Photo credit: © Jpldesigns | Megapixl.com
No matter where you are in the world, celebrations, and traditions of holidays around the world for kids and families bring great joy. While here in America, we are preparing for Thanksgiving – the annual feast on the third Thursday of November which honors the Pilgrims’ meal with the Wampanoag nation that gave thanks for a bountiful harvest – followed by Christmas, ’tis the season for many places around the world.
When we lived in England, I was fascinated by the holiday traditions for kids, many that differed from what I have grown up knowing in the states. In fact, there are many wonderful holiday destinations around the UK worth visiting!
And, when we have visited other destinations around the holidays, including the Caribbean, Iceland, Thailand, and Tahiti, it has been fascinating to me to learn about these beloved celebrations around the world for kids and families.
Whether countries celebrate Christmas, New Years, or a different holiday unique to them, one thing is the same – families and friends coming together to celebrate and enjoy one another. And taking part in special and unique traditions of the holidays brings the hope of good fortune, joy, and peace.
Learing about world cultures is so important and a priority for my family. One of my favorite ways to share cultures from around the world is by introducing celebrations from countries with my kids. With the help of my fellow bloggers, I have compiled 19 unique and special traditions of holidays around the world for kids and families. I hope you share them with your kids!
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Why Share Traditions of Holidays Around The World For Kids and Families With Your Children
I love learning about celebrations and traditions of holidays around the world for kids and families. I especially love sharing the things I have learned from my travels with my kids.
It’s a wonderful way to introduce kids to world cultures and countries, and the common experience of celebration and joy of kids around the globe.
Kids can learn fun new things, such as:
- Did you know the color of underwear you wear on New Year’s eve in Brazil can bring you luck?
- Have you heard the beautiful song from Thailand that is sung during the Loy Krathong celebration?
- Want to make a Philippine Christmas star to help decorate your home for Christmas?
While we may not be traveling the world this holiday season, we can still experience the world by discovering the traditions of holidays around the world for kids and families. To bring you authentic information, I asked my fellow bloggers to share their favorite holiday traditions from around the world for kids and families, and they really delivered!
While not every holiday celebration around the world is mentioned, here are 19 really special and unique traditions you will love. I hope you find these as fascinating as I do, and I hope you share them with your kids!
19 Unique Traditions of Holidays Around The World for Kids and Families
Seafood Lunch on Christmas Day
By Shandos of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel blog
Christmas is widely celebrated in Australia. But due to the holiday falling during summer, Australian Christmas celebrations are both similar and different to traditional celebrations in the UK and US. The only snow in Australia is 100% fake!
The main celebration in Australia occurs on Christmas Day, often with a big family lunch. While many families for years struggled with cooking a roast dinner, slaving away in a hot kitchen while temperatures perhaps rose up to 40C (104F), these days a cold seafood lunch is more popular, as well as cold ham and perhaps a pavlova.
In Sydney, the Sydney Fish Market traditionally opens for an incredible 36 hours straight, right through from 5am on the 23rd December to 5pm on Christmas Eve. Cold pre-cooked prawns by the kilo are especially popular!
If it’s the middle of winter where you live, cold seafood might not be that tempting. But consider putting another shrimp on the indoor barbie.
New Years Eve Traditions
By Bailey of Destinationless Travel blog
The largest, most populated, New Year’s Eve celebration in the world happens at the one and only Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Here, millions of people gather to watch fireworks as the clock strikes twelve to bring in the New Year.
But the Brazilians have a few special NYE traditions of their own. First of all, everybody wears white!
Second of all, you must wear a deliberately selected color of underwear! The color of your underwear is said to bring you something specific for the year ahead. For example, wearing pink underwear (under your white clothing of course) is said to bring love in the New Year. Green is health, yellow is wealth, and the list goes on and on.
The last tradition is to jump seven waves at midnight. So just before midnight at Copacabana Beach, the millions of people in white all run for the ocean to jump their seven waves. With each wave you jump, you’re supposed to make a wish!
Experiencing New Year’s Eve at Copacabana is really a fun experience and easily one of the best things to do in Rio!
