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Holiday Decorations Around the World

What do the holidays look like in Japan, Mexico, Australia, or Norway? See for yourself!

Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns

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Winter trees glow in Yokohama, Japan. (Getty)

Sure, you and the kids know all about Christmas lights, popcorn garlands, and adding a star to the top of the tree. But have you heard about apple ornaments, straw goat statues, and spiders crawling through Christmas trees? Those decoration ideas may sound uncommon to you, but in other parts of the world, they are as traditional as your elf on the shelf. Take a trip around the world and see how other countries decorate for the holiday season! 

Mexico

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Poinsettias line Reforma Avenue in Mexico City at Christmastime. (Getty)

They're not dreaming of a white Christmas full of snow in Mexico — but luckily, the warm climate creates an opportunity to decorate with bright flowers like lilies and poinsettias, known as the Christmas Eve Flower, or the Flor de Nochebuena. Along with flowers, many families set out festive piñatas and paper lanterns known as farolitos.

Japan

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Winter trees glow in Yokohama, Japan. (Getty)

Japanese holiday decorations take the old song lyric "May your days be merry and bright" to another level! Japanese cities are known for mesmerizing illuminations and light decorations during the holiday season. The lights are especially vibrant in city centers and shopping areas since many Japanese families do not put up trees in their homes. 

Philippines

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Colorful lanterns on display in the Phillippines (Getty)

Think Christmas decorations come out earlier every year here in America? Wait until you hear about the Philippines! The island nation starts celebrating Christmas in September (and you thought the day after Halloween was early). Filipino homes decorate for the holidays with ornamental lanterns called parol. Traditional parols are circle-shaped configurations with a star in the middle, but over the years, the parol design has come to incorporate flowers and other seasonal symbols. While the decorations were intended to hang on lamp posts, they are commonly found in homes and office buildings as well.

Colombia

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Holiday decorations in Parque Norte in Medellin, Colombia (Getty)

Colombia doesn't mess around when it comes to Christmas! The celebration starts on December 7 with Día de las Velitas, also known as Little Candles Day. The holiday is marked with paper lanterns and candles lining windows, balconies, popular roads, and parks. Families also visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of their loved ones. The decorations continue throughout the month with elaborate light displays, especially in the city of Medellin, where 3-D light displays line the streets and riverside walks. 

Australia

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A holiday snowman on the beach in Australia (Getty)

"I'm dreaming of tropical Christmas!" That's how the song goes, right? Christmas is actually a summertime holiday in Australia, which means the decorations are very similar to those you would see in America, just with a tropical feel. So instead of seeing Santa at the North Pole, you might catch him (or his snowman pals) relaxing at the beach. 

France

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In France, Christmas tree ornaments include bright red apples (Getty)

Forget about ornaments and lights! In France, the main star of the Christmas tree is the apple. Apple ornaments make bright spots of color on the green boughs of a French family Christmas tree. The centuries-old tradition of hanging apple-shaped ornaments on the tree and decorating for Christmas with shiny red apples stems back to the apple's symbolic connection to the Garden of Eden.

Ukraine

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Ukrainain families hang spider ornaments on their Christmas tree (SpiderStuff on Etsy)

Americans tend to pack up the spiders when Halloween is over. However, in Ukraine, the creepy crawlers get an extended invitation to the holiday celebration and are front and center in the decorations. The eight-legged creature can commonly be found making glittery webs across Christmas trees. Their place in the Christmas zeitgeist, however, has a big twist from their typical association. Instead of being scary bugs, these insects are known as good luck charms. Legend has it that their webs will turn to gold on Christmas morning, making them very desirable decorations around the tree. 

Norway

Usually, breaking an ornament isn't exactly considered a good thing — but in Norway, it's quite the opposite. Traditional woven paper ornaments filled with sweets and goodies, called julekurver, are hung up all around the house and tree, and opened on Christmas to reveal the sweets inside. The most popular configuration of the detailed design comes in the shape of a heart, and is usually red and white, but any pretty color combo will do! 

Greece

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In Greece it's common to see bright-lit boats instead trees for Christmas. (Getty)

While many people in Greece still decorate traditional Christmas trees, some swap out their trees for decorative boats! The tradition can be traced back to the legend of Saint Nicholas, a patron saint of sailors. On water and on land, boats strung with hundreds of lights light up the nights before Christmas in Greece.

Sweden

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A Christmas goat decoration in Sweden (Getty)

​​See ya later, reindeer! In Sweden, it's all about the goats — the Yule Goat, that is. The goat connects all the way back to the Norse God of Thunder, Thor (yeah, we’re talking about the same Thor we all know and love). Thor was known for his chariot which was pulled by... goats! The legend somehow crossed with Christmas tradition, and today goats are all over during the winter holiday. Most of the decorative goats are made out of straw, as it is a popular material for decorations and ornaments across Sweden.