Santa Claus, Papai Noel, Babbo Natale Are Coming to Town: 5 Christmas Traditions from Around the World

3. Austria

In Austria, Christmas is still a deeply religious festival, and although there are many fun traditions, the most closely held are still the ones that center around church life.

The Christmas season begins with the start of Advent. As such, many Austrian families purchase evergreen wreaths set with four candle-holders, then light a candle every Sunday until Christmas. Another advent tradition is St. Nicholas’s Day, which is December 6. Children are given presents by St. Nicholas if they’ve behaved themselves during the year, but if they haven’t, they may get a visit from a terrifying horned monster called Krampus.

Austria is famous for their Christmas markets as every large city and even the smaller towns have them, and people flock to the market to purchase gifts, sweets, and other festive foods.

Like many European cultures, Austria celebrates the primary holiday on Christmas Eve. That’s when the tree is lit for the first time, and a celebratory meal of fried carp or roast goose is eaten.

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4. Mexico

If you happen to be in Mexico during Christmas, you’re in for a whirlwind of celebrations that start on December 12 and go all the way to January 6.

Starting a few days into the Christmas season, children dress up and take part in Posada processions. This tradition is meant to teach children about Mary and Joseph’s struggle to find a home where the baby Jesus could be born. Children in these processions stop at nine different houses (usually family and friends) and sing a song or two. At the first eight houses, the children are told there’s no room for them to come in. At the ninth house, the children are welcomed inside and amused with games like piñata.

Houses in Mexico are decorated with beautiful nativity scenes called nacimientos, which often feature ordinary men and women along with the Wise Men and shepherds.

5. France

It makes sense that many of the best French Christmas traditions center around food. After all, this is the country that’s given us brie, steak frites, macarons, and crêpes. Even the traditional Yule log — a massive cherry wood log that’s brought inside on Christmas Eve and burned all day and night — is sprinkled with red wine to impart a delicious aroma to the flames.

The main Christmas meal is eaten in the wee hours of the morning after families get home from Christmas Eve midnight Mass. This meal, called Réveillon, is a huge spread of delicacies ranging from roast goose or turkey to oysters, foie gras, and cheese. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake decorated to look like a Yule log is the most traditional choice. In regions of France like Provence, the post-midnight Mass meal ends with 13 separate desserts in a specific, traditional order which starts with raisins and ends with nougat, cookies, and other baked goods.

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