Special Brazilian Traditions For Good Luck In The New Year
by Bruna of I Heart Brazil blog
After celebrating Christmas, millions of people start the preparations to celebrate an epic New Year in Brazil.
Clothing color, superstitions, religion, and food are part of the arrangements we make to ensure we begin the upcoming year with the right foot.
Namely, most Brazilians wear white clothing on NYE to bring peace. Although this tradition has roots in the Afro-Brazilian religion Umbanda, most people do it entirely out of superstition.
The common belief is that white is the color of purification, hence why people wear it. However, we often wear undergarments in the color of our next wish—red is for passion, pink for love, green for health, and so on.
Next to our clothing, we make sure to choose a dinner menu packed with good luck!
For instance, lentil and grape-based drinks bring many positive energies and are often present on New Year’s suppers.
However, you most likely won’t find any poultry or meat of animals that walk backward. In Brazil, many people believe eating these meats bring bad luck and regression in life.
Add some colors, the right food, drinks, and a tad of superstition, and you have the perfect Brazilian New Year’s party!
By sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.
Despite their popularity around Latin America, in Costa Rica, Tamales are a holiday treat. These banana leaf wrapped goodies are typically made with the family during the Christmas season. Families will gather and make Tamales and then share them amongst themselves and with friends throughout December.
The task to make tamales is pretty extensive. Someone will be in charge of prepping the banana leaves by cutting them into the perfect shape. Other family members will prepare the filling which typically consists of cornmeal dough and vegetables, chicken, or pork. The dough is then put into the banana leaves; they are tied up and then boiled to cook.
Unwrapping them is like unwrapping a present. But this time, it is a steaming hot tamale. If you want to learn more about Costa Rica, read this post on the best places to visit in Costa Rica with your family.
by Veronika of Travel Geekery blog
In the Czech Republic, the biggest festive day of the whole Christmas period is December 24th. A tradition has developed to ensure everybody has enough appetite to eat their large Christmas dinner – a whole day fast.
People are supposed not to eat anything all day until the time of the Christmas dinner. Christmas cookies and a special Christmas sweetbread called vánočka are an exception.
Children are made believe that if they indeed manage to not eat, a golden pig will appear. Often, they spend the day looking out the window, waiting for the golden pig to make its appearance. Recently, the tradition has morphed into parents buying chocolate pigs wrapped in a golden tin foil and placing them on the windowsill to reward their kids.
After the Christmas dinner, it’s time to open the gifts waiting under the Christmas tree. Czechs, and many other nations in Europe, celebrate Christmas the evening before the US or UK does.
By Sinead of Best In York Guide
An English Christmas is full of tradition, with events and rituals repeated each year across generations. In the run up to Christmas, excited children visit Father Christmas in his specially erected grottoes to give him their Christmas list.
Another popular outing is to a theatre to see a raucous pantomime – a musical show based on a fairy tale during which audience participation is strongly encouraged!
A more sedate ritual is to take part in a community carol service where people gather in churches, village halls, or outside to sing traditional carols, often beautifully illuminated by candlelight. If you have the chance to participate in a carol service at one of England’s historic cathedrals such as York Minster, it will be an unforgettable experience.
On Christmas Day itself, presents are opened in the morning around the Christmas tree. A roast turkey dinner is accompanied by pulling Christmas crackers – colourful paper tubes containing paper hats, jokes, and little gifts or games.
Dinner is followed by ‘Christmas Pudding’ – a heavy, moist fruit cake served with custard, cream or brandy butter. Before eating, brandy is poured over the pudding and set on fire to create an entertaining centrepiece!
The 13 Desserts of Christmas in Provence
By Guiga of Expat In France blog
Winter holidays in France and, more specifically, Christmas is all about family reunion around delicious food crowned with Christmas gifts.
When it comes to dessert, many French families will savor a Yule log. But, if you have the chance to be in Provence around Christmas, or if you live in France as an ex-pat, you will discover another very local traditional Christmas dessert, or better said, the 13 desserts of Christmas.
