Here at Au Pair in America, our au pairs come from nearly 60 countries and six different continents around the world. That makes the holiday season extra exciting for our host families, as they have a chance to experience many different holiday traditions. This holiday season, we looked at the different ways that some of our au pair’s home countries celebrate the holidays.
Here are 5 unique holiday traditions and meals from different countries around the world.
1. Polish Holiday Traditions 🇵🇱
St. Nicholas Day is a widely celebrated holiday tradition in Poland (pictured above). On December 6th, Mikolaj, the Polish version of Santa Claus, delivers small gifts to well-behaved children. Mikolaj travels through Poland on foot, on horseback, or in a horse-drawn sleigh. Before going to sleep, children leave out boots, shoes, and stockings for him to put gifts in.
Traditional Food: A common holiday tradition in Poland is Wigilia, a family dinner served on Christmas Eve. Traditional dishes include almond soup, sauerkraut, and meatless pierogis. Polish families save an extra place at the table during Wigilia for a lonely traveler who may knock on the door – or for loved ones joining in spirit.
2. Brazilian Holiday Traditions 🇧🇷
Rio de Janeiro hosts one of the world’s biggest New Year’s celebrations, with incredible fireworks and live music. Brazilian legend states the importance of pleasing the sea goddess, Iemanjá, before the New Year. Sticking to tradition, many Brazilians honor Iemanjá on New Year’s Eve by lighting candles, throwing flowers into the water, or even sending rafts with bouquets out to sea.
Traditional Food: Traditional holiday meals in Brazil include plenty of fresh and dried fruits, such as raisins. Considered good luck, many people eat 7 raisins on New Year’s in Brazil – and save the seeds in their wallets for prosperity in the new year.
3. Chinese Holiday Traditions 🇨🇳
In China, the color red often symbolizes good luck and happiness. During the holiday season, red paper pagodas are pasted onto windows, while houses are lit up with red paper lanterns. Christmas trees – called “Trees of Light” in China – are typically decorated with red paper chains.
Traditional Food: In China, Christmas Eve is called Ping’an Ye meaning “peaceful or quiet evening.” Ping’an Ye is similar to the Mandarin word for apple, “pingguo,” so on Christmas Eve a common tradition is to give apples – symbolizing peace!
4. Russian Holiday Traditions 🇷🇺
New Year’s Eve is a major holiday in Russia, largely celebrated across the country. That night, families and friends enjoy late dinners together, make wishes for the year ahead, and exchange gifts. Similar to the Christmas tradition of Santa Claus, Russian families decorate a New Year’s tree and children eagerly await the arrival of Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden, to deliver gifts.
Traditional Food: Olivier salad — a tasty combination of sausage, eggs, peas, cucumbers, potatoes, and mayonnaise — is a popular Russian holiday dish. Like in the USA, people often pop champagne at midnight to bring good luck in the new year.
5. Mexican Holiday Traditions 🇲🇽
Similar to pumpkin carving on Halloween, a fun tradition in Mexico is radish carving in December. On December 23rd, the Mexican city of Oaxaca comes to life with carved radish displays that are both Christmas themed and based on Mexican folklore. Families also decorate their homes with lilies, evergreens, and lanterns during the Christmas season.
Traditional Food: Popular Christmas dishes in Mexico include pineapple upside down cake, tamales, and pozole (Mexican stew).
Interested in discovering unique holiday traditions with an au pair next year? Learn more about hosting an au pair with Au Pair in America, or sign up to view au pairs from these five countries (and more) today!