Christmas celebrations around the world

All over the world, Christmas is celebrated in a different, unique way. How is it like to celebrate Christmas in Brazil, and how is it different from the Christmas celebrations in the UK, Malaysia or elsewhere?

We’re blessed with a colourful group of Mama-writers, coming from very different parts of the world. Let’s hear it from them!



EcoMama: “In Brazil I grew up celebrating Christmas Eve, with a special dinner and presents at midnight. At least that was the goal, but as kids we always managed to convince my parents to open the presents soon after dinner.

In Italy where we currently live and where my husband is from, we usually go to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve and we have a big family lunch on Christmas Day, where my in-laws also give presents.”


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BananaMama: “I grew up Buddhist, but we do ‘celebrate’ Christmas, as our mum, my sisters and I went to the Convent School in Johor Bahru, which is a school originally set up by missionary nuns. We have a small plastic tree with ornaments, which my mum bought when we were small children in Singapore at the CK Tang department store (it’s now Tang’s) across the causeway. We still put it up every year!

We’d have Christmas lunch at a Catholic family friend’s home. However, later when my sister married a British man and lived in Singapore and in Johor Bahru for a while, we’d have Christmas lunch at her house. It’s the only time of the year we eat roasted parsnips plus a prawn cocktail salad – staples from my brother-in-law’s childhood Christmases.

Now that they’re back in the UK, we just take my parents out for Christmas lunch, usually at the George and Dragon Restaurant in Johor Bahru.”

ActiveMama: “Every year we go to my mom‘s house for lunch on Christmas day. The day before we will go over to help her prepare all the vegetables and make all the mince pies and just get everything ready for the next day. On Christmas day we will wake up early to call the family in New Zealand, and open some of our presents. We will then grab whatever food we are supposed to prepare – usually vegetables – and go over to my mom’s by 9am. It’s a pretty full day.”

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United Kingdom

KaraokeMama: “Usually, we go for a brisk walk on Christmas Day and then come home to turkey and roast dinner. The best UK Christmas I ever had though, was when I went to a spa. This year, our family will be skiing in Hokkaido. I can’t wait!”

VentureMama: “When in the UK, we usually share the time between families. Christmas for us is about time with them. And it changes where we are, slightly depending on whose turn it is to cook Christmas dinner. Christmas Eve is all about the preparation for Christmas dinner. We usually have a Christmas film in the evening with a couple of games.

On Christmas day we wake the kids (when they were younger, it was the other way around!) and open some of the gifts.

We then travel to great-grannie’s small country cottage where all my husband’s family are (a big family, so probably about 50 people). This is a big affair where we have mince pies, port and other treats by the cozy open fireplace, whilst all catching up and exchanging secret Santa gifts.

Then we have to go to the family whose turn it is to do Christmas dinner with immediate family (grandparents, siblings and their children). Then there is gift opening, followed by family games until the early hours of the morning with more food. Lots of Christmas cheer included!”


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TravelMama: “Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are probably the most important family holidays in Poland. The 24th of December, which is called Wigilia, is usually spent preparing traditional meals, prepping the house, and dressing up. Whilst we do this, we will be listening to carols. Some, like my husband, will do their last-minute Christmas shopping…

All the dishes should be cooked, and housework should be done before the first star appears in the sky. The first star corresponds to the Star of Bethlehem and once it’s spotted, we all sit at the table. We start the meal by breaking the Christmas wafers (opłatek) together and exchanging wishes for good health and prosperity.

According to Polish tradition there should be 12 dishes on the table, according to the number of apostles or months in the year. Most of the dishes served are cooked just for this special day, and only once a year. Some of the traditional dishes are Christmas Eve carp, Jewish-style carp, herring, pierogi, and poppy seed cake.

We always make sure that there is a free seat at the table for an unexpected guest. Poles believe that no one should be alone on Christmas Eve. After the meal we will unwrap presents, play games, and probably watch a Christmas movie.”

The Netherlands

DurianMama: “Mmmm lekker!’ exclaims my grandmother after drinking her fourth advocaat, a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar, and quite some brandy. At this stage she starts to sing and dance on the table, and we normally hide the bottle from her. It doesn’t work. She’s too smart and always finds out where her favourite Christmas treat is. Oh well. It’s time to celebrate! Snow is blazing around the house, a windchill makes your hands and feet feel numb and Santa is running around the country to ensure all kids young and old are getting their presents.

Christmas in the Netherlands happens over the course of two days. On the first day of Christmas (Eerste Kerstdag), we are woken up by the kids early morning, who’ll find presents under the tree from Santa. Normally this is the day to celebrate with our own family, whereas on the second day of Christmas (Tweede Kerstdag), the in-laws are paid a visit for lunch or dinner. On all occasions, the focus is on food and drinks like eggnog or advocaat, exchanging presents and being together.”

Still thinking about presents for the kids? We’ve listed a few presens here that are not plastic toys… Or if you’d like to take the family out for a Christmas buffet, have a look here at the restaurants in KL we think are fab.

Wherever you are this Christmas, whether you celebrate or not, we wish you peace, love, good food, happiness with your friends, family and other beloved in the last month of the year. Merry Christmas!

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