Around the Globe: Celebrating Christmas and Ringing in the New Year

New Years Eve in Sydney, Australia
The stroke of midnight on New Years Eve in Sydney, Australia

Sharing time with family and friends is an important part of the equation for a joyful Christmas and elated New Year. However, the small details are probably what make these moments more rewarding and memorable. Roasting marshmallows by the fire, playing board games, enjoying wine and savory appetizers — these simple activities are what bring everyone together.

In your home, what is on the itinerary for Christmas and New Year’s Eve? Maybe you will share a family meal together on the day commemorating the birth of Jesus, but on New Year’s, you might plan on heading to a friend’s house for a party. Remember, if you bring a date to both events, you can kiss under the mistletoe and when the clock strikes midnight!

Holidays Around the World

United States & Canada

The United States is so diverse with cultures and many families are made up of mixed religions, so Christmas and New Year’s Eve are celebrated in many ways. For the most part, in America and Canada, parents pass the magic of Santa Claus down to their children, and the family opens presents left under the tree on Christmas Day. The Christmas meal consists of various main dishes including turkey, ham, keilbasi (Polish sausage) and even lasagna.

As for New Year’s, it can vary from region to region in Canada. However, the majority of people living in Canada and the United States engage in social gatherings and late-night partying. In the large metropolitan cities like New York City, Toronto and Montreal, fireworks and music provide entertainment until midnight. In rural Quebec, some people have a more laid back holiday and choose to ice fish and drink with their close buddies.


Christmas Downunder consists of lights and decorations too, but the weather isn’t the winter wonderland that some Americans wish for on Christmas Eve. During this time, Aussies are enjoying summer temperatures and younger residents are wrapping up the school year. While people in the United States and Canada are skiing and going on toboggan rides, Aussies are enjoying the sun and surf. Santa Claus is known here as “Swag Man,” and his mode of transportation are dingoes instead of reindeer.

Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are the main attractions for New Year’s Eve. In these cities, they hold firework displays, and in Sydney, music shows commence on several stages by the beach.


The Christmas tree isn’t popular in France, but the Yule log or Yule log-shaped cake is a part of the feast. Dinner is usually held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and people enjoy eating duck, turkey with chestnuts, or oysters and pâté de foie gras. Pere Noel is the man who surprises good children with gifts — in some areas, he comes on St. Nicholas Eve (December 6) and Christmas Day. Adults often wait until New Year’s Day to open their gifts.

Another feast is held on New Year’s, which consists of foie gras, seafood and champagne. During this holiday, people exchange kisses and wishes of health, happiness, love and money. January 6 is the end of the holiday period, and on this day, the Wise Men are honored.


Brazil originated as a Portuguese colony, and this heritage influenced the holiday traditions. A common custom is to create a nativity scene or presépio, which represents Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Papai Noel is the man who brings everyone gifts, and because of the hot weather, he wears silk clothing. Fireworks are common on Christmas, and devout Catholics attend Midnight Mass or Missa do Galo, which is similar to what Catholics in the United States do.

New Year’s is called Ano Novo, and it signifies the beginning of Brazil’s summer holidays. The Copacabana beach is a well-known location for fireworks, and people ring in the New Year wearing white, which is said to bring good luck. Lentils and grape leaves are holiday foods here.


China mostly consists of Buddhists and Taoists, but there are Christians who decorate their homes with paper lanterns and trees (“Trees of Light”). The Dun Che Lao Ren or “Christmas Old Man” brings the presents, and families hang muslin stockings too. Because Catholicism isn’t as common here, the main winter holiday is the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. During this celebration, children get new clothing and toys and families enjoy elaborate meals. Also, the Chinese worship ancestors and hang portraits and pictures in honor of them.

Celebrate Your Way

All over the globe, the main purpose of Christmas and New Year’s is to bring loved ones together. There are so many ways to celebrate the season, so there is no right or wrong way.

Relish in your holiday spirit by decorating your home inside and out. Add some greenery with garland along the fireplace and create a nativity scene with King Balthazar and other nativity characters. For the outdoors, add some curb appeal with a six foot tall Nutcracker, a Santa on a motorcycle or a virtuous angel in prayer.

From the food to the decorations, you can incorporate your own traditions as well as customs from other places all over the world into your holiday celebrations. So take pleasure in the time you have with family and friends and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Marina Hanes is a writer and owner of Cat’s Eye Editing, LLC. She received a B.A. in Professional Writing & Editing from Youngstown State University, and her professional area of focus is Environmental Studies.

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