December Global Holidays: Time of Worldwide Celebration

There are so many major December global holidays that it’s hard to keep track! From Christmas and Hanukkah to Kwanzaa, people from all over the world celebrate holidays in their unique ways.

Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to create special memories with family and loved ones.

Growing up in Europe, December always brings a sense of nostalgia to me. I remember drinking mulled wine, eating gingerbread at Christmas markets, and strolling the streets filled with shiny Christmas decorations and lights.

Just thinking about it, I can already hear the lyrics of Christmas songs on repeat in my head: 

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’

But December has much more to offer than Christmas.

There are many other popular December global holidays.

If you plan your vacation around the time of the holidays, you can combine sightseeing with exploring local traditions and culture.

Ready to learn more?

Let’s dive into various December global holidays worldwide, how, where, and why people celebrate them.

woman in orange coat drinking in the snow
Image Credit: Unsplash.

The List of December Global Holidays (From 1st to December 31st)

DECEMBER GLOBAL HOLIDAYS DATE WHO CELEBRATES   
World AIDS Day December 1st Worldwide
Krampusnacht December 5th Germany, Austria, and some other European countries
St. Nicholas Day December 6th Some European countries
Bodhi Day December 8th Mostly Japan (side note: some Buddhists celebrate Bodhi day according to the lunar calendar)
Immaculate Conception December 8th Catholic communities around the world
Human Rights Day December 10th Worldwide
St. Lucia’s Day December 13th Scandinavian countries, Italy
Las Posadas December 16th – 24th Mexico
Hanukkah  2022  December 18th – December 26th Jewish communities around the world
International Human Solidarity Day December 20th Worldwide
Winter Solstice December 21st Worldwide
Yule December 21st Germany, Scandinavia
Festivus December 23rd Some non-religious folks
Christmas Eve December 24th Many countries around the world with Christian roots
Christmas December 25th Many countries around the world with Christian roots
Boxing Day December 26th Mostly commonwealth nations
Stephen’s Day December 26th Some European countries 
Kwanzaa Dec 26th – 1st Jan African-American communities in the USA
New Year’s Eve December 31st Worldwide
Omisoka December 31st Japan

World AIDS Day (December 1)

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st every year. It’s an opportunity for people across the globe to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

The day also serves as a reminder of the importance of prevention and education about this deadly disease. 

There are many ways that people can take part in World AIDS Day. Some choose to wear a red ribbon to show their support, while others may donate money or time to organizations working to fight HIV/AIDS.

Some cities also hold special events, such as concerts or candlelight vigils, to commemorate those who have lost their lives to the disease.

No matter how you choose to participate, World AIDS Day is a powerful way to show your solidarity with those affected by HIV.

Krampusnacht (December 5)

Krampusnacht, or the night of Krampus, is a traditional holiday celebrated in Austria’s Alpine regions and some parts of Germany on December 5th. 

Who’s Krampus, you might ask?

Krampus is a half-man, half-goat mythical creature. The legend says he used to punish children who had been naughty and drag them to the underworld.

On Krampusnacht, people dress up as the Krampus.

The holiday has pagan roots and was originally intended to scare misbehaved children.

Since Krampusnacht is the holiday before the Feast of St. Nicholas, in some regions, the Krampus visits homes with St. Nicholas. (more on that later)

In modern times, Krampusnacht has become more of a light-hearted celebration with people dressing up in costumes and having fun.

This holiday is also becoming popular in the US because it captures a little bit of the spookiness of Halloween, right before the Christmas season.

kids in saint nicholas costumes for december global holidays
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan.

Nicholas Day (December 6)

St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th and is a popular holiday in many parts of Europe.

The holiday is inspired by the life of Saint Nicholas, who was known for his generosity and kindness.

Some people say that St. Nicholas is somewhat a European version of American Santa Claus. Although they have similarities, they aren’t the same.

Traditionally, many children leave their shoes out, hoping St. Nicholas will fill them with treats or small gifts. But if they were naughty, they’ll only get the chunk of coal.

Of course, we know how the story goes. The parents are the ones who fill the shoes overnight.

