Many people in Australia celebrate Christmas. It is a time for family and friends to get together, to exchange gifts or enjoy a special meal. For many people, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.


How is Christmas celebrated in other countries?

What traditions are followed?

Let's visit some countries to find out!


ENGLAND           "Merry Christmas"

Christmas celebrations began in the year 596, when monks brought the Christian religion to England. 

As it is winter at this time, a hot dinner of roast turkey followed by plum pudding is eaten. 

Plum pudding was originally called 'frumenty' and was a type of porridge. Over the years, the recipe changed when dried plums, spice, eggs, fruit and breadcrumbs were added. the mixture was put into a cloth and boiled for hours.

Children wrote letters to Father Christmas, who they believed delivered presents to their stockings hung over the mantlepiece. The letters were thrown into the fire - it was believed that Father Christmas could read the smoke!

The tradition of hanging stockings began with the story that Father Christmas dropped some gold coins when coming down the chimney. Luckily, some dropped into the stockings that were hanging to dry by the fire!

The day after Christmas is called 'Boxing Day'. It is also called 'St Stephen's Day'. It is the day that small boxes containing coin donations for the poor ( alms) were broken open and given to the needy. Servants also opened their 'tip' boxes on this day.

FRANCE          "Joyeux Noel"

Children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from 'Pere Noel'. His stern friend is Pre Fouettard, who tells Pere Noel how each child has behaved during the year.

French homes display a nativity scene which are filled with small clay figures called 'santons' or little saints.

In the north of France, children are given gifts on December 6 which is St Nicholas Day

The feast of Christmas is called 'le revellion' and is held after midnight mass ( church) on Christmas Eve. A favourite dessert is a Yule Log - a cake in the shape of a log called 'buche de noel'.

GERMANY          "Frohliche Weinachten"

Like some of the French, Germans also celebrate St Nicholas Day on December 6, where gifts of sweets and chocolate are left in children's shoes.

Children leave letters on their windowsills for 'Christkind', a winged figure dressed in white who delivers gifts.

Children count down the days until Christmas using an Advent calendar. They open a small window on the calendar each day that reveals a picture. Germans also have an advent wreath called a 'Adventskranz' which is placed on a table with 4 candles in the centre. One candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas - the last on Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas is called 'Der Weihnachtsmann' and he delivers presents under the tree.

The German people began the tradition of the Christmas tree - it meant 'new life' after the long winter


ITALY          "Buon Natale"

Eight days before Christmas, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing. They are given money to buy presents.

A fast is held on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day a celebration meal is eaten. Panettone ( light fruit bread/cake) is usually eaten.

On January 6, presents are given, usually delivered by 'Befana' - an ugly witch on a broomstick. Legend says that Befana was told by the 3 kings when Jesus was born. She was busy and did not visit the baby. Changing her mind, she got lost and has been flying around ever since, delivering presents to the homes of children. She slides down chimneys filling stockings with presents for well behaved children. It is said she delivers coal to the children who have not behaved well during the year.


UNITED STATES of AMERICA      "Merry Christmas"

The Americans invented the term 'Santa Claus' in the 1860's. It came from the Dutch word 'Sinterklass'.

Before Santa, St Nicholas flew around the world in a wagon without reindeer. He did not live at the North Pole, nor did he wear a red suit. With the invention of Santa came the introduction of the red suit, reindeer and the North Pole!

Early settlers from Europe brought their traditions with them when they moved to America and these traditions became mixed over time. The food eaten on Christmas Day is similar to England ( where many settlers came from) - turkey, duck or ham followed by plum pudding or pumpkin pie.

Homes are decorated with holly and mistletoe. Most homes have a Christmas tree.



As it is hot at Christmas, more people eat cold meat and salad on Christmas Day, although some still have the traditional hot dinner of turkey and plum pudding.

Children hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve and trees are decorated. Houses are often decorated with lights.

Since 1937, Carols by Candlelight has become an annual event, with people coming together to sing Christmas carols.

Australians often decorate their homes with Christmas bush - an Australian native plant with little red flowered leaves - or a poinsettia - a red leafed plant.



"Christmas Customs" Why Christmas 3/10/06

"Christmas traditions around the world" Santa's Net 3/10/06




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