While Christmas and New Year are probably the most popular December global holidays, people enjoy many different traditions during this time of year.
In fact, December is a month full of holidays celebrated around the world — from Hanukkah and Krampusnacht to Kwanzaa and Yule. Yet, where do all these holidays come from, and how do people celebrate them?
Let’s find out!
How Many Holidays Fall in December?
If you live in the US, Canada, or Europe, the answer is probably “a lot.” In many parts of the world, December is a month for celebrating religious holidays.
Here are the 18 most popular December holidays celebrated around the world.
1. Hanukkah (December 18 to December 26 for 2022)
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday commemorating the Holy Temple’s rededication in Jerusalem. Celebrations last for eight days and include the lighting of the menorah, eating fried foods, and exchanging gifts.
2. World AIDS Day (December 1)
World AIDS Day is an international day to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and mourn those who lost their lives to the disease. Events include free testing, candlelight vigils, concerts, and educational programs.
3. St. Barbara’s Day (December 4)
St. Barbara’s Day is a Christian holiday honoring Saint Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen, miners, and those who work with dangerous chemicals. Traditions include attending mass, eating special foods, and lighting candles.
4. Krampusnacht (December 5)
Krampusnacht was one of the most creative December global holidays in 2021 you could watch on TV. It’s celebrated mainly in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.
Namely, on this German holiday, people dress up as the Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon creature, and roam the streets searching for naughty children. Naughty children receive coal in their stockings, while good children get candies.
5. St. Nicholas Day (December 5)
St. Nicholas Day is a Christian version of Krampusnacht. It honors the saint who, according to legend, gave gifts to poor children. In some European countries, St. Nicholas leaves small presents in shoes or stockings that are placed near chimneys.
6. Rohatsu or Bodhi Day (December 8)
Rohatsu, also known as Bodhi Day, is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. Traditions include meditation, chanting, and giving gifts to monks and nuns.
7. St. Lucia’s Day (December 13)
If you’re looking for December global holidays for girl participants, you should check a Swedish holiday honoring St. Lucia — the patron saint of light. Here, Swedish girls wear white robes and crowns of candles, sing carols, and eat traditional baked goods.
8. Las Posadas (16–24 December)
Las Posadas is a nine-day Mexican holiday commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Each night, processions wind through the streets, stopping at homes to sing carols before moving on. On the final night, a piñata is broken open, and the candy is distributed to all.
9. Winter Solstice or Yule (December 21–January 1)
The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is the longest night of the year. Traditions include decorating evergreen trees, lighting fires, and giving gifts. For many Pagans, it is also a time to honor the Goddess as she gives birth to the Sun God.
10. Festivus (December 23)
Next in our December global holidays reviews, we have a unique festivity called Festivus (Seinfeld fans know what we are talking about).
Festivus is a secular holiday created by writer Dan O’Keefe as a parody of the commercialism surrounding Christmas. Festivus celebrations include the “Feats of Strength” and the “Airing of Grievances.”
11. Nochebuena (December 24)
Nochebuena is a Spanish holiday that takes place on Christmas Eve. The word “Nochebuena” means “good night” or “holy night.” Traditions include attending midnight mass, eating a traditional meal of roast pork and beans, and opening presents.
12. Christmas Day (December 25)
You’ll find Christmas on every December global holidays list from 2020 to 2022 since it’s one of the world’s most popular festivities. In fact, in 2021, Americans planned to spend $886 on Christmas gifts alone.
This Christian holiday commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, and traditions include decorating Christmas trees, attending church services, and exchanging gifts. Santa Claus, reindeers, and elves are also popular holiday symbols.
13. Boxing Day (December 26)
Boxing Day is celebrated in many countries, including the UK, Canada, and Australia. The holiday originally started as a day to give gifts to less fortunate people. Nowadays, it’s more of a general holiday where people can enjoy time with family and friends.
14. Zarathosht Diso or Death of Prophet Zarathustra (December 26)
Is there a holiday in December that commemorates death? Yes, there is. Zarathosht Diso is a Zoroastrian holiday that celebrates the death of Prophet Zarathustra.
Traditions include fasting, prayer, and reciting passages from the Avesta (the holy book of Zoroastrianism). This holiday is also a time to reflect on one’s mortality and appreciate the gift of life.
15. Kwanzaa (December 26–January 1)
Kwanzaa is a seven-day African-American holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. The name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits of the harvest.”
Traditions include lighting the kinara (candleholder), exchanging gifts, and feasting.
16. New Year’s Eve (December 31)
If you’re looking for December global holidays for teens and adults, nothing beats New Year’s Eve. New Year is celebrated all over the world. The most common traditions include attending parties, countdown celebrations, and making resolutions for the new year (the most frequent being going to the gym).
Some people also participate in more unique traditions like eating twelve grapes at midnight or jumping seven waves.
17. Omisoka (December 31)
Omisoka is the Japanese New Year’s Eve holiday. Traditions include attending temple services, cleaning the house, and eating soba noodles. At midnight, people watch the “Red and White Song Contest” on TV and eat mochi (rice cakes).
18. Hogmanay (December 31–January)
Hogmanay is the last contestant on our list of popular December global holidays for 2022. This Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration includes bonfires, parades, and gift-giving.
The most famous tradition is the “first-footing,” where people go door-to-door to bring gifts and good luck to homes. Another popular tradition is the “Hogmanay Kiss,” where people exchange kisses at midnight.
The holidays are a time of giving, and we hope you have enjoyed our roundup of global holiday celebrations. From the Scottish’ Hogmanay to German’s Krampusnacht, there is no shortage of fun and festive traditions during December.
We hope this has inspired you to travel the world and experience these unique cultural events for yourself!
Is December 25 a worldwide holiday?
No, December 25 is not a worldwide holiday. While Christians worldwide celebrate Christmas, not all countries recognize it as an official holiday.
For example, in certain parts of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, Christmas is celebrated 13 days later (on January 7) as they use the Julian calendar.
Countries that use the Julian instead of the Gregorian calendar include Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Serbia, etc.
How many holidays are celebrated in December in Canada?
Four main holidays are celebrated in December in Canada — Christmas (December 25), Boxing Day (December 26), New Year’s Eve (December 31), and National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6).
What is the most unique December holiday?
One of the most unique December holidays is Festivus, a secular holiday created as a parody of the commercialism surrounding Christmas. Festivus celebrations include the “Feats of Strength” and the “Airing of Grievances.”
After being featured on the TV show “Seinfeld,” the holiday gained mainstream attention.
Krampusnacht takes second place on our most unique December global holidays list.