When the calendar flips to December, the whole world starts focusing on gift-giving. No matter if the main celebration of the month is a religious one, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, or if it simply revolves around friends, food and family, gift-giving and receiving is top of mind. Learn about the surprisingly different traditional gift-giving customs people enjoy around the globe.
North America 1
On Christmas Day in Canada and the U.S., it is customary to exchange gifts, and children are delighted to find presents stuffed in over-sized stockings or left under the Christmas tree for them overnight by Santa. But differences do abound across the continent:
The Wait is Longer in Mexico
Canada Gifts the U.S.
Toys for Tots
The gift-exchanging customs of Europe are as diverse as the people who celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. In France, Germany and other countries in Europe, children open at least some of their presents on the feast of Saint Nicholas, which is December 6, while family gift exchanges happen on Christmas Eve. Spain and Italy have similar Christmas gift traditions, but they don’t happen until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 (the twelfth day of Christmas), the day the three wise men deliver their gifts to baby Jesus. Other European gift-exchange customs include:
Crackers in the U.K.
Hogmanay in Scotland
Gifts for the Animals in Poland
24 Days of Gifts in Norway
Although most countries in Asia don’t widely celebrate Christmas or exchange traditional Christmas gifts, there are still many opportunities for gift-giving, and many traditions associated with them. From India’s Diwali, or the festival of lights, to China’s New Year celebrations, people in Asia make it a point to celebrate in style with these gift-giving customs:
Gifting Rules in India
Apples Exchanged in China
Oseibo Gifts in Japan
Gift-Receiving is an Art in Thailand
It’s All a Secret in the Philippines
It’s All About Numbers in Asia
Central and South America 4
In Latin and South America, Christmas is a time for religious celebration as well as hospitality and generosity. Gift-giving differences include:
It’s all About Timing in Latin America
Secret Santa is Big in Brazil
Santa Isn’t the Only Gift Deliverer
For most countries in Africa, more emphasis is placed on the religious nature of Christmas than on gift-giving. But many people do still give each other gifts on a smaller scale, and give to the less fortunate.
Giving to Others in Zambia
Clothing Gifts are #1 in Nigeria
It’s All About the Wrap in Egypt
Saying Thanks in Zimbabwe
Like South America and Africa, Christmas comes in the summer in Oceania. Depending on where you live, it might be hard to find a Christmas tree, but it’s not uncommon to see a surfing Santa, take a trip to the beach or have a traditional holiday feast outside.
Gifts Under the Tree Down Under
Over the Top in Polynesia
Gift-Exchanging is State Sponsored in New Zealand
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