An illustration of a Christmas wreath decorated with ornaments that resemble globes

How People Celebrate Christmas Around the World

Different countries have their own traditions and cultural festivities for celebrating the holidays.

The Christmas season is often stressful for families due to the challenges of buying gifts for loved ones, decorating the house with seasonal ornaments and scheduling plans for winter vacation. While many Americans are busy wondering where and how they should spend Christmas break, other countries are celebrating the holidays with their own cultural traditions.

Germany and Austria

In Austria’s Alpine Region and in some parts of Germany, Christmas represents the time for St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) to visit the good boys and girls at their homes. However, the naughty children are believed to be visited by Krampus, a half-man and half-goat demon who scares them into being good. “Krampus and St. Nick’s other bad boys have their origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, they became part of Christian traditions in which St. Nicholas visited children to reward them on December 5 or 6.” This belief inspired the celebration of Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” during which grown adults dress up as Krampus and march through the streets to scare bad children.

According to local folklore, Krampus punishes the naughty children by whipping them with a birch tree branch or shoving them into a sack and dragging them into hell. In the 1890s, some German and Austrian postcards featured illustrations of Krampus, which inspired similarly themed cards known as Krampuskarten. These postcards often read, “Gruss vom Krampus” (“Greetings from Krampus”) accompanied by a picture of the demon hitting a child with his tree branch, running after them or dragging them away with chains.

In 2004, Krampus was introduced to the United States by art director and graphic designer Monte Beauchamp, who published a book on Krampus cards and displayed it at an art show. Today, Krampus is still very popular in the United States; many people celebrate the demon through parties and Krampus-themed merchandise such as ugly sweaters.


In Mexico, Christmas is a Roman Catholic holiday that’s celebrated throughout December. “Mexican Christmas celebrations begin on December 12, with the birthday of ‘La Guadalupana’ (Virgin of Guadalupe), and end on January 6, with the Epiphany. Children usually do not attend school on January 6. They wake up early in the morning to find gifts or toys kept in their room and figures of the Three Magic Kings at ‘El Nacimiento.'” Moreover, the construction of the “Nacimiento” (Nativity scene) is a popular custom in Mexico, families place a baby Jesus figurine in the nativity scene at midnight on Christmas day.

A similar Mexican Christmas tradition is “Las Posadas,” which is a reenactment of the birth of Jesus where children play the parts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. After the play, families pop fireworks, break a pinata and eat tamales.

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Some cities in India such as Mumbai, Goa and Delhi celebrate Christmas with cultural and Roman Catholic traditions. Much like the United States, many families attend midnight Mass during Christmas. After the Mass, they go home, eat a big feast and exchange Christmas gifts. Around this time, cities are decorated with Christmas lights and a Christmas tree while holiday music plays nonstop. Many people in India also decorate their home with mango or banana leaves. According to Memphis Tours, “In South India, one widespread Christmas tradition is to put a burning earthen lamp on their roofs. This practice symbolizes that Jesus is the light of the world. In north-west India, the Christians narrate the Christmas story and sing melodious carols in their own dialects.”

In Southwest India, Catholic devotees go on a fast from December 1st until the midnight mass on the 24th. In Goa, residents sing Christmas carols and decorate churches, shops and their homes. Moreover, families exchange sweets such as ‘neurons,’ which are fruit cakes stuffed with coconut and dried fruit. Most families eat a delicious dinner before heading to midnight mass, where the church bell rings to symbolize the arrival of Christmas Day. Mistletoe is also hung in India, since it is believed that the plant brings good fortune and ward off evil spirits.

Other Christmas festivities in India include the Magnetic Fields Festival, where people can enjoy traditional folk music, storytelling and various delicacies. Additionally, the Galdan Namchot Festival in Ladakh celebrates Buddhahood and the birth of Buddhist saint-scholar, Tsongkhapa. During this festival, Ladakh is decorated with Buddhist flags to celebrate the beginning of the New Year.

Through their different Christmas celebrations, families in countries like Germany, Austria, India and Mexico can participate in their country’s cultural traditions while spending time together during the holidays.

Caroline Ocampo, The University of Texas at Arlington

Writer Profile

Caroline Ocampo

The University of Texas at Arlington
Creative Writing

I am a down to earth person that loves reading books, spending time with my family and nieces. I also love animals and have a 1-year-old pug named Coco who I love playing with. I am a history major who loves reading about how people lived back then and using my research skills to write an informative article about past events.

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