In some European countries, people dress up as St. Nicholas and go door to door accompanied by an angel and devil, giving out sweets to children.

man meditating for december global holidays
Image Credit: Pixabay.

Bodhi Day (December 8)

In the world of Buddhism, December 8th is an important day of celebration.

The holiday commemorates the day that Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree and then started sharing his teachings.

On Bodhi day, Buddhists often meditate and reflect on the principles of their faith. Then, they celebrate quietly and peacefully.

At home, some may choose to decorate the bodhi tree with lights. Under the tree, they place a small Zen altar. They also light candles or turn on many white or multi-colored lights 30 days following Bodhi day.

The traditional meal on this occasion is rice and milk. This dish was the first meal Siddhartha ate after he reached his enlightenment.

Bodhi is a day for contemplation and reflection. If you happen to be traveling in Buddhist countries in December, you can celebrate Bodhi with locals and learn more about the history and teachings of Buddha.

Immaculate Conception (December 8)

Immaculate Conception day is celebrated on December 8th by Catholics around the world.

The holiday recognizes the day that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born without original sin.

On this day, Catholics often attend mass and say prayers to honor Mary.

Human Rights Day (December 10)

Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10th by people worldwide. 

This holiday is a reminder of the day when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Declaration was a collective response to the horrors of the 2nd World War. It clearly defined a common set of rules and standards to recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings.

On this day, people often reflect on the importance of human rights and work to promote equality and justice.

Consider spending Human Rights Day learning more about human rights and how you can help protect them.

Lucia’s Day (December 13)

St. Lucia’s Day, on December 13th, is one of the most popular holidays in Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia. 

This holiday pays tribute to Saint Lucy, also known as Santa Lucia. She was a Christian martyr who died for her faith in 304 AD.

The legend says she would secretly bring food to the Christians hiding in Roman catacombs. She lit her way through tunnels with candles attached to the wreath on her head as her hands were full of things for people.

The holiday celebrates her life and her work as a missionary to spread the teachings of Jesus throughout Europe.

If you’re lucky to be in Scandinavia in December, you’re in for a treat. On St Lucia’s day, young women or girls dress up in a white dress and tie a red belt around the waist. They also have a crown of candles on their heads and sing songs in honor of Saint Lucy.

A sparkling sea of candlelight creates a mystical atmosphere.

It’s also a time of feasting on sweet treats such as lussekatter (or lussebullar), an S-shaped saffron bun with raisins.

Besides Scandinavia, Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in Italy and the United States.

In every country, the holiday has slightly different traditions. However, the overall message is always the same: to honor Saint Lucy and her work as a Christian martyr.

St. Lucia’s Day is sure to be a memorable experience.

pinata hanging from a tree
Image Credit: Unsplash / Victor Ballesteros.

Las Posadas (December 16) 

Las Posadas is a nine-day holiday celebration in Mexico and other Latin American countries from December 16th to 24th. The holiday commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

If anybody knows how to celebrate properly, it’s Latin Americans.

Each night of Las Posadas, a different home hosts a fiesta (party) where guests sing traditional songs and enjoy delicious food.

The final night of the holiday involves a piñata bashing. A Piñata is a colorful figure full of candies and toys. Traditionally, they hang up a piñata, and blindfolded children have to hit it with sticks until it breaks open, and all the sweets burst into the air.

Bashing piñatas is undoubtedly the highlight of the holidays, especially for kids.

Las Posadas is a fun-filled nine days full of music, food, fireworks, and laughter.

If you go to Mexico in December, you will surely have a good time. Perhaps you even get a chance to experience a piñata bashing.

hannukah candle holder december global holidays
Image Credit: Unsplash / Element5 Digital.

Hanukkah 2022 (December 18 – December 26)

Hanukkah is an important Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Hannukah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, or Feast of the Maccabees, and it lasts for eight days.

On this occasion, Jews around the world light candles each night to remember the miracle of the oil. According to religious texts, the miracle occurred after the liberation of the temple. The jug of oil that was supposed to last only one day lasted for eight days.

Families gather together to eat food, play games, exchange gifts and eat traditional foods such as delicious potato latkes (pancakes) and jelly donuts.

Hanukkah is a special time for family, friends, and community. It is a time to come together and celebrate Jewish common heritage and traditions.

