People From Around The World Share Their Unique Christmas Traditions

"We keep our Christmas dinner simple. It is not as spectacular as Christmas in other places. My Grandma cooks every year."

How do you celebrate Christmas? Perhaps you listen to your favorite Christmas songs, organize an annual Christmas Eve party with your family, or share a traditional Christmas dinner. But one thing's for sure: everyone's families celebrate differently, and that's a beautiful thing. 

So, to find out how people all over the world are celebrating Christmas, Balsam Hill, a company that provides artificial, realistic Christmas decorations, asked 25 families to share their personal experiences. The families divulge their recipes, their traditions, their schedules, their favorite memories, and more, all while giving us an inside glimpse at their different cultures and practices. 

For example, Charlotte from Sydney, Australia, says they "always have steak, sausages, chicken skewers and sweet potato," per Australian barbecue. She shares the meal with her fiancé, Stephen. 

Another family in Lima, Peru says they eat everything from potato salad with bacon, to panettone with hot chocolate for dessert. 

"Christmas makes me feel close to my family in Peru even though we are miles apart now that I live in the UK. It is a great way for my daughters to learn about Peruvian customs," Franca says. 

Check out more of their stories below from Balsam Hill

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1. Bucharest, Romania

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"For our starter we eat borscht, a sour beetroot soup served with meatballs. The main dish is usually meat and sometimes fish. But mainly it's sausages, pork, and chicken. It is more traditional for Romanian families to eat pork for their main dish. For dessert, we usually eat a variety of sponge cakes.

We keep our Christmas dinner simple. It is not as spectacular as Christmas in other places. My Grandma cooks every year."

— Alexandra

2. Sydney, Australia

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"We always have steak, sausages, chicken skewers and sweet potato as part of a traditional Aussie barbecue. It is 86 degrees Fahrenheit after all! My lovely fiancé, Stephen, cooks the meal for the two of us to share. 

The meal is special for us as it is the only time of the year when you can get away with preparing endless amounts of food that you can devour."

— Charlotte

3. Kharkiv, Ukraine

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"The dumplings we have for our main dish are served with a mushroom soup, a compote and kutia, which is a Lenten dish made from different types of cooked wheat. Traditionally there should be 12 dishes on the table, one candle and a sprig from the Christmas tree. However, during the famine people modified this tradition to have 12 ingredients on the table, which makes it more convenient for smaller families who cannot eat that much in one sitting! 

Every year the old people sing koliadka, a traditional Christmas song. I love it because it is funny and adorable."

— Denys

4. Guadalajara, México

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"We eat food inspired by our Italian and Mexican roots. For the Mexican side, we eat Turkey on Christmas Eve, a special Mexican soup called menudo, a hot beverage called champurrado and fried flour tortillas with a sweet sauce on top for dessert. For the Italian side, we eat bolognese, white lasagne, salmon, cannelloni, panettone and nougat. For dessert, we enjoy profiteroles.

My husband's dad is the best chef, so I know it will always be delicious no matter what we eat."

— Karla

5. Lima, Peru

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"For Christmas dinner we also eat potato salad with bacon, mayonnaise, and turkey stuffing. The stuffing is made from minced chicken, minced beef, ham, raisins, olives, nuts, bread loaf and eggs. For dessert, we eat panettone with hot chocolate. My husband does the cooking under my supervision! 

Christmas makes me feel close to my family in Peru even though we are miles apart now that I live in the UK. It is a great way for my daughters to learn about Peruvian customs." 

— Franca

6. Tallinn, Estonia

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"Our Christmas meal begins with a bottle of champagne, which we share along with various canapes. The starter tends to be a seafood platter, served with wholemeal bread, butter, homemade mayonnaise and shallot vinegar served with a dry white wine. Then we move onto the red wine to go with our next course, which is turkey or a capon and a mixture of winter vegetables. For dessert, we have a yule log, a huge quantity of chocolate and then we return to the champagne. The meal ends with a cheese board, alongside plates of nuts, fruits, chocolates and more wine, naturally.

My wife and I are French but this year we celebrated Christmas in Estonia, away from our family in France so we had to adapt our meal to whatever local produce we could find."

— Laurene

7. Tunbridge Wells, England

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"The best part of Christmas dinner is the pigs in blankets, which I love to dip in the bread sauce. We also have carrots, stuffing, mashed swede, sprouts, cranberry sauce, roast parsnips and potatoes. My parents are pescatarians but my mum still roasts a turkey for my grandparents, my brother and I. My parents don't really drink alcohol so unfortunately there will be only one bottle of wine between 6.

Every year the dog sneaks into the dining room and munches through Christmas paraphernalia, such as the paper napkins and cracker debris."

