Christmas traditions vary across the world, but in every country one thing is the same: Christmas is a time to celebrate. While American kids look forward to jolly Santa Claus leaving presents for them under a lighted tree, children around the world enjoy a very different vision of Christmas. This holiday season, travel the world by throwing a bash for family and friends that brings together Christmas traditions and festivities from around the globe. Start with a special invitation, plan an international menu, and fill the day with traditional crafts and games for kids of all ages.
Learn About Christmas in Other Places
Before planning your party, research how different countries and cultures celebrate Christmas. Look for special customs, stories, and more. Search the web or take a trip to your local library to look for holiday and history books that tell historical tales or give modern illustrations of Christmas.
In the Czech Republic, for example, Santa is called Svaty Mikalas, who climbs to Earth from the sky on a golden rope. The Czechs also have a long-held tradition of placing a freshly cut cherry branch in water. A branch that blooms before Christmas is a sign of good luck, and fortells an early spring. In India, families decorate mango and banana trees rather than the traditional pine in the U.S., and in the Netherlands, Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) fills children’s shoes with candy and other sweet treats.
Invite Your Guests
Make invites shaped like globes to follow the international theme of your Christmas party. Use light-colored cardstock (8 x 10 sheets) folded in half. With a stencil or coffee can, trace a circle onto the paper right against the fold. Cut the circle out, leaving part of the fold uncut.
Use markers or paints to turn the cards, both front and back, into globes. Add a bit of sparkle by outlining the continents with glue and sprinkling with green and red glitter.
If you plan to have a diverse group of guests, consider throwing a pot luck and inviting guests to bring a dish or dessert that celebrates their heritage.
Plan the Menu
If you don't plan to throw a potluck, select a menu that showcases traditional Christmas dishes from other countries. Dessert lovers will enjoy Bûche de Noël, or ‘Yule Log’, a French chocolate cake, or Stollen, a bread-like fruitcake from Germany.
Serve a simple holiday drink such as atole or atol, a popular drink in Mexico and Central America. Atole is made with milk, masa harina (a corn flour), brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, mixed together and served hot, and is often accompanied by tamales.
Pick a few games for kids of different ages that celebrate Christmas customs from other countries or choose some traditional activities.
- Craft different versions of Santa. Santa has many different names around the world, from St. Nick and Père Noël to Sinterklass and Kris Kringle, and comes in many different forms. Look for illustrations in books and print out examples for the kids. Provide markers and paper, and let kids create their own international Santa. Alternatively, make classic paper bag puppets using felt and glue.
- Decorate a tree. Have the whole gang help decorate an international tree. Trim the tree with red ribbons like the French do, or make paper flowers in lanterns like the Chinese.
- Sing carols. Explore a variety of holiday songs from different countries. Start with a simple American classic like "Jingle Bells," then sing songs from other countries.
- Say “Merry Christmas” 10 ways. Compile a list of "Merry Christmas" in other languages, such as Féliz Navidad (Spanish), Stretan Bozic (Croatian), Joyeux Noël (French), Gledileg Jol (Icelandic), or Nadolig Llawen (Welsh). Don't forget to print out a pronunciation guide!
An international party is a great way to expose kids to other cultures, traditions, and flavors, while placing an emphasis on family and community. And your family just might come away with some new Christmas traditions!