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Christmas traditions around the world

Have you ever wondered if Australians have a BBQ or a roast dinner at Christmas? Or questioned where the Christmas tree tradition came from? We’ve taken a look at how different countries celebrate Christmas in case you’re thinking of heading overseas, or just need some extra trivia for the dinner table this festive season.


Have you ever wondered how the poinsettia became the universal Christmas plant? The plant was brought from Mexico to the US in 1828 by the then American Minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett. He chose the plant because of its red and green aesthetics, believing it to tie in with the festive holiday, and the plant has been named after him since then. Greenhouses began housing them by 1830, by 1870 big brand stores in America had started selling them, and by 1900 they were renowned as the plant to give as a symbol of Christmas.

Now Mexico celebrates Christmas with piñatas full of sweets and money for children to break.


There’s a Greek belief knows as kallikantzaroi which suggest goblins appear to create havoc and mischief over the 12 days of Christmas. If you look forward to presents, you have to wait a little longer in Greece as they don’t exchange gifts until January 1st.


Germany has always decorated an evergreen tree as part of a tradition for the winter solstice. Christmas trees began to be decorated around the turn of the 17th century in places like Strasbourg and Alsace in tribute to the Christian holiday. In the second half of the century, Christmas trees appeared in other parts of Germany too. They became more popular after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took inspiration from a visit to Strasbourg and penned a Christmas tree to appear in his novel, The Suffering of Young Werther.

It was the Germans who introduced the British to Christmas trees when Prince Albert wed Queen Victoria and brought with him the tradition. This was supported by American newspapers showing images of Christmas trees which appealed to more people and helped the tradition spread.


In France, Christmas is known as Noel, originating from the phrase 'Les Bonnes Nouvelles' which translates into ‘The Good News’, referring to religious texts. There are some long-standing customs in the South of France where residents burn a log between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day in a superstition that says farmers can use some of the logs to produce a bountiful harvest the next year.


Australia is as you might imagine at Christmas; a barbie or two with some time at the beach. The temperature in Australia at Christmas can hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit as it’s the middle of summer, so Christmas Down Under is a warm and bright event.

If you’re looking to send money overseas this Christmas, call us on +44 (0)20 7989 0000 to see how you can make the most of your transfer.