Christmas Around the World

Countries, cultures and communities all around the world celebrate Christmas in their own beautiful and unique ways. Don’t you love how much creativity God gave us in our ability to celebrate?!

Today, we’d like to give you a special look into Christmas in all of the countries where Compassion works. When you click on each country, you’ll find a couple of interesting, Christmas-inspired facts, as well as a prayer that is specific to the urgent needs in that nation.

Our hope is that you’ll use these facts to inspire a deeper relationship with your sponsored child. Click over his or her country to learn more today.

Bangladesh

"Happy Holidays" in Bengali: Subha Chutira Dina

Holiday Tradition: In Bangladesh, Christmas is called "Baradina," which means “Big Day.” Many people attend a worship service and share a big meal with their family.

Weather at Christmastime: In Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the mid- to high-70s. It’s the coolest time of the year and there isn’t much rain.

Special Christmas Food: Two Christmas treats that children in Bangladesh love are “pitha,” which is a sweet rice cake, and “payesh,” a rice pudding.
Learn How to Make Payesh >

Prayer for Bangladesh: Pray for children suffering from malnutrition, that they will receive medical and nutritional support to prevent long-term damage to their health.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Indonesia

"Merry Christmas" in Indonesian: Selamat Natal

Special Christmas Tradition: The people of Bali handmake a special type of Christmas tree using chicken feathers. The feather trees are exported to countries around the world.

Weather at Christmastime: In Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-80s. It’s very humid and tends to be more rainy than previous months.

Special Christmas Food: One popular Indonesian treat that is often made at Christmastime is called “nastar.” It’s a unique pineapple cookie that goes great with tea!
Learn How to Make Nastar >

Prayer for Indonesia: Pray that the children Compassion serves will stay in school — that they and their families will prioritize education for a future free from poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Philippines

"Merry Christmas" in Filipino: Maligayang Pasko

Special Christmas Tradition: The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernadu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in San Fernando, Philippines. Eleven villages compete by trying to build the most elaborate lantern.

Weather at Christmastime: In Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the mid-80s. There are typically fewer rainy days in December.

Special Christmas Food: It’s very common for people in the Philippines to eat ham on Christmas. The ham is typically very sweet and, covered in a syrupy glaze.

Prayer for the Philippines: Pray for the Compassion staff who protect these precious children—that God will give them wisdom and courage as they safeguard each child.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Sri Lanka

"Happy Holidays" in Sinhala: Pritimat Nivadu

Special Holiday Tradition: Christmas Day is a public holiday in Sri Lanka, even though less than 10% of the population is Christian. The holiday season kicks off with firecrackers at dawn on Dec. 1. Big-city markets are decorated with lights and Christmas trees. People celebrate by sharing a meal and seasonal cake with friends.

Weather at Christmastime: In Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the mid- to high-80s. It’s fairly muggy and on average rains nine days throughout the month of December.

Special Christmas Food: At Christmastime, people in Sri Lanka are all about cake. One popular Christmas cake is a fruitcake filled with dried fruits, cashew nuts and spices. Another specialty is the “love cake,” which is also filled with yummy spices.

Prayer for Sri Lanka: Pray for those trapped in poverty — especially those in rural areas who lack access to services and facilities enjoyed by people in other parts of the country.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Thailand

"Merry Christmas" in Thai: Sukhsant wan Khristmas

Special Christmas Tradition: Although Christmas is not a public holiday in Thailand, big cities like Bangkok and tourist areas are extravagantly decorated for the holiday. Plus, all children in the Compassion program celebrate Christmas at their centers.

Weather at Christmastime: In Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-80s. There is very little rainfall at this time of year, but it can still be very muggy.

Special Christmas Food: Thailand is a traditionally Buddhist country, so Christmas is not a commonly celebrated holiday and a special meal is not typically made for the holiday. However, one meal eaten on other special occasions in Thailand is “larb,” a meat salad that can be made with pork, fish, chicken, duck, buffalo or beef. This dish is traditionally served with sticky rice and greens.

Prayer for Thailand: Pray that all children in Thailand would receive the financial, material, medical, educational and legal support they need to escape the cycle of poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Burkina Faso

"Merry Christmas" in French: Joyeux Noël

Special Christmas Tradition: Children use clay, straw and water to build cribs outside of their homes representing the birth of Jesus.

Weather at Christmastime: In Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-80s to low-90s. It’s a very dry time of year with hardly any rain.