International Human Solidarity Day (December 20)

20th December is International Human Solidarity Day, a day to celebrate our common humanity and to remind us of the importance of collaborating to build a fairer, more just world.

The day is celebrated by people of all ages and from all walks of life, who come together to support the principles of solidarity among people.

Whether through acts of kindness, volunteering, or simply raising awareness, everyone can play their part in making the world a better place.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 20th as International Human Solidarity Day in 2005 in an effort to reaffirm our shared commitment to the global community.

Each year, the day provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress towards achieving unity and a more inclusive world for all.

This day reminds us that we are stronger together—a great message worth sharing.

tree in snow
Image Credit: Unsplash / Denys Nevozhai.

Winter Solstice (December 21)

Winter Solstice is the first day of winter celebrated by many different cultures all around the world. Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st, the shortest day and longest night of the year. 

The reason for celebrating this day varies depending on which culture you ask, but most believe it is a time to give thanks for the gifts of nature and harvest. 

How each culture celebrates Winter Solstice differs, but many traditional celebrations involve feasting and bonfires.

Some also participate in special rituals or ceremonies to honor the Sun and bring good luck in the coming year.

No matter how it is celebrated, Winter Solstice is a time of joy and happiness that many people enjoy.

So if you find yourself in a different part of the world this December, be sure to look into how the locals celebrate Winter Solstice. You might discover some interesting traditions and have a great time doing it.

people sitting on logs outside
Image Credit: Unsplash / Tegan Mierle

Yule (December 21)

Yule is celebrated on December 21st. It is a Germanic Pagan Winter Solstice holiday.

Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun and the beginning of winter. The Pagans believe that the Winter solstice is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin, and communication with other realms becomes easier. 

People celebrate Yule by decorating their homes with greenery and lighting candles on this day.

Some also make a Yule log to burn on the night of the Solstice. The main point is to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Festivus (December 23)

Festivus is celebrated on December 23. This holiday became popular thanks to the TV show Seinfeld.

Dan O’Keefe, one of the show’s writers, was inspired by his family’s unique holiday traditions and came up with the idea of Festivus.

This unconventional holiday has been gaining in popularity in recent years, particularly among people who dislike Christmas’s commercial and materialistic aspects and want to try something a little different.

While Festivus has some strange and quirky aspects, at its core, it is a holiday dedicated to loved ones and enjoying each other’s company.

One of the most unusual aspects of Festivus is the ‘Airing of Grievances, where participants share their grievances with each other in a spirit of honesty and openness.

Sharing grievances leads to better understanding and communication within families and friend groups.

And, of course, no Festivus celebration would be complete without the traditional ‘Feats of Strength,’ where a guest must physically challenge the holiday’s ‘head of household.’

This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it actually encourages people to get up and move during the often-sedentary holiday season.

So whether you’re sharing your grievances or engaging in festive activities such as feats of strength, Festivus is a unique holiday that will cheer you up.

christmas decorations hanging
Image Credit: Pixabay.

Christmas Eve (December 24)

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most anticipated December global holidays – Christmas Eve.

Christians around the world traditionally celebrate Christmas Eve on December 24th. It marks the day before Jesus Christ was born. It is a holiday of feasting and preparations for the following day.

In many cultures, Christmas Eve is a time for decorating the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, attending church masses, and spending time with family and friends.

In the USA, Santa Claus is said to deliver presents to children on Christmas Eve via a chimney.

If you come from North America, it might surprise you that people in some countries have Christmas dinner and open presents on December 24th instead of the 25th.

I remember when my partner and I couldn’t decide which day we should exchange gifts. In Slovakia, we traditionally open presents on the 24th, while his family with British roots do it on the 25th.

After a bit of a silly fight, we decided to create our own traditions instead.

Now our tradition is to watch Christmas movies and sip hot chocolate together. After that, I prepare pierogies – dumplings filled with cheese.

The Christmas season is not just about watching Christmas movies in fuzzy socks but also a time of reflection, as people take stock of their blessings and think about those less fortunate.

Christians prepare for Christmas four weeks ahead. This period is called Advent. Each Sunday, they light a candle on a wreath with a different theme – the candle of hope, peace, love, and joy.

