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Growing up in the U.K. we have very fond memories of Christmas traditions; decorating the tree, leaving a mince pie out for Santa Claus, filling up our stockings with gifts. There are many more too; some that are shared by lots of families, some that are unique and special on their own and some that have merged together with other traditions as families have grown and blended together. What are your family traditions?

What kinds of traditions happen in other countries around the globe? How many of them have you heard of? Are there children in your class who celebrate with these traditions?

Here are some of our favourites:

Oplatek 

Oplatek, an unleavened wafer, is eaten on Christmas Eve in countries such as Poland. The wafers are broken in to pieces as family members say Merry Christmas or other well-wishes. After the wafers have been eaten, many families will share a special meal together.

Poinsettia 

A floral symbol of Christmas in many countries now, the poinsettia actually originated in Mexican Christmas celebrations. The flower is part of a Mexican legend about a young girl who did not have enough money to buy a gift. After being inspired by an Angel, the girl gathered weeds from the roadside and took them to the church, where they blossomed in to poinsettias.

Poinsettia’s can be seen all around Mexican houses, building and churches during the Christmas period.

KFC

One of the more unusual Christmas traditions is that of Japan. As a country, religions that celebrate Christmas make up a tiny percentage of the Japanese population. However, this hasn’t stopped the people of this vibrant country from celebrating. On Christmas Day, thousands of people visit KFC! Many queue for hours or even order their meals in advance so as not to miss out on the festivities.

Christmas Boats

As a seafaring nation, many people in Greece celebration by decorating Christmas trees…and boats! In popular areas such as Athens, huge boats are decadently decorated in town squares for residents to marvel at.

Jolabokaflod

Our favourite Christmas tradition from around the world has to be this! In fact, our founder Olivia, has already adopted this celebration with her own family. In Iceland, on Christmas Eve, families give each other books as presents. Once the gifts have been exchanged, everyone gets cosy at home with hot chocolate and they spend the evening reading.

This fantastic celebration originally began in World War 2, when paper was one of the few items not to be rationed. Books have become synonymous with Christmas in Iceland and because of it the country has developed into a nation of readers, with recent research suggesting over 50% of Icelanders read more than 8 books per year.

We love this idea!

Want to read some more with your class? Check out these books about Christmas around the world:

Atzi’s Flowers by Carol Lynn Mitchell

A story of the legends of poinsettias in Mexico

Christmas Around The World: Germany

Find our more about Christmas markets and the tale of St. Nicholas

Luna Loves Christmas by Joseph Coelho

While still set in the U.K., this book explores the tradition of volunteering and covers themes of Christmas when parents are separated.

Nikhil and Jay: Off to India by Chitra Soundar

A story of two siblings visiting family in India over the Christmas holidays – the children discover Indian sweets for Father Christmas and special wooden toys.

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

A re-telling of the legend of the Nisse; a character from Scandinavian folklore that visits farms in the winter period.

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