Christmas while studying abroad: discover the traditions

Whether you decide to experience Christmas in your study destiny or heading home to visit family, you should know, in advance, the Christmas traditions waiting for you at your study exchange country. This season is, in some places, the best opportunity to absorb a culture e its unique features.

School holidays mean more time available to travel around the city, glimpse the Christmas lights, buy some presents – with special season promotions -, enjoy the late year celebrations, taste a traditional Christmas dinner... a long list of programs, certainly different from anything you ever lived at this time. 

If you haven’t chose your study abroad destiny yet, check some of the most famous Christmas traditions around the world and let the festive spirit play a role on your decision.


Real Christmas Spirit? Here it is

If you’ve been away from family for a while but want to maintain traditions, stop looking: Rome and other cities in Italy are your best study exchange option. With some of the most important catholic celebrations happening, in and outside the Vatican city, Italy’s capital is filled with Santa’s and toys for children at the big city’s piazzas (squares). On the Christmas day, the Pope goes out to St. Peter's Square to give the benediction and read Christmas special regards in more than 50 different languages, in front of thousands of people. Plus, if you're a fan, you should know that past is always on the table, so get ready for a great feast. Buon Natale!


Snow flakes in the city, like a movie scene

A white Christmas is magic, don’t you agree? So, imagine living it at a cosmopolitan city like New York, completely decorated accordingly. You and your classmates won’t want to miss the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, neither a fun ice skating ride at the Rockefeller Center ice rink. Don’t forget the Christmas market and the carousels in Central Park, Christmas shows across the streets, giant screens with festive posts and the outstanding window displays to stare at. Is there a more glamorous exchange than this, in the United States? Merry Christmas!


The best...and the most unexpected Christmas

Some say there’s no Christmas like in Philippines, and we found a reason to it: in this Asian country, in the south of China and Japan, Christmas celebrations start in November, immediately after Halloween. Therefore, from September to January, the streets are filled with colours and lights, where the main decorations are the bamboo, star-shaped lamps, spread all over the village streets and windows. Mixing North-American and Spanish traditions, the Filipinos celebrate Christmas with lots of religious festivities for consecutive days, showing why do they have one of the biggest catholic communities worldwide. This is the ideal exchange destiny for students who are already used to be awake all night long – the Christmas eve is very important and, after the “Midnight Party”, non-stop celebrations last until the following day. Maligayang Pasko!


At Santa Claus’ home: you must believe it!

The legend says that he comes from a Finland’s north region, bordering Norway, Sweden and Russia, called Lapland: if you’ve been looking for Santa, surely you’ll find him around here. With a white landscape background, here you can join a sled ride, run in the snow with the famous Husky dogs and visit the baby polar bears and wolverines at Ranua Zoo. There’s even an Elf school where you can go back to your childhood and forget about your study duties for once and, of course, the amazing Northen lights natural show, to which nobody could stay indifferent. Are you around south Finland? Make sure you won’t miss the reading ceremony of the first and official Declaration of Christmas Peace and take the chance to practice your Finnish language skills by saying “Hyvää Joulua!” to everyone.


Christmas with a summer taste (and maybe a sunburn)

Forget the cold, snowy Christmas, wearing long coats to cover your feet. In Australia, December is one of the hottest months of the year, but everything you’ll find here is pretty much inside the season’s spirit and it’s even easier to enjoy with a nice weather: long fireworks, street concerts and fully decorated neighbourhoods. In Melbourne, Christmas carols are transformed in a big festival, candle-illuminated all night long. Seat at the table and taste the traditional English Christmas Dinner – roast turkey, pudding and gingerbread -, adding ice-cream, of course, to match with high temperatures. If the 25th of December is meant to enjoy some time with relatives, many Australians do it with a group meeting at the beach, traditional habit in Sydney, hosting a Christmas barbecue at Bondi Beach. Happy Christmas!


A real Christmas calls for a traditional market

Germany, with its globally renowned museums and medieval cities, is where you’ll find the most traditional and ancient Christmas markets in the world. In Frankfurt, the city center is filled with handcraft, wine and delicious food stalls, while in Nuremberg, there is a giant wooden wheel, carousels and locomotives. Everything is original: no plastic toys or souvenirs; the famous German glass sculptures are the main attractions; vendors compete among themselves to win the Most Beautiful Stall Design award. And do not think that Christmas is only on the 25th of December because, on the 6th of January, St. Nicholas day, children are given little treats and gifts, looking forward to welcome “Weihnachtsmann” (Santa Claus) later. Frohe Weihnachten!