People tend to be more kind and more loving during the holiday season. They often contribute to charities.

If you want to embrace the true spirit of Christmas these holidays in 2022, you can dedicate the whole month of December to random acts of kindness.

Doing random acts of kindness is a tradition that I embraced, and it’s much more rewarding than any other gift I could get for Christmas.

Christmas – December 25

Christmas is a holiday celebrated by Christians all over the world.

It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. 

The Christmas holiday is a time for family and friends to get together, be jolly and exchange gifts with each other.

Christmas trees and lights are also common decorations during this holiday season.

I’ll share with you some odd Christmas traditions that we have in Slovakia. For Christmas dinner, we eat carp with potato salad and cabbage soup. Of course, there is nothing unusual about that.

But the weird part is that we buy the still-alive carp and keep it in a water-filled tub for a few days before killing it. The idea is to keep the carp as fresh as possible for Christmas dinner.

In North America, you will typically find households cooking a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings on Christmas Day after a morning spent opening stockings and gifts from under the tree. 

train in the snow
Image Credit: Pixabay.

Boxing Day (December 26)

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in many Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia

It falls on December 26th and is typically a day off from work or school. Boxing Day is a time for people to relax and spend time with family and friends. 

The name boxing day comes from the tradition of giving boxes with money or food to those less fortunate on this day.

Boxing Day has become more commercialized in recent years, and many stores offer sales and discounts.

In England, on boxing day, employers traditionally give gifts to their employees.

Whether you are spending this day with family or taking advantage of sales, Boxing Day is a great day in December to enjoy the holiday season.

Stephen’s Day (December 26)

Stephen’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Stephen, is celebrated on December 26th by Christians.

It pays homage to the life and martyrdom of Saint Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr.

Many countries have celebrations and traditions associated with this holiday, including feasts, processions, and special church activities.

In some places, the tradition is to give gifts to children or the poor on this day.

In Ireland, Stephen’s Day is a public holiday, and many people spend time with family and friends. They go out and sing or listen to Christmas carols in the streets.

Kwanzaa – Dec 26th – 1st Jan 

Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating African heritage and culture, celebrated mostly in the US. It lasts an entire week, from December 26th to January 1st.

The holiday was introduced in the 1960s by Maulana Karenga, an African-American professor, and activist.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principles, known as the Nguzo Saba. Kwanzaa principles include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Kwanzaa celebrations typically involve special foods, music, dancing, and traditional African clothing. Gifts are also often exchanged, and children receive books or other items that promote African culture.

By celebrating Kwanzaa, African Americans can connect with their African roots and learn about the history and traditions of their ancestors.

fireworks in the night sky
Image Credit: Pixabay.

New Year’s Eve (December 31)

New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31st all around the world.

Though there are many different traditions associated with the holiday, the common theme is that of hope and renewal.

For many people, New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the past year and set resolutions for the new one. Resolutions that are typically short-lived (just kidding).

It is also a time to celebrate with friends and loved ones.

There are many different ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Still, some of the most popular include attending parties, going to nightclubs or restaurants, or simply staying home and watching the countdown on television. 

People will often toast with champagne at midnight and watch fireworks to ring in the new year.

You can spot some of the most impressive fireworks in Sydney’s harbor, Dubai, or Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana beach.

Omisoka (December 31)

We have all heard about New Year’s Eve, but have you heard about Omisoka, the Japanese version of the New Year’s Eve celebration? 

Families often gather together, declutter their homes, and eat special foods like soba noodles.

Eating long noodles is symbolic of having a long life.

They also drink Amazake, a traditional drink made from fermented rice.

At midnight, people all across Japan watch the traditional ‘Red and White Song Contest’ on television. This program is something similar to American Idol. This singing contest has been held every year since 1951 and features popular Japanese singers competing against each other.

But Omisoka is not just an excuse to throw a national party; it is also a spiritual event. Many people visit shrines and temples on New Year’s Eve to pray for good luck in the coming year.

Temples ring bells at these places 108 times at midnight, symbolizing the 108 human desires that Buddha considers to cause all suffering.

Omisoka is a time of hope and renewal and is celebrated by people all across Japan.

