Christmas traditions around the world

It’s that festive time of year again where billions of people around the world gather with their friends and family to celebrate Christmas!

At Sunsail, we love to learn about and celebrate unique Christmas traditions around the world. In the blog we’ve rounded up just a few of the many festive customs at some of our sailing destinations.

Christmas traditions in Europe

While Christmases across Europe might look similar from the outside, at a closer look, each region has its own eccentricities. In Italy, you might spend Christmas Eve skiing in the mountains or attending midnight mass at the Vatican. Festive celebrations might seem to get longer each year, but the Italians and many Mediterranean countries formally celebrate the big day from December 8th all the way to January 6th! Being steeped in a culture of food, Italians tend not to eat meat on Christmas Eve, instead preferring lighter seafood meals in order to save space on Christmas Day, especially for the delicious panettone sweet bread. 


In Croatia, amongst the historic catholic traditions such as lighting the advent wreath, you’ll find many Croats planting a pot of wheat underneath their tree on December 13th in order to bring luck for the next year. Local winter dishes include sarma (minced meat and rice surrounded in cabbage or grape leaves) as well as various cakes containing carob, fig, walnut and poppyseed. 

Decorations look slightly different than expected in Greece. Many people wrap a wooden cross in basil to keep away evil spirits, while others hang a pomegranate above the door to bring good luck. Alongside being the saint of Christmas, St Nicholas in Greece also protects sailors, with fishermen decorating their boats in blue and white lights to celebrate him. The Greek navy also performs a concert dedicated to Father Christmas every year. 

Christmas traditions in the Caribbean

Like much of the rest of the world, this time of year in the Caribbean is full of delicious food, music and family. Jamaican Christmas cake is made with brown sugar, rum and other spices to make a delicious sweet treat. The main dinner itself usually consists of goat or hog, prepared freshly on Christmas morning and often accompanied with macaroni pie. 

Walking on the beach

Many locals across the various islands spend Christmas Eve shopping, meeting up with friends and even partying until after midnight to welcome in the big day together. A unique tradition in St Lucia is “bamboo bursting”. Cannons are made by drilling holes in bamboo canes before filling them with fuel and lighting them, creating loud explosions that can be heard across the island. The winter festivals in Antigua are filled with music, including Moko Jumbies, dancers on stilts that dance above the crowds. 

How do sailors celebrate Christmas?

While some sailors keep their boats moored and prefer to stay home for the season, others head out on the water for some winter sailing adventures. For those looking for winter sun, many head to the Caribbean for gentler sailing conditions, or Thailand for stronger winds and open water sailing. 

The benefit of sailing at Christmas is combining the traditions of your home country and those of your trip. Cooking a roast dinner on a yacht is a pretty impressive feat, but enjoying one alongside a rum cocktail in the St. Lucia sun is something pretty unique. And you’ll never forget wearing a Santa hat while sunbathing on a beach in Phuket!

Thailand Charter

Just how every country celebrates Christmas differently, taking your family sailing around Christmas gives you a huge choice in different locations and celebrations to enjoy. To find out more about where to go sailing at winter, speak to one of our experts or take a look at our other blogs.

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