The 13 desserts of Christmas (les 13 desserts de Noël) are much more than a dessert. It comes from a Christian tradition that refers to Jesus and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. Also, before households were overflowed with gifts, the 13 desserts were the family’s presents.
When coming back from midnight mass, 13 sweets are served at once as a gift and dessert. As per the tradition, everyone should eat at least one piece of each sweet.
Nowadays, there is no need to go to the mass or even be religious to savor these typical delights. The 13 sweets can vary slightly depending on the families and the cities but here are the ones you can find:
- Flat bread (Fougasse) or olive oil bread (Pompe à huile)
- The four beggars represent the monastic orders: raisins, nuts (walnuts or hazelnuts), dried figs, and almonds
- White nougat and black nougat (almond and hazelnut sweet)
- Seasonal and local fresh fruits
- Almond paste
You can also savor:
- The Calisson almond paste biscuits in Aix-en-Provence
- The Navettes and the Croquants, crunchy almonds biscuits in Marseille
- Bugnes, French angel wings doughnuts in Northern Provence
Bon appétit from Expat in France! And you must stop by the Strasbourg Christmas Markets.
Las Posadas Navideñas
By Michele of A Taste For Travel blog
One of the most important traditional celebrations in Guatemala takes place during the Christmas season. Las Posadas Navideñas are a series of religious processions that begin on December 16th and continue every night through to December 24th, Christmas Eve or Nochebuena.
The processions begin with fireworks, drums, and music (often a live brass band) and feature children dressed as Mary and Joseph along with family members and friends.
One of the best places to view the posadas is in the historic city of La Antigua. The cobblestone streets are closed to allow the processions to pass and a crowd usually joins in the procession as it progresses.
The procession stops at homes along the walking route where “Mary and Joseph” symbolically request lodging for the night as Mary and Joseph did in the story of the Nativity. Each time they are refused. When the procession reaches its intended destination — home to the host for the evening — participants of the posada are invited inside and the entire crowd is served traditional food and drink such as hot fruit punch or small tamales.
By Marta of Mama Loves Italy blog
Christmas festivities in Italy last until the 6th of January, the Epiphany.
This day marks the arrival of the Three Kings and it is an important one in Italy for its religious significance. It’s also a very fun one for kids, thanks to a magical visitor who appears just on this day: la Befana!
La Befana is a little old lady with the appearance of the traditional witch. In the night between the 5/6th of January, she flies around the world on her broomstick and brings sweets to the nice children and coal to naughty ones.
Children usually find her gifts in the family kitchen, wrapped in a long woman stocking!
La Befana predates Santa as a tradition and she is said to have taken her first flight on the same night the Kings arrived to Jesus’s crib. She is much beloved in Italy and her tradition is also kept alive by Italians abroad.
On the 6th of January, Italian kids everywhere wake up to find her sweets and a little bit of coal however often, nowadays, this is edible sweet coal rather than the real thing!
You can read more about La Befana and the Epiphany in Italy here.
The Sermon of the Child
by Rai of A Rai Of Light blog
Travel to Malta in the holiday season and witness a varied mix of traditions, appealing to all. It is a festive time on the island where Christmas still retains a strong religious element.
There is also a noticeable increase in church-related activities and a special attendance on Christmas Day, with the main event being the Midnight Mass. One of the oldest but most loved holiday traditions is The Sermon of the Child.
A young boy or girl is chosen to replace the priest in delivering the sermon at this special event and is awaited with great anticipation. Following the Midnight Mass, it is customary for the local parish to distribute traditional mqaret and coffee to all members of the community. Taking part in these festive traditions is open to all and comes highly recommended.
Noche de Los Rabanos
By Daphna of A Tiny Trip blog
Noche de Los Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes, is a festival that takes place every year on December 23rd. This event is one of the most unique parts of celebrating Christmas in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Carving radishes into figurines started out as a way to attract buyers to the Christmas markets. Oaxaca is full of artisans and this event transformed into an annual competition, with the city dedicating land to grow the oversized radishes.
If you want to see the amazing sculptures carved out of radishes, prepare to get in line early in the day, as the event only lasts a few hours! For an at-home celebration, consider using radishes and toothpicks to make your own unique piece of art.
