Turns out, Santa Claus doesn’t visit the entire world.

Every culture that celebrates Christmas also has its own festive ways to make the holiday special. Some of those involve dishes or treats that only appear once a year. Others give gifts that carry a particular meaning, and still others decorate in a particular way, hold festivals, parades or parties to ring in the season. Growing up, I know my family’s holiday season just wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t hang the Christmas Star on the tree, if my aunt or my mother didn’t cook a lavish Christmas Eve dinner and invite the whole family and friends to eat together and then we would sit down as a family together next to the tree as we opened all our gifts. We always took many videos and pictures for memories to enjoy in the years to come. In some countries, people can say the same about a visit from the Krampus, eating KFC, or pulling a Christmas cracker and hanging stockings from bed posts.

Japan: KFC for Christmas Dinner

In Japan, celebrating Christmas is still relatively new. It’s only been widely recognized for the past couple of decades, and is typically seen as a time to spread joy and cheer, or even a romantic couple’s day, instead of a religious holiday. Many order KFC for Christmas dinner, or make a reservation at a restaurant instead of cooking a big feast.

Poland: People Share a Pre-Dinner Wafer

In Poland, and many Polish communities worldwide, Christmas Eve dinner or (Wigilia) begins with sharing the Oplatek. The paper-thin square wafer is made of flour and water and has an image of the Nativity on it. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece and shares a holiday greeting before passing it along. Sometimes, even pets get in on the fun.

Slovakia: Carp for Dinner

All over Central Europe, people enjoy carp for Christmas Eve Dinner, according to NPR. But rather than picking it up from the supermarket, traditionalists let the fish live in the bathtub for a couple of days before preparing and eating it. Legend has it, the scales bring luck and good fortune for the coming year.

Sweden: St. Lucia's Day

In Sweden, Finland, and Norway, St. Lucia's Day is a special part of the Christmas season that commemorates a woman said to be one of the first Christian martyrs. Celebrations involve candlelight processions, with the eldest girl in each family dressed up like St. Lucia in white gowns, often wearing a wreath with candles. The girls will also serve the family S-shaped Lucia buns and coffee or mulled wine.

Greece: Christmas Trees and Boats

In the seafaring country of Greece, decorating Christmas trees and boats has been popular for centuries. The first known Christmas tree in Greece was put up by King Otto 1833 next to a large decorated boat, which families traditionally erected to celebrate men's return from sea voyages. Today, in cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, large lit-up boats appear alongside trees.

Germany: Christmas Markets

In Germany, you can do your Christmas shopping with a mug of mulled wine in one hand and a bratwurst in the other at festive outdoor markets. The sprawling seasonal markets pop up all over the country with artisans selling gifts for everyone on your list.

Philippines: Nochebuena and Lots of Lights

Filipinos take the Christmas season seriously, with big Nochebuena parties on Christmas Eve. Many will attend Mass, called Misa de Riso in the evening, and then feast and dance into the wee hours. Decorations often go big too, with the parol, a lighted star lantern, featuring prominently.

Austria: Krampus Hunts for Naughty Children

You thought coal in your stocking was bad? In Austria and Bavaria, St. Nicholas gives good kids gifts, while Krampus, the half-man, half-goat comes around to drag the bad ones away. In some places, men dress up as the scary character for a Krampuslauf, or “Krampus run" in which they parade through the streets to blow off steam — and scare some kids back into line.

Mexico: All-Night Parties With Piñatas

In Mexico, as well as many other Latinx and Hispanic countries, families celebrate Noche Buena on Christmas Eve. That includes a huge feast, singing, dancing, and often a piñata for the kids.More religious observers may attend midnight Mass, but it's always a time for family and togetherness.

England: Stockings Hung on Bed Posts With Care

When I was a kid, I always worried Santa wouldn't find our fireplace-less house. In Britain, they don't have that problem because children hang their stockings at the ends of their beds instead. That way, they wake up to a sweet surprise.

Singapore: Serious Light Displays

Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district buzzes with activity all year round but during the Christmas season, it twinkles with some of the most impressive decorations in the world. Residents also visit Gardens on the Bay for a jaw-dropping Christmas village display. We wouldn't mind getting stuck in traffic with that kind of view to pass the time.

Singapore: Serious Light Displays

Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district buzzes with activity all year round but during the Christmas season, it twinkles with some of the most impressive decorations in the world. Residents also visit Gardens on the Bay for a jaw-dropping Christmas village display. We wouldn't mind getting stuck in traffic with that kind of view to pass the time.

Switzerland: Kids Get Advent Calendars

Although their popularity has spread in recent years, Advent Calendars are especially big in Switzerland. Some parents make them for their children, while others purchase unique ones tailored to their kids' interests. They open a new little treat every day, with the biggest one arriving on Christmas Eve.

Australia: Christmas on the Beach

Because Christmas falls during the sweltering summer months in Australia, many residents hit the beach for a barbecue. People might play a rousing game of backyard cricket, according to one Insider writer, and grill up fresh seafood on the barbie. They still sing "White Christmas," but won't ever see one outside their front door.

Iceland: Santa Clauses Place Treats in Shoes

Not only does Iceland celebrate 13 days before Christmas, children also get presents from 13 different Santa Clauses, or Yule Lads. Each of these lads has his own different qualities and they can all be a bit feisty. But if good children place their shoes on the windowsill, the Yule Lads will leave them little gifts. If they haven't behaved all year, rotten potatoes show up in their Crocs.

Lithuania: Shoe Throwing, Drawing Straws, Fortune Telling

Lithuania is dreaming of a white Christmas! This has been the case since ancient times. And that says a lot, since we have been celebrating the winter solstice ever since we were pagans. And after the baptism, we added to the old traditions prayers, the Advent, decorating Christmas trees, and sharing around kalėdaičiai- thin white wafers eaten on Christmas Eve. During Christmas Eve, hard work is prohibited. The hardest part of it is cooking a minimum of 12 Christmas dishes while fasting until everyone has gathered around the table. Which traditionally happens once the Western Star (Venus) appears in the sky. You ought not eat meat during Christmas Eve in Lithuania, so all dishes are of fish and vegetable origin. Mushrooms, cabbage, borsch and dumplings prevail. Fortune telling follows the meal: straws are being pulled from under the table, the person with the longest straw will live longest; facing away from a door, a shoe is thrown over one’s shoulder. Based on if the pointy end is facing the door, you will either move or get married. Christmas is celebrated on December 25-26th. The first day is for the family: gifts are exchanged and festive meals served: roast poultry, sweet baked goods and gingerbread. The second day is for visiting others and the youth. Want an incredibly cozy Christmas experience? Visit the St. Bernardine and St. Anne churches during the holiday. Only about a dozen steps separate them.

This year, maybe you'll even want to try out some of the most beloved Christmas traditions from around the world in your own home. You might just find a new cherished activity that your children and grandchildren (and their grandchildren!) won't be able to do without. Dulcie

Crawford and the Dulcie Crawford Group at Signature Real Estate wants to wish you all a joyful and memorable holiday season this 2023.