Winter Holidays & Traditions Around the World

Winter Holidays & Traditions Around the World

Are you abroad this holiday season? While being away from family this time of year can have travelers feeling a bit homesick, it’s certainly a huge treat to be able to experience new traditions in an authentic way. We cannot even begin to describe every holiday tradition around the world, so we’ll have to settle on just a few.


Have yourself a spooky little Krampus! Yes, you heard that right. While St Nicholas rewards good children with presents in Austria and other German-speaking countries, Krampus the demon creature kidnaps bad children. This is what nightmares are made of.

Marzipan Glückschwein

A Greenheart Traveler’s lucky pigs from her High School Abroad in Austria

Austria also has many cute traditions, like pigs! Around New Year’s Eve, you’ll find an abundance of candy pigs (Marzipan Glückschwein). It is a symbol of good luck! The meaning comes from medieval times when locals got lucky if they were able to breed a lot of pigs. Variations are also celebrated in Germany.

Lunar New Year

Many Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is also called the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. The date changes depending on the moon cycle, but is usually in January. You might see people giving each other red envelopes which contain money, and you’ll definitely see fireworks.


La Befana, AKA the Christmas Witch, delivers presents to children in Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). Families leave wine out for her visit, and she will use her broom to sweep the floors before she leaves.

St. Lucia Day

A Greenheart Traveler as Lucia during her High School Abroad in Sweden

On December 13th in Sweden, children wear white gowns, red sashes, and wreath crowns. There is one designated “Lucia” who gets to wear candles in her wreath, the rest of the children have to hold theirs. They sing songs for adults, usually school pageants.


What began as a marketing tactic in the 1970s by Kentucky Fried Chicken turned into a Japanese Christmas tradition. Even though Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Japan, it is estimated that 3.6 million families order fried chicken dinners on December 25th from the fast food chain.

Cavacade of Lights

This Canadian tradition doesn’t date back centuries, but it does date back decades. What started as a way to showcase the new city center in 1967 turned into a yearly event in Toronto. There’s ice skating, fireworks, and oh yeah, lights. So. Many. Lights.


Have you celebrated the Holidays abroad? Share what it was like in the comments!

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