Christmas At The Beach
By Jennifer Parkes of Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand
What makes Christmas in New Zealand truly unique compared to much of the world, is that Christmas is in the summertime. So many kiwis forgo the traditional roast dinner and hot puddings for a bbq at the beach.
New Zealanders are much more relaxed about festivities, choosing to chill and relax, rather than decorate to the hearts content. So they pack up their bbq with steaks and sausages, grab their chips and dip for snacks, a great big chilly bin (cooler box) full of beers and head down to their local.
So instead of Christmas holiday cards filled with a snuggly Santa Claus, we have our red Pohutakawa trees (instead of traditional poinsettia) that flower near the coastline, with jandals (flip flops) and beachy scenes. Instead of matching fluffy sweaters for gifts, families are giving cricket sets and waterguns, bodyboards and beach towels. It is definitely a very relaxed and laid back affair. So don some jandals, put a sausie on the barbie and do Christmas the kiwi way.
Special New Year’s Traditions
By Ariana from World of Travels with Kids blog
I’ll never forget my first New Year’s in Peru as the streets were filled with smoke and little fires,
I asked my friend, “What’s happening?’ They replied that people were burning their old clothes, while also wearing new clothes, to symbolise out with the Old, in with the New.
When it comes to New Year in the Peruvian City of Cusco, there are many beliefs that Peruvians have in order to bring them the best luck for the next year: for example, in addition to wearing new clothes, the colour of your underwear is important! Yellow brings happiness or luck, red underwear love, and green, lots of money.
In addition, you should eat one grape on each stroke of midnight to bring luck, and if you want to travel, head around Cusco’s stunning Plaza de Armas with suitcase in hand and those trips around the Plaza should ensure you will be heading further afield in the coming year.
I’ve joked with my kids I am going to buy them some colored under-wear, I have never actually done it. We do, however, love reading Peru books for children together. As their father was a Latino he did usually wear new clothes for the first time on New Year’s Eve, as that was his custom.
Simbang Gabi and Christmas Traditions
by Martha of Go Places With Kids blog
In the Philippines, the Christmas season is one of the longest of anywhere in the world! Filipinos celebrate Christmas during all the “ber” months (September, October, November, and December.) Starting in September, you begin to hear Christmas songs being played and start to see Christmas decorations going up.
Catholics in the Philippines practice Simbang Gabi, which is a daily mass in the nine days leading up to Christmas. The final day is celebrated with a midnight mass on Christmas Eve, followed by Noche Buena, a family feast to ring in Christmas Day. Some common foods for the feast include queso de bola (Edam cheese covered in red wax) and ham.
And of course, there are Christmas decorations everywhere! One of the most common traditional decorations in the Philippines is a parol or Christmas star. Parols are usually made out of bamboo sticks and paper and lit from within.
A great way to participate in the Philippines spirit of Christmas is to make a Philippine Christmas parol with your child! You can find instructions for making a simple version with your child here.
Three Kings Day
By Linn of Brainy Backpackers blog
In Spain, Reyes is the highlight of Christmas traditions for all kids. This is the day they get presents and sweets.
The heroes are The Three Wise Men or The Three Kings that brought gifts to baby Jesus. The 6th of January is when the whole country celebrates and already the day before, you can enjoy processions in the streets, even in the smallest villages off the beaten path in Spain.
The processions continue throughout the 6th of January where the Three Kings throw candy to the kids. It is normal to have family lunch and dinner this day.
Whether you visit someone’s home or you go to a bar, you’ll get served the typical Roscón de Reyes, a round cake with dried fruit symbolizing the jewels of the crown, and filled with whipped cream. Inside the Roscón there is a hidden plastic figure and it and the lucky person who gets it gets crowned as “king of the day”.
St Kitts Carnival or Sugar Mas
By Steph & Lewis from Book It Let’s Go! blog
It is called by visitors as the St Kitts and Nevis National Carnival, but locally, it is referred to as Sugar Mas.
