Christmas around the world

December 24, 2018

It’s been a busy month for us at API Abroad! We celebrated Hanukkah in our Austin office at the beginning of December, and today we’re home enjoying Christmas Eve with our families. However you celebrate, whatever your beliefs; we hope this time of year is a magical time of peace and joy for you and those you love. Let’s take a look at how Christmas is celebrated at some of our amazing program locations around the world!

Christmas in Krakow

study abroad students walking in krakow

Krakow is truly a magnificent city to be in during the month of December. In fact, many citizens believe Krakow is the world capitol of white Christmases! The city’s climate and atmosphere make for a picturesque holiday experience. In addition, the Yuletide lasts longer in the Krakow region than anywhere else! You’ll find Christmas trees, carolers and wreaths throughout the city until the end of January.

On Christmas Eve, Polish families have a traditional supper called Wigilia. You won’t find some of your usual Polish dishes at this feast; as abstaining from meat is a big part of Wigilia! In the evening, families share an oplatek wafer with everyone present. Each person takes a small bite of the wafer, and then passes it to the person next to them, wishing for a blessed 12 months for them as they pass it. It’s a fun tradition that truly captures the Christmas spirit of peace on earth and good will to men.

Christmas in San José

Mate, a popular Christmas drink in Costa Rica

A popular drink at Christmastime in Latin America is mate! The warm beverage is caffeine-rich which is great for keeping up with festive holiday plans!

The nativity scene is front and center of Christmas celebrations in Costa Rica. The vast majority of Costa Ricans have at least one nativity scene in their home during the holiday. Similarly to the U.S., the season unofficially begins in early November, when Halloween decorations are replaced with Christmas displays. In addition, families love to decorate their homes with tropical flowers, wreaths, and of course Christmas lights! Christmas trees are also prominent, although Costa Ricans prefer the tall, thin cypress trees as a decoration rather than a fir tree.

Christmas in Budapest

Christmas tree Budapest

Budapest is another “picture perfect” place to spend Christmas. With nearly a dozen Christmas markets in the city, there’s never a shortage of places to shop and drink mulled wine or egg nog. In front of Budapest’s grandest cathedral, you’ll find the Advent Feast at the Basilica, an open-air market with Hungarian foods like flódni (a kind of chimney cake).

thermal baths in Budapest

Thermal baths provide a fun tradition for families who want to warm up before beginning the traditional Christmas meal. Hungarian families usually have fish soup, chicken or pork as the main entree for their Christmas feasts. Stuffed cabbage, pastries, and Hungarian candy are common for dessert.

Student ice skating in Budapest, Hungary

One of our study abroad alumni in Budapest remarked on the city’s beautiful atmosphere  while she was there during the Christmas season: “The whole city is lit up with twinkly lights, trees are adorned with glittery ornaments, and huge Advent wreaths with giant purple candles are placed in the center of main squares… One can never have too much of Christmas and no city does Christmas better than Budapest!”

Christmas in Brisbane


Christmas in Australia means “summer”! The weather is warm and T-shirts and shorts are the most common Christmas attire you’ll find in Brisbane, Sydney and beyond. A popular tradition for Australian families is to spend Christmas Day at the beach with loved ones. A yummy dinner is also a big tradition, with salads, seafood, roast turkey and plum pudding. Although children in the U.S. grow up believing Santa Claus’ sleigh is pulled by reindeer, a popular Australian Christmas song says six white kangaroos do the manual labor! (Perhaps the kangaroos escort Santa Claus through the Southern Pacific, where it’s far too warm for reindeer this time of year!)

Christmas in Berlin

In households across Germany, Santa isn’t the one who comes to visit families on Christmas! (What?!) German families believe in the story of St. Nikolaus, a story that dates back to the third century A.D. According to the legend, Nikolaus lost his wealthy parents to an epidemic. Rather than spend his family fortune on himself, he decided to dedicate his life to the church, using all his money to secretly help the poor.

Most families attend a church service before heading home for a traditional Christmas dinner. For families in Berlin and across Germany, this holiday meal usually consists of duck, goose, rabbit or a roast. Families also enjoy red cabbage and potato dumplings, as well as traditional German and Austrian desserts.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from API!



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