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Christmas around the world _ PAB Languages Centre Ltd.

1 December 2020 · Martyna Gorska

Christmas will not be normal this year but especially during a period of uncertainty, rapid changes and unexpected challenges, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none. Taking the time to connect with those you love will bring you true happiness and strength.

This year, shaped by tradition, faiths and cultural norms, Christmas celebrations will have local flair both online and offline.


In every country, food takes centre stage.

In Poland, Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called “Kolacja wigilijna” (Christmas Eve supper). It is traditional that no food is eaten (or sometimes the first present opened) until the first star is seen in the sky!

On the table there are 12 dishes – they are meant to bring you good luck for the next 12 months. The meal is traditionally meat free this is to remember the animals who took care of the baby Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish.

Carp is often the main dish of the meal. “Bigos” is a dish which can be eaten either hot or cold. It’s made of cabbage, bacon, sometimes dried plums. Herrings are very popular and usually are served in several ways: in oil, in cream, in jelly.  In most houses there is also “kompot z suszu” that is a drink made by boiling dried fruit and fresh apples. The most popular desserts at Kolacja wigilijna are “makowiec”, a poppy seed roll made of sweet yeast bread, “kutia” mixed dried fruits and nuts with wheat seeds, “piernik” a moist cake made with honey (that’s like gingerbread) and gingerbreads (which are usually dry and very hard).

Carols are sung in Poland and each region has its own carols. The Christmas tree is also often brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve. In some houses there is also a custom of breaking one of the Christmas Tree decorations (e.g. breaking a glass bauble) to scare the evil out of the house for the whole year ahead!


In Bulgaria, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church uses the Gregorian calendar. Christmas Eve, called Budni Vecher (Бъдни вечер) is a very important day and the main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening of Christmas Eve.

The meal should traditionally have an odd number of dishes in it (usually 7, 9 or 11) and an odd number of people sitting around the table. Salt, pepper and sugar can count as separate dishes!  It’s normally a rich vegan meal and includes dishes made of different vegetables such as beans soup; sarmi (сарми) cabbage leaves stuffed with rice;peppers stuffed with rice; boiled wheat with sugar and walnuts; different kinds of pastries, some keks, lots of fruit and nuts, such as dried plums, dried apricots, oranges and tangerines and ‘oshav’ (‘ошав)– a dried fruit compote.

Only after midnight dishes with non-vegan ingredients are served and eaten. These will include foods like banitsa (баница)a pastry filled with yogurt and feta cheese,and ‘baklava’ (‚баклава‘) – a dessert made of filo pastry that is filled with chopped nuts and soaked with syrup or honey.

Walnuts are especially popular. It is traditional that the table is left with all the food on it until the morning of Christmas Day. The main reason is a tradition that in this way, people would like to invite God to enter their home and have dinner. Straw is often put under the tablecloth and you might even bring a wooden plough into the house and put it behind the door. These are meant to help you have good crops during the next year.


The holidays are very important to the Portuguese. Scenes of the Nativity, or  “Presépio”, are seen in every small town and home. Some towns assemble a living Nativity Scene.

On Christmas Eve, a family dinner or “Consoada” is celebrated with boiled salt codfish and potatoes with cabbage. After the meal, people eat traditional fried desserts:  “filhós”, which are traditionally made of fried dough; “rabanadas” or “fatias douradas”, bread slices that  are dipped in  egg and  then fried, and powdered with sugar and cinnamon; “azevias”, Portuguese fried pockets depending on the region, but the main ingredient of the filling is chick pea, and powdered with sugar  ; “aletria”, which is vermicelli pasta cooked in sweetened milk, and topped with cinnamon, typical of the Northern regions. 

Bolo Rei (King Cake) is also a particularly favourite dessert among the Portuguese during Christmas time. It is a round cake glazed with fruits, nuts and sugar. Whoever gets the broad bean (hidden in the cake) has to buy the “Bolo Rei” in the coming year.

Festivities end on January 6th, Kings’ Day (in Portuguese,”Dia de Reis”).


The “Janeiras” are  a Portuguese tradition, in which a  a group of people stroll the streets of  small villages singing in the New Year. The “Janeiras” are somewhat similar to Christmas Carolling, as this tradition also involves a group of people going from house to house singing and sometimes playing instruments.

Traditionally, people go out to the streets to sing the “Janeiras” between December 25th and January 6th. The “Janeiras” tradition varies from region to region.

Wherever you are, we hope you have a peaceful and magical holiday season.

We are blessed to have wonderful humans in over 50 countries from different faiths, backgrounds, ethnicities working with PAB Languages. We papered Christmas wishes in over 30 languages please feel free share your wishes in native language of you with friends, clients, and suppliers. Christmas wishes in over 30 languages here