Global Guide to Christmas Tree Traditions

We love Christmas trees and all things Christmas but we all celebrate the season in different ways and have our own traditions. so here is a look at some of the different Christmas tree traditions across the globe.


In the UK Christmas is traditionally thought of with snow and wintry weather, in Australia it is the height of summer. Instead of decorating a fir tree, many Australians decorate Christmas Bushes, native plants with little red-flowered leaves.


In Southern Brazil there is an abundance of Pine trees that are decorated with little pieces of cotton to represent falling snow, whereas in Northern Brazil where there is fewer pine trees available, many homes decorate artificial trees.


The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree in Britain was first made popular by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who brought home a Christmas tree from Germany in 1841. The royal couple were then photographed in the newspaper in front of the Christmas tree in Windsor Castle. Decorating trees then became fashionable and the tradition spread.

In Britain, Christmas trees are generally decorated with lights, tinsel and ornaments, while presents are left under the tree.


Due to early German settlers, the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree is now very popular in Canada. Reportedly the first Christmas tree was seen in 1781, German born Baron Friederick von Riedesel who settled in Sorel, Quebec decorated a tree with white candles. As more european settlers arrived in Canada, the tradition spread.


In 1829, Barön Klinckowstrom, a Helsinki nobleman, decorated the inside of his house with 8 Christmas trees; this was one of the earliest records of the Christmas tree in Finland. Nowadays trees are often not brought in the house until noon of Christmas Eve and Christmas ornaments are generally handmade.


In France, Christmas trees are decorated in much the same way as in Britain.


The tradition of Christmas trees can be traced back to as early as the 15th Century in Germany. It is believed that the first  German Christmas tree was set up in 1419 in Freiburg by the town bakers. The tree was decorated with fruits, nuts, and treats, which on New Year’s Day  the children  in the village were allowed to eat.


Although most homes now celebrate Christmas by decorating a tree, it is not traditional in Greece. Instead a traditional Christmas celebration is having a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across the rim.  A wooden cross is wrapper with a sprig of basil and hung from the wire. Each day, a family member will dip the cross in holy water and sprinkle it around the house to ward off evil spirits.


In Greenland Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments and lights in the same way as celebrated across Europe. Presents are left under the tree for Christmas day.


In Italy, the nativity scene (presepio) is the focus of decorations for Christmas.  Trees are decorated with ornaments and lights that are Nativity themed.

Another Italian tradition is the Ceppo, this consists of a triangle shaped decoration. The ceppo has three layers. The bottom layer traditionally depicts the nativity scene, the middle layer has fruits and nuts on it and the upper layers are for gifts. The ceppo can be several feet high is heavily decorated with colored paper, gilt pine cones and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides and a star or angel tops the triangle. The Ceppo is also known as the ‘tree of light’.


Christmas is not widely celebrated in Japan and it is not a national holiday. For those who do celebrate Christmas, trees are traditionally decorated with fans, paper ornaments, wind chimes. One of the most popular Christmas ornaments is the origami swan, which is seen as a symbol of peace.


One of the famous Norwegian Christmas tree traditions is the big Christmas tree that Norway donate each year to the UK as a ‘thank you’ for the help the UK provided Norway in the second World War. The tree is displayed in Trafalgar Square in London each year.

Another Norwegian tradition is to decorated the Christmas Tree with small paper baskets called 'Julekurver' which are normally heart shaped.

South Africa

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is celebrated in the middle of summer. Fir Christmas trees are still popular and usually decorated with tinsel and ornaments.


Similar to Italy, the Nativity is traditionally the focus for Christmas tree decorations.


In Sweden the timing of the Christmas tree is very important, it must be up on Christmas and stay up until 12 days after Christmas. The tree is decorated with straw ornaments using stars, sunbursts and snowflakes. Straw is used in many Swedish Christmas decorations as a reminder that Jesus was born in a manger.


Christmas is huge in America and Christmas trees are decorated in lights, tinsel, ornaments and sometimes strings of popcorn.

That is just some of the Christmas tree traditions from around the world and if you have any special traditions we would love to hear about them., please let us know in a comment below.

Leave a Comment