Need to know

Christmas traditions from around the world

Christmas is fast approaching, and although it’s nearly time to get parcels in the post for those of us based in the UK, did you know that if you celebrate in the Netherlands or Belgium, the time for most gift-giving has been and gone? There, and in many countries around the world, the feast of St Nicholas takes centre stage and is celebrated with presents and food on the 6th of December.

Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Here are some of the most unusual ones from locations around the world – all of which you can reach using our range of international parcel services.

Christmas Island

This festive-sounding commonwealth territory of Australia sits in the Indian Ocean and has a population of a little over 2000, boosted by tourists who come to fish, visit the jungle, and watch the Christmas Island red crabs make their annual migration to the sea. At this time of year, however, the island is quiet and the majority of Islanders gather around Flying Fish Cove for a snorkel or dive, followed by Christmas lunch from the barbecue.

Guatemala

Guatemalans like to build nativity scenes known as ‘Nacimiento’ or ‘Belen’, decorated with brightly-dyed sawdust. Christmas Eve is an important day here, with families gathering for their main meal, followed by fireworks at midnight to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After this, prayers are said and presents are opened in the early hours of Christmas Day.

Kenya

Here, as in many places, Christmas is predominantly about spending time with family so travelling is key. Houses and churches are decorated in bright colours, with balloons, ribbons, flowers and green leaves all making an appearance. Fir trees (traditional in the UK) are in short supply here, so Cypress trees are often used instead.

Greenland

Greenland is rumoured to be Father Christmas’ home country, as he is said to have a home in the far north at Spraglebugten. Despite the man himself being so close at hand, Christmas trees don’t grow this far north, and have to be imported from Denmark instead. Alternatively, families put up traditional decorations of driftwood trimmed with heather. The festive dish of choice here is Kiviak, which involves stuffing 500 local auk birds into a whole seal skin, sealing it with fat, pushing the air out with a rock, and leaving the auk to ferment for seven months. This delicacy is then enjoyed throughout the winter.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC is another place where Christmas Eve takes centre stage, with communities gathering in their local churches to observe Christmas more as a religious festival than as a commercial celebration. On 24th December, grand musical evenings are held in churches, which often have five or six choirs each. This is followed by a nativity play, where locals compete to show off their best acting skills in productions which can go on until the early hours.

Italy

In Italy, the main day of present giving is Epiphany, rather than Christmas Day. According to Italian folklore, gifts are delivered by an old lady named La Befana, known as a friendly witch who rides through the night sky on a broomstick, wearing a black shawl and climbing down chimneys to leave stockings full of presents (a lot like Father Christmas).  Rather than a mince pie and sherry, families leave a small glass of wine and a plate with some morsels of local food, for La Befana to snack on before heading to the next house.

Last Posting Dates

Whether you’re building a ‘Nacimiento’, decorating driftwood trimmed with heather or simply tucking in to a few mince pies; one tradition many will be taking part in this Christmas is sending cards and gifts. If you want yours delivered in time for Christmas, you’ll need to know the last posting dates! Send by Wednesday 21st December for our Two Day Service or Thursday 22nd December for our Next Day Service. You can find out more information on our page about Christmas last posting dates.