— Leonie

8. Andalucia, Spain

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"At Christmas, there are 4 courses. For the appetizer, a bottle of red wine and a mixture of Iberian dishes can be found on the table, including cured ham, salchichon, manchego and prawns. Then it's the noodle soup, followed by the main course of sirloin steak marinated in orange juice and served with blue cheese rolls. For dessert, we typically eat mantecados (a crumbly shortbread), marzipan and turrón (a type of nougat). 

Christmas in my family is all about sharing: we all bring a different dish to the table. After dessert, we stay at the table and tell jokes, discuss big topics and reminisce. The chicken soup recipe and the glasses that we drink wine from have been in the family for almost one hundred years; our grandparents probably drank from the same glasses during their first Christmas together."

— Mar

9. Lyon, France

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"Our first course is a selection of cheeses served with tomatoes and a variety of cold meats. The most festive parts of our meal are the salted jelly and cabbage rolls filled with minced pork meats.

After the pork or duck main course, we'll have a bowl of soup. At the end of the meal we eat a special cake that is similar to panettone. 

I have a sweet tooth; I am always on the edge of my seat waiting for the main course to finish so I can devour all the cakes!"

— Mara

10. Accra, Ghana

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"Our Christmas meal is special because it takes a lot of effort to make, as the rice balls have to be pounded for a long time. In other years we have eaten fufu, a staple food made from cassava and plantain, with a chicken or goat soup. It's delicious and we can always go back for more servings. The meal is served around 2 pm after we have been to church. We often open our doors to those in the community who have less than us. 

It is an important time for us because we all get together to remember when Jesus came to earth."

— Isaac

11. Riga, Latvia

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"We always eat several fish dishes at Christmas since I live in a small fishing village by the sea, along with pork and lamb, potatoes, sauerkraut, various salads, and peas. It is traditional to serve smoked meat and fish, which is my favorite part of the meal because I just love the taste! We drink juice, beer or occasionally wine, and for dessert, there will be gingerbread cookies and tangerines. I just returned home after a year of traveling so the taste of my mom's familiar cooking is even more delicious.

We use old clay dishes and a tablecloth that my family has had for over 20 years. It's one of the nice traditions at our Christmas dinner table." 

— Janis

12. Mullica Hill, United States

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"Our main of salmon is accompanied by potatoes and some vegetable-based casseroles. The potatoes are a staple at every holiday because my mother's side of the family is of Irish descent. There are always three pies for dessert – apple, cherry, and pecan, which are all served with fresh whipped cream.

Recently we have tried something different and gotten the whole family together to eat a huge Christmas breakfast, which consists of pastries, coffee, eggs, fruit, and bagels.

As a young adult fresh out of college, I can appreciate a free home cooked meal more than I ever could before!"

— Meghan

13. Mendoza, Argentina

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"This Christmas we're eating two sorts of stuffed chicken. The first one is stuffed with ham, cheese and eggs, while the second one is made from vegetables instead of eggs. We serve the chicken with Russian salad, which is made of potatoes, carrots and peas with mayonnaise. There are also ham and cheese sandwiches, salad, some stuffed chicken. Last but not least, we have empanadas, which are small pies stuffed with meat, flavored with onions and spices and chopped eggs and potato. 

Different family members take turns hosting the meal and everyone brings their own dish to add to the table. One year Christmas will be held at my house, then my uncle's or grandma's the next."

— Miguel

14. São João de Meriti, Brazil

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"At Christmas we also eat parmesan rice, pastéis (which are deep-fried parcels of crispy pastry that are filled with melted cheese), minced beef, or creamed heart of palm. For dessert, we have cake and rabanadas, which is made from day-old bread dipped in a bath of eggs and milk that we then fry and serve with a sweet syrup. 

Christmas is special to me because we are normally too busy to find the time to eat together so I enjoy catching up with all of my family. Myself, my mom and sister all do the cooking together and we eat at midnight on Christmas Eve."

— Nathalie

15. Yerevan, Armenia

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"Christmas is special because it is the only time we eat pumpkin. We stuff it with plav, a mixture of rice and raisins, and honey. This is then served with turkey. Everything is cooked lovingly by my Mother.

We try to eat around midday, but it depends on how long it takes everyone to sit down at the table!"

— Narek

16. Pozarevac, Serbia

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"The homemade bread is the most traditional part because we bake it with a coin inside and the older people in the family break the bread into pieces while no one is watching. After this, we search through our piece to try and find the coin. It's so exciting!

The whole family stays in the same house and no one is allowed to leave, because this time is exclusively for spending with family."

— Milos

17. Krasnodar, Russia

Photo courtesy of Balsam Hill

"Other dishes include salted fish and grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, and we drink champagne. 

Olivier salad and dressed herring are the two traditional festive dishes you can find on every table in Russia. 

We usually eat at around 8 pm on January the 6th. The main winter holiday in Russia is the New Year on December the 31st, not Christmas. I love the Christmas dinner because it is a welcome change from the fast food I eat on a daily basis."

— Yuri

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