This event that typically runs from late November to early January, is one of the best things to do on St Kitts and Nevis. It’s simply a fantastic way to experience the culture of St. Kitts.
There are many local fetes, live music events, and of course the carnival parades between Christmas and New Year and ending on the 2nd January with the last lap parade.
Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts, becomes party central and there are colorful decorations throughout the town. There are Carnival parades on multiple days for all ages to join in including various children’s events and a specific parade for them.
Whether you want to take part in the parade, dress in one of the fantastic elaborate feathered costumes, or if you just want to watch from the side-lines, the atmosphere is festive, cheerful, and infectious!
The event is lively and colorful with a lot of cultural significance, as folklore groups participate. You might see moko jumbies, masqueraders, clowns, and other traditional figures. It’s a great way to learn about St Kitts during this festive holiday event!
By Kellie of 4 Worn Passports blog
Loy Krathong is the floating lantern festival in Thailand. It is celebrated on the full moon of the 12th month of Thai lunar calendar, which is usually November. This year, Loy Krathong is on October 31. This is the annual holiday where celebrants bid farewell to their bad luck from the previous year and make wishes for the upcoming year.
To celebrate Loy Krathong, you must first make (or buy) your krathong. Making krathongs is a fun family activity to experience on a Thailand tour.
The traditional krathong is made with a slice of banana trunk as the lantern base. If you don’t have access to a banana trunk, then bread will work too.
Then you decorate your krathong with banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense. Many people include hair or fingernail clippings in their krathong to ensure their bad luck sails away.
Once your krathong is complete, you will light your candles and make a wish for the coming year. Then, with the Loy Krathong song playing in the background, place your krathong in a river or lake and let your bad luck float away.
American Christmas Lights and Decor
By James Ian at Travel Collecting blog
Christmas is celebrated in many countries around the world – with church services, holiday windows in department stores, trees, special foods, gifts, and decorations. However, nowhere in the world is the tradition of decorating your house and front yard quite like it is in the United States.
Many people try to outdo their neighbors (and themselves) each year by covering their house and cramming their gardens with over-the-top decorations. Flashing colored lights are strung along gutters, around window frames, and alongside paths.
Huge inflatables of Santa, the Grinch, and Disney characters dressed for the holidays, glowing with lights, form crowded tableaux. Oversized statues of reindeer, toy soldiers, and snowmen line lawns. Huge icicles hang down from trees. There is no end to the creativity and tackiness.
The whole idea is to be more overblown than everyone else! You can see this throughout the country, but if you are spending Christmas in New York, don’t miss visiting Dyker Heights in Brooklyn to enjoy a veritable cornucopia of seasonal excess.
Christmas At Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
By Caitlin of Typically Twitterpated blog
Many find Walt Disney World to be a magical destination in itself. However, the holiday decorations at the resort seemingly go up overnight. Each one of the four parks features decor befitting its theme. Many rides and attractions receive a holiday overlay.
Epcot features traditions from all over the world in each of the countries featured in the World Showcases- where a Norwegian storyteller describes a mischievous gnome or Father Christmas shares his story in the United Kingdom pavilion.
Animal Kingdom features a holiday-themed show of the Tree of Life “awakening.” As you walk about, cast members with magical polar animal marionette puppets greet you. They’re adorable!
Hollywood Studios, Disney’s version of Tinseltown, is adorned with the silver stuff. In the Magic Kingdom, it snows on Main Street. Despite the tropical conditions, Disney feels like a winter wonderland.
While we can’t always spend the holidays at Disney, we love to find snippets on YouTube to relive at home. The Disney Parade on Christmas morning ties in the magic with our family traditions.
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Final Thoughts On Holiday Traditions Around The World For Kids And Families
Discovering holiday traditions around the world for kids and families is a wonderful way to introduce children to world cultures and countries. It fosters curiosity and connects them to kids around the globe who are also celebrating with special traditions but in a different way.
Whether a country celebrates different traditions for Christmas and New Years’ or a celebration specific to them, it is fascinating to discover the ways in which families enjoy one another. Perhaps you can add one of these traditions to your family celebrations!