How people celebrate Christmas Eve around the world

Whether you’re celebrating a religious festival or a more secular occasion, you’re sure to have your own selection of rituals or customs that make the holiday season special. Here are some of the weird and wonderful Christmas Eve traditions from across the globe.

Bring your tree indoors
Your tree might be up already, but in countries including Germany, Slovakia and Serbia, Christmas Eve is the day you bring your tree in and spend time making a fuss of it with lights and baubles.

Go to midnight mass
A Christian tradition across the globe, even if you’re not religious, midnight mass is a chance to sing, reflect and revel in a meditative space. It can add depth and meaning to what some see as a retail experience.

Feast after dark
Once midnight mass is done, it is tradition in many countries to exchange presents (yes, a day early), feast afterwards, and eat late into the night. In Poland, many families indulge in a multi-course vigil supper known as Wigilia; in Lithuania, people host Kucios, and in Iceland, lamb is the star at Hangikjot.

Go roller skating
Swap out ice skating – in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, it has become the custom to roller skate to church on Christmas Eve and in the week leading up to it. Roads are closed for the occasion.

Feast with loved ones
In Spain, Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena. As part of the celebration, many families share a large meal together that typically centres around turkey, lamb or seafood.

Catholics in Spain might then attend midnight mass, or Misa del Gallo, to celebrate the birth of Jesus with music provided by guitars, hand drums and tambourines.

Have a torch procession

To ‘keep witches at bay’, it is a tradition in Agnone in Italy to host Carnevale Agnonese – where people take to the streets holding homemade wooden torches aloft.

Head to the sauna
You might not have the excuse of snow, but that’s no reason not to do as the Finns, who are big fans of spending the afternoon of Christmas Eve in the sauna. You’ll be all aglow and relaxed ahead of the big day.

Hide almonds in porridge
Another Scandinavian tradition is to start the day with a big bowl of rice porridge, studded with almonds. You’re said to be guaranteed good luck for the new year if you unearth one of the nuts.

Feast of the Seven Fishes
A huge seafood and pasta dinner is the tradition for Italians on Christmas Eve, and celebrates the vigil before the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. The tradition of serving seven different seafood dishes stems from the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve.

Waiting for the stars
On Christmas Eve in Poland, many families share oplatek (an unleavened religious wafer), each person breaking off a piece as they wish each other Merry Christmas. Dinner may not begin until the first star appears in the night sky and, traditionally, an extra setting is left at the table should someone show up uninvited.

Go shopping
According to China Daily, sales volume on Christmas Eve is its highest for the whole year.

Christmas apples wrapped in cellophane are a popular holiday gift in China, which is said to be because the word ‘apple’ sounds similar to ‘Christmas Eve’ in Mandarin.

Beat superstition
Before Christianity came to the Danes, Christmas Day was a celebration of brighter days, jol, as it occurred just before the winter solstice. Today, homes are decorated with superstitious characters called nisser, who are believed to provide protection. On the evening of 24 December, Danish families place their Christmas tree in the middle of the room and dance around it while singing carols.


Christmas is not an official holiday in Japan, and is not widely celebrated, however, 24 December has taken on its own special significance in recent years. A trend has sprung up for people to tuck into Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve, and we’re totally on board with that.

Celebrate with fireworks
Central American countries, such as El Salvador, toast Christmas with firework displays on 24 and 25 December. Children celebrate with smaller firecrackers called volcancitos (little volcanoes) and estrellitas (little stars) while those who are a little older tend to prefer the larger varieties and Roman candles.

What are your Christmas Eve traditions? Who do you spend the day with? Have you kept any traditions from when you were a child?

– With PA

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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