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25 December, 2020

How Christmas and New Year are celebrated in Europe, the USA and the Caribbean

Popular European and American holiday customs are familiar from the movies: Santa Claus, a huge Christmas tree, turkey on the table, fairs and sales. But there are unique traditions - balls, ca ivals, parades and even going to the opera.

Holidays abroad with a second passport: London, UK


In Austria, 56.9% of citizens are Catholic, so the country’s Christmas traditions are linked to religion. Children do not expect presents from a Christmas spirit like Santa Claus or Father Christmas, but from the Christ Child. He leaves presents and rings a bell. As soon as children hear the ringing, they can look for them and open them. They even write letters to the Christ Child and send them to the post office, and receive cards in return.

New Year's Eve in Austria is called St Silvester's Day. On the night of 31 December to 1 January, the country's ca ival season kicks off with Fasching. The holiday is celebrated in style with fireworks, parades and parties.

There are also traditions related to cultural life. Traditionally, the Vienna Opera performs Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus on 31 December and 1 January. For Austrians, this is as much a New Year's Eve piece as The Nutcracker is for Russians.

You can spend New Year's Eve at a traditional Viennese ball at the president's residence 一 the Hofburg Palace.

Traveling with a Residence Permit in Austria – New Year in Vienna
New Year's Eve fireworks over the city hall in Vienna


On Christmas Day, the Portuguese attend mass in churches and then bu fires in front of them all night long. The tradition has its roots in paganism – it was how the winter solstice was celebrated.

Before Christmas, there are fairs and themed towns in Portugal. One of the most famous is Vila de Natal in Obidos. The village is famous for its fortified wall, which dates from the 12th and 14th centuries.

New Year's Eve in coastal cities is celebrated on beaches. Sometimes people even swim in the ocean, but not everyone takes the risk - the water temperature in December-January is +13...+17°C.

Traveling with a residence permit and a second passport - Christmas in Portugal
Vila de Natal in Obidos opens on 30 November and runs until 6 January.


In Malta, Christmas 一 is an important religious festival with an unusual tradition. The sermon on Christmas night is not preached by a priest, but by a child aged 7-10. He talks about the history of the holiday. And after mass, there are children's processions in almost every town.

There is another custom associated with the New Year. On 31 December or 1 January, Maltese visit friends and relatives. Guests sprinkle lime on their doorstep, the white colour symbolising renewal and cleanliness. The hosts are supposed to thank them for it with gifts.

Traveling with a Second Passport - Christmas in Malta
St Joseph's Church in Calcara, decorated for Christmas

United Kingdom

At Christmas time in the UK, houses are decorated with garlands, holly and mistletoe, and Christmas trees are put up. Relatives gather around a communal table serving turkey, baked vegetables and pudding.

New Year’s Eve is celebrated differently with parties and parades. London has a New Year’s Day parade on 1 January.

In 1987
London's first New Year's Eve parade took place

Everyone takes part in the parade: music and dance groups, Santas, students, athletes, circus performers, members of national diasporas and even pets with their owners.

Traveling with a Second Passport - UK
New Year's Eve parade in London


Samichlaus, the Swiss colleague of Father Christmas, travels with his assistant Schmutzli. According to local beliefs, Samichlaus hands out treats to children who have behaved well, while Schmutzli gives coals to those who don’t deserve a present.

Samichlaus is accompanied by a donkey, not a reindeer. The Swiss are careful with the animal, so it must not be heavily laden - the maximum permitted weight of the burden is 90 kg.

Those who wish can ride through the festive streets on a specially registered donkey for ₣ 70 per hour.

Traveling with a second passport - Switzerland
Samohlaus and Schmutzli delivering presents on a donkey


The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree came to Greece from Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Until then, it was customary there to decorate boats. The Greeks often travelled by sea, and the boat symbolised respect for it and the desire to return home.

The festive menu differs from what Western Europeans and Americans are used to. At Christmas time in Greece, pork is served more often than turkey. Greeks also bake round Christmas bread and traditional honey biscuits for the holiday.

Traveling with a second passport - residence permit in Greece
Greek Christmas boat


Christmas and New Year's Eve customs in the US are similar to those in Britain, but there are also local traditions. One of the most beautiful is the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena.

On the mo ing of January 1, floral platforms accompanied by horse-drawn bands and orchestras ride down Colorado Boulevard. In 2020, 40 such platforms participated in the Rose Parade.

The event is as popular as Brazilian and Venetian ca ivals. The parade attracts thousands of spectators and is televised by several million people each year. Popular musicians and TV presenters help to lead the parade.

Traveling with a Second Passport - New Year in the USA
The platforms at the Rose Parade are themed. For example, this one was provided by Princess Cruises in 2015: it symbolises the company's 50th anniversary

Caribbean countries

Caribbean people celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve with festivals and ca ivals.

St Lucia's Festival of Lights and Renewal begins on 13 December. During the festival, lante -making competitions are held to decorate towns and villages. This is a way for locals to honour Saint Lucia, the patron saint of lights.

Grenada hosts the Carriacou Parang festival on the last weekend before Christmas. Local bands perform in the open air. When they finish, the bands disperse but continue to play until deep into the night for the neighbours.

St Kitts and Nevis residents sing and dance in the streets and hold competitions - such as teenage talent shows.

Traveling with a Second Passport - Christmas in the Caribbean
Christmas ca ival in St Kitts and Nevis

How to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve abroad

To spend the holidays in another country, you will need a visa. Only Russians with a second passport or residence permit from another country can get around without one. Especially in the context of the pandemic, when many countries have stopped allowing tourists, and only their citizens or residents can get in.

Europe. To travel to Schengen without a visa, you need a residence permit from a European country, a Caribbean passport or Vanuatu citizenship. They substitute for a Schengen visa - you may stay in the Schengen area for 90 days out of 180 days.

Maltese citizens have the advantage of being able to come to any EU country and stay as long as they wish. Cosmopolitans receive a passport for investment in the country's economy from €690,000.

During the pandemic, the rules become more complicated: some countries do not even allow tourists from neighbouring countries to enter. For example, for a long trip to Austria, Switzerland or Portugal, Russians will need a residence permit for the destination country.

The UK allows citizens of the Caribbean, Vanuatu and Malta to enter without a visa. All can stay for up to 6 months

US. Only cosmopolitans with a Maltese passport come to the US without a visa. They stay for up to 3 months.

Caribbean nationals have the privilege of applying for a B2 tourist visa for up to 10 years at a time. They can spend up to 180 days a year in the country. Investors with a Caribbean passport apply for a visa at any convenient consulate, not at one particular consulate.

Caribbean countries. 14 states in the Caribbean let Russians in without a visa. Investors with Caribbean passports are granted visa-free access to other countries in the region, as well as to the UK and Schengen Area.

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How Christmas and New Year are celebrated in Europe, the USA and the Caribbean