Special Christmas Food: It’s common for families in Burkina Faso to celebrate Christmas by eating a special meal featuring meat such as chicken, goat or pork.

Prayer for Burkina Faso: Pray that children in Burkina Faso would rise above their current reality by implementing the life-altering skills they are learning through Compassion.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Ethiopia

"Merry Christmas" in Amharic: Melikami Gena

Special Christmas Tradition: On Christmas, which Ethiopians celebrate on Jan. 7, families dress in "shammas," which are white garments that they wear to Christmas services.

Weather at Christmastime: In Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-60s or low-70s. There isn’t much rain at this time of year.

Special Christmas Food: A common Christmas meal in Ethiopia is called “wat,” which is a thick and spice-filled stew. It contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs. It’s often eaten with “injera,” which is Ethiopian sourdough flatbread.

Prayer for Ethiopia: Pray that children in Ethiopia would stay committed to their education and help break the cycle of poverty in their families.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Ghana

"Merry Christmas" in Ghana: Merry Christmas (English is the official language in Ghana.)

Special Christmas Tradition: Celebrations in Ghana usually start on Christmas Eve. People attend church services that often have drumming, dancing and Nativity plays put on by children. Sometimes the dancing in these Christmas services goes all night long!

Weather at Christmastime: In Accra, the capital city of Ghana, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-70s or 80s. There typically isn’t much rain at this time of year.

Special Christmas Food: Traditional Christmas dishes in Ghana include stews, rice with meats like goat or lamb, and “fufu,” which is boiled and pounded yam or cassava sometimes mixed with powdered green plantain.

Prayer for Ghana: Pray for Compassion staff and church partners who safeguard children in Ghana — that God will give them wisdom and discernment as they protect these precious boys and girls.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Kenya

"Merry Christmas" in Swahili: Krismasi Njema

Special Christmas Tradition: Children in Kenya believe that Santa arrives on a camel, bike or SUV — not a sleigh with reindeer!

Weather at Christmastime: In Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the low- to mid-70s. There are typically nine days of rainfall throughout the month of December.

Special Christmas Food: People in Kenya traditionally eat grilled meats, including goat, lamb, beef or chicken. One particularly popular dish is called “nyama choma,” which is roasted meat, traditionally beef or goat.

Prayer for Kenya: Pray for all children in Kenya who are suffering from malnourishment — that they would receive the food, vitamins and medical care they need.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Rwanda

"Merry Christmas" in Kinyarwanda: Noheli Nziza

Special Christmas Tradition: A common Christmas meal in Rwanda includes goat "brochettes" (kebabs) and "isombe" (a stew of mashed cassava leaves and green bananas cooked in tomato sauce)!

Weather at Christmastime: In Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-70s to low-80s. The air is almost constantly muggy at this time of year.

Special Christmas Food: A traditional Christmas meal in Rwanda includes goat brochettes (kebabs) and isombe (a stew of mashed cassava leaves and green bananas cooked in tomato sauce)!

Prayer for Rwanda: Pray that children and families in Rwanda would gain access to clean water and that the suffering from waterborne illnesses would come to an end.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Tanzania

"Merry Christmas" in Swahili: Krismasi Njema

Special Christmas Tradition: Many families in Tanzania purchase a cow or a goat in January and raise it all year just for their meal at Christmas!

Weather at Christmastime: In Dodoma, the capital city of Tanzania, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 80s. It is one of the warmest times of the year.

Special Christmas Food: A typical Tanzanian Christmas meal includes meat, vegetables and rice.

Prayer for Tanzania: Pray that communities in Tanzania will abandon the practice of early marriage, so girls can pursue their education, careers and poverty-free futures.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Togo

"Merry Christmas" in French: Joyeux Noël

Special Christmas Tradition: Unlike in some other countries in West Africa, Santa Claus and Christmas trees have become Christmas traditions in Togo.

Weather at Christmastime: In Lomé, the capital city of Togo, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the high-80s or low-90s. This is a very hot time of year with little rainfall.

Special Christmas Food: On many holidays in Togo, including Christmas, people prepare traditional Togolese dishes. These often include maize and “fufu,” which is boiled and mashed yams. Interested in making a traditional dish from Togo? Try this Togolese grilled chicken recipe!

Prayer for Togo: Pray that the children of Togo will be empowered and motivated to stay in school, excel in their studies and dream big for their futures.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Uganda

"Merry Christmas" in Luganda: Seku Kulu

Special Christmas Tradition: A traditional food eaten at Christmastime in Uganda is "matooke" (a plantain-based dish).

