From Baby Jesus delivering presents, sweets in shoes and eating seafood – Christmas is a diverse celebration like no other. So how different is Christmas in the UK for those with different traditions and forms of celebrations living in England?

Christmas- now a period of gift giving, celebration and sharing with many of our loved ones. Yet traditionally about the birth of Jesus, it’s a period that throughout our childhood is beautifully glorified and coated with fantasies brought alive by our imaginations. I’m sure you all are familiar with your Christmas routines, yet in reality the diversity of Christmas is like no other celebration, with vast variations in traditions all across Europe and the world.

Christmas day rolls around, December 25th, and across the UK many families wake up to open the Christmas present under the tree dressed in their pyjamas. While this celebration is tradition in the UK, it is one of the very few places where Christmas celebrations take place on the 25th. In fact, in many places across Europe  the 24th, otherwise known as Christmas eve, is the most significant night for Christmas celebrations.

For example, Hungary. Despite recent social changes which stray away from more religion-centred ideas, Christmas in Hungary was focused on the night of Jesus’ birth ( I’m sure is very familiar for many!) and so its specifically on the evening of the 24th that the Christmas tree goes up, and most of the celebrations take place. It was tradition in Hungary to gather around with your family on this day, spend the day making home cooked traditional Christmas food, such as Hungarian fish soup, or stuffed cabbage and prepare for a big meal. The evening meal is one od the biggest focuses. It’s a form of celebration with your close or immediate family. I’ve found that those who live in the UK and celebrate according to British traditions often found it odd that presents were given on the evening of the 24th, before dinner, where everyone wore a nice outfit for the occasion and shared their gifts with one another. Perhaps the most unique part is that, unlike the popular belief in Santa clause, in Hungary it is the Baby Jesus- or Jézuska - who delivers the gifts.

Food is another major difference. While in the UK delicious roast turkey with stuffing, vegetables and pigs in blankets makes a glorious feast to enjoy with your loved ones, in many countries its actually more common to eat seafood. Yes, seafood! similar to Hungary for example is in Italy, where its traditional to eat fish on Christmas eve, sometimes capitone (a type of eel). Other meals in Italy for Christmas include lasagne too. In fact, in many places this stems from a Christian tradition to abstain from meat all together on Christmas eve, and so fish dishes or cheese-based dishes have their time to shine during Christmas in many countries.

Aside from this, Christmas in the UK has its own traditions that may seem odd to other Europeans, for example mince pies, Christmas crackers and boxing day are all things that come from British origins and remain popular. Especially here in the UK. Judit Birinyi, who grew up outside of the UK comments that ‘at first the most unusual thing about Christmas here was how early they put up the Christmas tree, and how soon into December the festivities started. Where I grew up, Christmas was extremely family centred, so it was even more crazy to see people going to pubs to celebrate. I just didn’t understand it’

It just goes to show that our celebrations and traditions have many treasures, and different experiences of Christmas can perhaps be lost nowadays to all the shopping, money spending and commercial transformation of Christmas.