As the winter season descends upon us, countries around the world come alive with the festive spirit of Christmas. While the core essence of the celebration remains the same – spreading love, joy and goodwill – the unique cultural traditions and customs add something special to the holiday season. Whilst in the UK, we deck the halls, savour mince pies, and eagerly tune in for the Royal Christmas message, other countries celebrate with a twist. Join us on a journey across the globe as we explore how different countries, from the cheerful “Feliz Navidad” in Spain to the lively “Sheng Tan Kuai Loh!” in Singapore – celebrate the magic of Christmas around the world.

1. Spain – “Feliz Navidad!”

In Spain, the Christmas celebration is a lively and vibrant journey, commencing long before December 25th. The festivities start on December 8th with the Feast of Immaculate Conception, marked by a ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ or Midnight Mass, known for its rooster-inspired name. Christmas Eve, or ‘Nochebuena,’ sees families indulging in a feast featuring traditional dishes like ‘Pavo Trufado de Navidad’ or known in English as ‘Turkey stuffed with truffles’. Another tradition involves children singing Christmas carols during ‘Piden El Aguinaldo’ to collect money from neighbours.

The celebration extends into January, ending on the 6th with ‘Epiphany’, or ‘Three Kings Day,’ a time when children eagerly await the arrival of the Three Wise Men, turning Spain’s Christmas into a uniquely cherished and festive experience. Fun traditions, including the playful ‘Dia de losSantos Innocents’ on 28th December and the quirky New Year’s Eve grape-eating tradition, add to the vibrant Spanish holiday spirit.

2. Malta – “il-Milied it-tajjeb!”

Malta, with its rich cultural heritage, celebrates Christmas with a unique blend of religious and secular traditions. During this time, the churches are full of people! The festive spirit gets hands on with the creation of ‘Presepju’ – handcrafted nativity cribs – adorning the churches, a beloved Maltese tradition. These cribs are full of intricate details, featuring ‘Pasturi’ – tiny figurines embodying shepherds and angels – and the ‘three figures of the Magi’ representing the wise men.

On Christmas Eve, families flock to Midnight Mass, setting the stage for a delightful feast the next day with tradition Maltese dishes like ‘hasi’ (the plumpest capon/rooster) and the delectable dessert ‘Qaghatal-Ghasel’ (Treacle Ring) for Christmas Lunch. The festive cheer extends to New Year’s Eve, where the night sky sparkles with fireworks, marking the end of the year with joyous celebrations.

3. Trinidad & Tobago – “Happy Christmas!”

In the vibrant Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, Christmas unfolds as a captivating symphony of music, dance and revelry. The festive spirit ignites with theillumination of Christmas trees in major cities, setting the stage for lively parades and spirited performances. Amidst the jubilation, locals savour the rich flavours of traditional Caribbean dishes, including ‘Pastelles’ (delectable meat-filled pastries) and the renowned ‘black cake’. The infectious rhythm of steelpan music permeates the air, adding a distinctive Caribbean melody to the celebrations. The merriment extends beyond Christmas into the lively and colourful Carnival season that follows shortly after Christmas.

4. Egypt – ‘Eid Milad Majid'

In Egypt, about 15% of the population, mainly the Coptic Christian Community, celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Preceding this, they participate in a 43-day vegan fast called the ‘The Holy Nativity Fast.’ Christmas Eve involves a late-night liturgy in churches, starting around 10.30pm. Families and friends gather from 9.00pm onwards, and services may extend until 4am. Following the service, a festive meal is enjoyed by all, including dishes avoided during Advent, like ‘Fata’ (lamb soup). On January 7th, people exchange ‘kahk’ (special biscuits), during home celebrations. Despite the Christian minority, Egypt embraces the commercial aspects of Christmas, with decorations and festivities widespread. Santa Claus is known as Baba Noël, and in Arabic, ‘Eid Milad Majid’ conveys ‘Merry Christmas.’

5. Singapore - “Sheng Tan Kuai Loh!”

In Singapore, a predominantly multicultural society, the Christmas spirit is embraced with wholehearted enthusiasm. Along the renowned Orchard Road, a bustling shopping district, a captivating display of lights and decorations unfolds. This vibrant area buzzes with the energy of Christmas markets and lively events, solidifying Orchard Road as the ultimate destination for both avid shoppers and those in search of entertainment. Noteworthy attractions, such as ‘Christmas Wonderland’ and St Andrew’s Cathedral with its life-size nativity scene, add to the festive charm.

On Christmas Day, families unite, exchanging gifts amidst the joyful ambience. The day itself becomes a celebration of diversity, marked by a multicultural feast that mirrors the richness of Singapore’s culinary landscape. Christmas in Singapore blends Western traditions with local flavours, evident in dishes like ginger and chilli-infused Roast Turkey. These festivities extend into New Year’s Eve, kicking off the new year with spectacular fireworks at Marina Bay.

6. Kenya – “Heri yaKrismasi!

In Kenya, Christmas is a lively blend of Christian traditions and local customs. Families in Nairobi, the capital city, attend Christmas Eve church services before savouring Nyama Choma (grilled meat) and pilau (spiced rice) in festive meals. However, the festive season extends beyond personal joy; as many Kenyans engage in charitable acts to spread goodwill in their communities. The festive season is marked by vibrant decorations in the city, and the unique blend of traditions include Midnight Church Services, diverse regional dishes and small gift exchanges. While Santa might arrive on a Land-rover or Camel, Midnight Church Services celebrate with hymns and nativity plays. The celebration extends into Christmas morning, featuring barbecues and unique local dishes. The festivities alsocontinue on Boxing Day- officially a public holiday in Kenya. In Swahili, the official Christmas greeting is –‘HeriyaKrismasi’- Merry Christmas!

7. Vietnam – “Giangsinhvuive!”

In Vietnam, Christmas comes alive with its own unique flair, especially in the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh. Even though Christmas isn’t an official holiday and is often reserved for Christians, the excitement is contagious, especially among the younger generation. The city centre, cleared of cars for the occasion, becomes a lively gathering spot where people enjoy the festive ambience with Christmas decorations illuminating hotels and stores. Despite the majority not practicing Christianity, Midnight Mass services draw attendees with Nativity plays and music. Influenced by Vietnam’s colonial past, French traditions endure, evident in nativity scenes in churches and homes, especially in Catholic parishes where streets transform into Christmas-themed displays. The Christmas Eve meal, ‘reveillon,’ even features the iconic 'bûche de Noël' chocolate cake. Despite the tropical climate, the warmth of the season prevails and even Santa Claus, known as 'Ônggià Noel’ adapts to add a touch of charm to the celebration.

As we wrap up this festive journey around the world, one thing becomes abundantly clear – the magic of Christmas transcends borders. From Malta’s hands-on-festive activities, to Christmas markets to the buoyant performances in Trinidad & Tobago, each country adds its own chapter to the global tale of Christmas.

As the winter season surrounds us, let these diverse celebrations inspire your own holiday festivities. Whether it’s the vibrant parades, rich flavours or heartwarming traditions, there’s a world of Christmas waiting to be explored. Even further, why not consider adding a dash of global cheer to your travel plans? Experiencing these unique celebrations firsthand can be the ultimate holiday adventure. See our range of last-minute getaways HERE, for a festive season to remember.