Weather at Christmastime: In Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 70s or low-80s. Though this is the beginning of the winter months, it’s still warm in Uganda.

Special Christmas Food: There aren’t many special food traditions at Christmastime in Uganda. Most people try to feast on a variety of the foods they normally eat, like “matooke,” which is mashed plantains; “chapati,” East African flatbread; soup with meat; and cooked vegetables.
Learn How to Make Traditional Ugandan Matooke >

Prayer for Uganda: Pray that Ugandan girls would embrace their worth and confidently pursue an education and career, so they can experience freedom from poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Dominican Republic

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: During the Christmas season, Domincans like to decorate and display "charamicos"; these are handcrafted Christmas trees, angels, stars and animals made from dry tree branches.

Weather at Christmastime: In Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 80s. Rainfall is relatively low at this time of year.

Special Christmas Food: The main course of a traditional Dominican Christmas dinner is “puerco asado,” or roast pork. It’s often served with rice and potato salad.

Prayer for the Dominican Republic: Pray that youths in the Dominican Republic will discover their identity and purpose through Jesus Christ.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

El Salvador

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: On Christmas, the streets are filled with children setting off firecrackers, and as the night goes on the skies are filled with colorful bursts of fireworks.

Weather at Christmastime: In San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the low-80s. Rainfall is very low at this time of year.

Special Christmas Food: Some of the traditional Salvadoran Christmas dishes include chicken, turkey, tamales and potato salad.

Prayer for El Salvador: Pray that students in El Salvador will see the value of continuing their education and will pursue self-supporting careers that help them escape the grip of poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Guatemala

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: For the nine days leading up to Christmas (mirroring the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus), many Guatemalans participate in "Las Posadas" (The Inns), a candlelight procession that represents the journey Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus was born and their search for lodging.

Weather at Christmastime: In Guatemala City, the capital city of Guatemala, the temperature at Christmastime can range from the high-50s to the mid-70s. December is the coldest month of the year in Guatemala.

Special Christmas Food: People in Guatemala love to eat tamales at Christmas. Two popular types are “tamales colorados,” or red tamales, and “tamales negros,” or black tamales.

Prayer for Guatemala: Pray that parents in Guatemala would understand the value of education for their children and empower them to escape the cycle of poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Haiti

"Merry Christmas" in French: Joyeux Noël

Special Christmas Tradition: Each year on Christmas Eve, children place their cleaned shoes, filled with straw, under the tree on the porch with the hope that Santa Claus (called Tonton Nwél) will remove the straw and put presents in and around the shoes.

Weather at Christmastime: In Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 80s. Even though it’s the first month of winter, December is still hot in Haiti.

Special Christmas Food: A popular Haitian dish eaten at Christmas is “diri djon djon,” or black mushroom rice. Its special ingredient is black mushrooms that are grown in northern Haiti.

Prayer for Haiti: Pray that students in Haiti will learn to value education, dream of a successful future and find a career path that lifts them out of poverty.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Honduras

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: Families in Honduras have their big celebration on "Noche Buena" (Christmas Eve). It is traditional to eat tamales as a late supper, watch fireworks at midnight and rest from the festivities on Christmas Day.

Weather at Christmastime: In Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 70s. Rainfall is very low at this time of year in Honduras.

Special Christmas Food: “Nacatamales,” or Central American tamales, are a Christmas staple for many families in Honduras. They are made of a corn dough filled with chicken, pork or beans that is wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed.

Prayer for Honduras: Pray for the safety of children and families who live in high-crime communities in Honduras, and that they will rely on God to provide for and protect them.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Mexico

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: In Oaxaca, Mexico, people celebrate the Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábones in Spanish), when people carve oversized radishes into detailed Nativity scenes.

Weather at Christmastime: In Mexico City, the capital city of Mexico, the temperature at Christmastime can range from the mid-40s all the way to the high-50s. Rainfall is low at this time of the year in Mexico.

Special Christmas Food: “Ensalada de Noche Buena,” or Christmas Eve Salad, is very popular in Mexico. It is a salad filled with fruits and vegetables, typically the chef’s choice. Some popular ingredients include carrots, apples, oranges, lettuce, beets, pineapple and pecans.

