Holiday Traditions from Around the World to Try at Home

published Dec 20, 2016
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(Image credit: Mariia Golovianko)

We all have our holiday traditions—from special recipes to fun activities, everyone has an interesting take on celebrating, and that’s not just limited to differences between families. Around the world, different countries and cultures have unique and beautiful holiday traditions to learn about.

Many holiday traditions are better experienced by traveling and seeing them first-hand so you can truly understand and appreciate them, but if you want some worldly inspiration for your own holidays, here are a few simple ones you might actually consider incorporating into your own celebrations:


It may seem a little morbid at first, but Finland has a really interesting holiday tradition that involves people heading to the cemetery to visit their departed loved ones. According to Finland’s website, as many as three-quarters of Finnish families participate in the tradition on Christmas Eve, leaving candles on the graves of their deceased family members. And because the cemeteries look so beautiful lit up with candles, many people will go for walks through them just to see it, even if they don’t have loved ones buried there.

Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania

In Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania, it’s customary to have a 12-dish meal on Christmas Eve—the dishes represent the 12 apostles, as well as the 12 months of the year, according to The dishes vary from country to country, and Ukraine celebrates Orthodox Christmas, so it’s a different date (January 7th) but they have an interesting tradition in common—they wait until the first star is visible in the sky before they begin their meal.

(Image credit: Burke Decor)


Denmark has several interesting holiday traditions, but a simple one that you could incorporate into your own celebrations next year is the use of a calendar candle. According to Visit Denmark, the Danish light a special candle every day until Christmas, starting on December 1st. The calendar candles have 24 measured out markings on them for each day, like a ruler, and are sometimes decorated with Christmas motifs. The key is to be careful not to let it burn past the number you’re on, so you can use the candle to count down the days until the holiday—often, families put their kids in charge of blowing out the candle. (It might be too late for this year’s celebration, but put one of these candles on your list so you’re ready for next Christmas.)

Australia, Ireland and England

You’re probably used to leaving milk and cookies out for Santa—especially if you have kids, or celebrate the holiday with kids—but in Australia, England and Ireland, they do things a little differently. Traditionally, according to Tastemade, they all leave out mince pies for Santa instead of cookies, and beer (usually Guinness in Ireland) or sherry in place of milk—much more grown-up choices for old St. Nick, and a fun tradition you can do at home, too.