest decoration around, but you can make your version safer by using battery-operated candles and using them for short periods of time only. 

Letters to Father Christmas

If your family usually writes to Santa Claus during the Christmas season, you can add to the magic by sending your letters off in the English fashion. The boys and girls of England send their letters to Father Christmas by placing them in the fireplace and burning them. The letter then turns to ash and reaches the Christmas hero by magic.

Don't have a fireplace? No problem! The magic is surely just as effective if the letter is burned on a fire pit.

Gift Verses

Sweden and Holland add to the gift-giving experience by personalizing each gift with a special verse or poem. This is added as part of the gift wrapping and is meant to be read before the gift is opened. This adds a new element to gift giving, shows a special thoughtfulness on the gift-giver's part, and makes gift exchanges more interesting for everyone involved. 

If you plan to implement this holiday tradition, be sure to communicate your plans with the entire family so everyone can participate.

3 Kings Day

For some countries, 3 Kings Day is a very special day celebrated on January 6th. Spain and Mexico are two countries where this holiday is celebrated most heavily, and the festivities are quite grand in these locations.

The party for this holiday generally includes a huge feast, which is followed up by the sweet and delicious dessert called "king's bread". A tiny plastic figure of a baby is baked into the bread, and the person who finds the baby is said to have good luck. 

Additionally, 3 Kings Day is often when the children in these countries receive their gifts. As is traditional in many other countries, shoes are left out to receive gifts, but in this case the gifts are brought by the three kings as opposed to St. Nick. 

While having a huge feast and gift exchange on 3 Kings Day may not be feasible, baking a loaf of king's bread could be a fun activity to finish off the Christmas season!

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Topics: Holidays

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