The Best Christmas Markets to Experience in Europe in December 2022

If you’re looking for a place with a perfect Christmas atmosphere this December, immersing yourself in the festive cheer of a traditional European Christmas market is hard to beat.

From Germany and Austria to France, Italy, and beyond, in Europe, you can find the best Christmas markets around the world that are worth planning a trip for.

Take it from someone who used to work as a flight attendant and travel for a living.

The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg

snow falling with christmas lights
Image Credit: Pixabay.

The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, is one of Europe’s most well-known and beloved Christmas markets.

Dating back to 1628, it features over 180 wooden stalls selling traditional handicrafts, toys, mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, and of course, bratwurst (German sausage).

Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt

people walking in vienna at christmas
Image Credit: Unsplash.

Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt on Rathouse Square is another can’t-miss European Christmas market. 

Set against the stunning backdrop of the city’s historic center, it boasts over 150 stalls selling everything from handmade gifts and traditional Austrian Christmas decorations to delicious food and drink.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

In France, the Strasbourg Christmas Market is widely considered to be one of the best in the country, located in the city’s beautiful Grande Île district.  

It features over 300 chalets selling everything from local specialties like flammekueche (a type of pizza) and baeckeoffe (a savory meat stew) to handmade toys and Christmas tree decorations.

Rome’s Christmas market at Piazza Novana

Rome is home to several excellent Christmas markets, but the one at Piazza Navona is definitely worth a visit.

Set around Bernini’s magnificent Fountain of the Four Rivers, it offers a wide array of traditional Italian Christmas specialties, handmade wooden toys, and mouthwatering sweets.

The Christmas Market in Budapest

The Christkindlmarkt in Budapest, Hungary, is in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. 

This market features around 100 stalls selling everything from traditional Hungarian food such as goulash (stew of meat), grilled sweet chimney cake, and langos (deep-fried flatbread with savory toppings) to handcrafted gifts and holiday decorations.

Prague’s Old Town Square Christmas Market

christmas tree in prague
Image Credit: Pixabay.

Prague’s Old Town Square is home to one of the city’s most popular and loved Christmas markets.

It features over 80 stalls selling a wide variety of traditional Czech delicacies. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts and souvenirs. You can also enjoy live Christmas songs.

If you prefer something a bit less crowded, just a short walk away is another excellent Prague Christmas market in Wenceslas Square.

So whether you’re looking for a festive European getaway or simply wanting to experience some different holiday traditions from around the world, be sure to add one of these wonderful markets to your list!

Do you have any favorite December global holidays? What are your special traditions during the holiday season?

Let us know in the comments below!

I hope you’ll have a wonderful December holiday in 2022, celebrating with your friends and family.

December Global Holidays FAQ

What worldwide holidays are in December?

  • World AIDS day
  • Krampusnacht
  • St. Nicholas Day
  • Immaculate Conception
  • Bodhi Day
  • Human Rights Day
  • St. Lucy’s Day
  • Las Posadas
  • Hanukkah
  • International Human Solidarity Day
  • Winter Solstice
  • Yule
  • Festivus
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas
  • Boxing Day
  • Stephen’s Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Omisoka

What Special Holiday is in December?

Among some of the most popular December global holidays are Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, and many others.

Is December 25 a worldwide holiday?

Christmas Day on December 25th is a public holiday in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. As a result, many businesses and public offices are closed on this day. 

Only a small number of countries don’t recognize Christmas as a public holiday – Afghanistan, Algeria, Bhutan, North Korea, Libya, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. 

How Many Holidays Happen in December?

There are 14 spiritual holidays with religious significance that happen in December – St Nicholas Day, Hanukkah, Immaculate Conception, Bodhi Day, Advent, Feast day of Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas, Solstice, Christmas, Zarathosht Diso, Feast of the Holy Family, Holy Innocents Day, Watch Night.

What National Day is December 3?

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 3rd as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day intends to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development. 

What Countries Don’t Celebrate Christmas?

Counties that don’t celebrate Christmas include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bhutan, North Korea, Libya, Mauritania, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

This is mostly because Muslims don’t believe that Jesus Christ was God’s son; therefore, they don’t celebrate Christmas.