Prayer for Mexico: Pray for children affected by the influence of drugs or gangs — pray they will find the courage to pursue lives of hope and peace.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Nicaragua

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: For nine days, many Nicaraguan people celebrate "Las Posadas" (The Inns) by going door to door dressed up as Joseph and Mary asking for a place to stay. On the ninth day, they are welcomed into one of the homes for a great celebration. Whole communities come together to put on or watch this Nativity play.

Weather at Christmastime: In Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 80s. Even though this is the first month of winter, it is still a warm and tropical month in Nicaragua.

Special Christmas Food: One popular dish that Nicaraguan people like to eat is “nacatamales,” or Central American tamales. These steamed corn cakes are often filled with meat and vegetables and are wrapped in banana leaves.

Prayer for Nicaragua: Pray for children affected by the influence of drugs or gangs in Nicaragua — pray that they will find the courage to pursue lives of hope and peace.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Bolivia

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: On Christmas Eve, people bring roosters to midnight Mass to symbolize the belief that a rooster was the final animal to announce the birth of Jesus Christ.

Weather at Christmastime: In La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 50s. And it could be rainy on Christmas Day — on average, there are 15 days of rainfall in December.

Special Christmas Food: The traditional Christmas meal for many Bolivians is “picana,” a stew made with chicken, beef, lamb and pork. It’s usually served with potatoes and corn.

Prayer for Bolivia: Pray that Bolivia’s children will have access to sources of clean water, and pray for their continued health as they grow.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Brazil

"Merry Christmas" in Portuguese: Feliz Natal

Special Christmas Tradition: Children in Brazil believe they receive gifts from Papai Noel on Christmas Eve. But, given the tropical climate, no one has chimneys. So, they believe Papai Noel enters through the front door and travels via helicopter.

Weather at Christmastime: In Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 70s. Did you know that in Brazil, December is the first month of summer?

Special Christmas Food: A traditional Christmas dinner in Brazil often includes some sort of meat like pork, ham or turkey. The meal also includes salads, rice cooked with raisins, and fresh and dried fruits.

Prayer for Brazil: Pray for the millions of children in Brazil who live in dangerous favelas [slums] and are at risk of exploitation and abuse.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Colombia

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: To welcome the Christmas season, people in Colombia celebrate "El Día de las Velitas," or Day of the Little Candles, on Dec 7. Kids and adults join at night to light little candles in the streets and windows. This is accompanied by fireworks!

Weather at Christmastime: In Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the mid-60s. Because Bogotá is located in the highlands, the temperature does not fluctuate much throughout the year — so, Christmas often feels like any other day!

Special Christmas Food: Two very popular Christmastime treats in Colombia are “buñuelos,” which are fried cheesy bites, and “natilla,” a pudding dessert. They’re often served on the same plate.
Learn How to Make Buñuelos and Natilla >

Prayer for Colombia: Pray for the overall health and growth of Colombia’s neediest children, that they’ll overcome the chronic undernutrition that can affect their cognitive as well as physical development.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Ecuador

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: On Christmas Eve, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians attend "El Pase Del Niño Viajero" (Passing of the Traveling Child), a day-long parade in Cuenca that depicts the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. A small statue of the infant Jesus is at the heart of the procession.

Weather at Christmastime: In Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the mid-60s. Actually, the temperature does not vary much throughout the year — so, Christmas often feels like any other day!

Special Christmas Food: “Arroz Navideño,” or Christmas rice, is a very popular Christmas dish in Ecuador and throughout much of Latin America. In Ecuador, this rice is mixed with ham, raisins, walnuts and more!
Learn How to Make Arroz Nnavideño >

Prayer for Ecuador: Pray that students in Ecuador will be empowered and motivated to study, and that they will find hope and purpose through a relationship with God.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

Peru

"Merry Christmas" in Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Special Christmas Tradition: In Peru, many of the Christmas celebrations happen on "Noche Buena" (Christmas Eve) instead of on Christmas Day. Nearly every home displays a Nativity scene with baby Jesus in a manger, the three wise men and other figures. Many feature llamas and alpacas instead of sheep and goats.

Weather at Christmastime: In Lima, the capital city of Peru, the temperature at Christmastime is normally in the 70s. December marks the beginning of the warmer, drier season in the capital city.

Special Christmas Food: One popular Christmas treat in Peru is “panetón,” or sweet bread with dried and candied fruit.

Prayer for Peru: Pray for children struggling in school in Peru — pray that they get support and motivation to do their best and that their success opens opportunities for the future.

Photos taken before COVID-19.

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