With Christmas fast approaching, many Americans are scrambling to finish their last-minute Christmas shopping, decorate their homes and prepare for the large feast on Christmas Day. However, not every country celebrates one of the most beloved American holidays in the same manner.

Christmas takes many shapes around the world. Some children believe in Santa Claus (and his expensive one-night trip), while others celebrate with lights and baked goods. Regardless, almost every country has some form of holiday that is celebrated in the latter part of December. Below, we'll take a look at some of the Christmas traditions around the world.

From varying traditions that are celebrated around the world to how much is acceptable to spend on gifts, much of this is dictated by the cultural norms.

Key Takeaways

  • In America, Christmas has become a commercialized holiday focused on gift-giving and consumerism.
  • Around the world, however, Christmas takes on different meanings and follows unique sets of rituals.
  • Here we briefly take a trip around the world to see how Christmas is celebrated elsewhere.


Believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, visitors and citizens crowd the churches in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve to watch the annual procession. Christians mark their doors with crosses and many display nativity scenes.


There is a large feast known as le Réveillon, which is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. French children receive gifts from Père Noël or Father Christmas in English translation. According to the legend, he is accompanied by Père Fouettard, who reminds Père Noël just how each kid behaved during the year and passes along coal and whippings to the naughty children.


Influenced by western culture, the Japanese have taken to decorations and gift giving during Christmas time, just as many Americans have. The God/Priest named Hotei-Osho in Japan closely resembles Santa Claus.


In India, homes are decorated with strings of mango leaves. Lights are hung as decorations, and a sweet treat called Thali is made and shared with friends and family.

Christmas Spending

With Christmas being celebrated in many different countries, there is no doubt that opinions on what one should spend on gifts vary. Generally speaking, the greater the GDP per capita the higher the amount of money is spent at Christmas time per person. The United States had a GDP of $65,111 per person in 2019. Shoppers in the US spend an average of nearly $900 per person on Christmas gifts. 

The majority of the population is spending Christmas in the company of their family and friends, with the largest part of Holiday budget spent on the gifts for family. Apart from the gifts, other expenses include decorations, candy and greetings cards.

In Europe in 2019, residents of the United Kingdom and Spain spent the most for Christmas – $383 and $270, respectively. Poland and Russia are expected to spend the least at $145 and $140, respectively. The spending in some countries may also be affected by different traditions. For instance, the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas' Eve on December 5th, a holiday when children receive presents from Santa, or Sinterklaas in Dutch. This means less money will be spent on gifts during Christmas.

The Bottom Line

Christmas traditions around the world have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and continue to change as time passes. Whether it's Christmas in India or a visit from Père Noël in France, different customs are celebrated around the world, all emphasizing time with loved ones as a priority. How much each person spends on Christmas gifts can differ based on the culture they were brought up in and the traditions they need to uphold. Billions of people gather worldwide to celebrate the festive occasion.