Traveling with the Grinch: some places in the world where Christmas is not celebrated!

Last time Santa Claus was delivering the gifts. Today we’ll discover together the Grinch’s journey, his direct antagonist! This grumpy, lonely and irascible creature hates Christmas and everything it represents. Let’s see together where it takes us!

Why isn’t Christmas celebrated in some countries?

One of the main reasons is religious belief, as happens with Islam and Buddhism. The Koran does not consider the birth of Jesus, who is still an important prophet, a holiday to be celebrated. Therefore, no Christmas decorations in Morocco, Türkiye or Iran.

However, USA and Europe influenced some countries where is possible to find Christmas decorations! In others, in a different period of the year, there are celebrations that enhance light, music, dance and food.

India, Japan, China

Christian communities in India are few and so there are no Christmas celebrations. It is Diwali, the lights’ festival, the most important among the Indians! People celebrate light in its physical and spiritual sense during which people light floating candles or lanterns to symbolize rebirth. For the occasion, they wear new clothes and exchange small gifts.

In Japan, Christmas takes on a meaning other than the strictly religious one. It’s a day to spend with friends, shopping or going out. December 24th is a day for lovers who traditionally exchange a gift and go out for dinner. They usually eat fried chicken and the Christmas Cake, a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries with Santa Claus’ images. Its Japanese name is Santa-San (サンタさん).

Chinese don’t have Christmas tree, Christmas dinners or gifts to exchange on the 25th. If they go out for dinner, they order a typical Suzhou dish, the eight treasures duck. It’s a traditional Chinese version of the American turkey! The duck’s filling is with various ingredients such as chicken meat, prawns, chestnuts, bamboo, rice and soy sauce. Another custom is to give apples on Christmas Eve as a symbol of peace and serenity.

Christmas in Morocco and Turkey

Muslim Christmas honors the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Like every event in the Islamic calendar, they celebrate according to the moon’s phases, on the 12th and 13th day of the 3rd month of the Muslim calendar (Rabi al-àwwal) and not on December 25th.

In Morocco it is a national holiday and people spend the day with the family, wearing traditional clothes and remembering Maometto’s life and teachings. Prayer vigils, poetry readings and spiritual songs are organized in mosques. In some cities in Morocco the event is also celebrated in the streets, with typical music and songs.

During Islamic Christmas, you can taste cous cous, dried fruit and leben (fermented milk). People bake three kinds of bread: a very thin one to eat with butter and honey (“barrire”), a very soft one with olive oil and black olives and traditional bread. The unmissable tea is on their tables with peanuts, almonds and dates.

In Turkey, Christmas is an only Christians celebrations, while Muslim Turks wait for the New Year to celebrate. During this anniversary, streets, trees and houses are decorated, gifts are exchanged and the little ones wait for Noel Baba! New Year’s Eve has no religious significance. Before the Muslim era, the Turks already had a tradition linked to a decorated tree called the tree of life. In Nardugan, pine trees are symbols of immortality and in ancient Turkish mythology people decorate them and sing choirs around the trees.

fireworks over the maidens tower uskudar istanbul turkey
Photo by Soner Arkan on


No traditional Christmas in Thailand, where one of the most important event is Songkran, celebrated between 13 and 15 April, also in the main Buddhist countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal and the Yunnan region.

On Christmas Eve it is traditional to clean your home. For Maha Songkran people go in procession to the village temple to offer food to the monks and wash the representations of the Buddha. The afternoon is for purification rites: the younger ones pour scented water into the palms of the hands and feet of the elderly, as a sign of respect. In the following days, the faithfuls go to the temple with incense sticks, candles and scented water to place at the foot of the Buddha’s altar. They wear bright and brightly colored clothes.

Natale con il Grinch
Songkran: purification rites

Christmas in Cuba

In Cuba the tradition of Christmas was very deep-rooted and families gathered at the table and went to mass, until the Castro’s regime abolished paid Christmas holidays in 1969. But with the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, “Christmas is back”, but not as we understand it!

During the week before Christmas the San Juan de los Remedios there are celebrations in Villa Clara, with parades, music and fireworks. And then there are the typical dishes! The unmissable roast suckling pig, served with various sauces and white rice, black beans, salad or yucca in mojo, a typical Cuban delicacy. People don’t exchange gifts.


For the locals the most important celebration is Junkanoo, a masquerade parade that takes place on December 26th and January 1st. Nassau’s streets are full of dancers in traditional handmade costumes and people play music with goatskin drums, cowbells and brass instruments. It derives from a festival in the 16th-17th centuries during the Christmas period, when slaves were granted three days of freedom and therefore they went from house to house, on stilts.

Natale con il Grinch

At Christmas in the Bahamas you eat coconut cakes, fruit cakes, cooked ham, turkey, peas and rice, baked macaroni, coleslaw, plantains and fried or boiled fish (in particular grouper and snapper). And to drink eggnog, lemonade and local beers.

And would you give up traditional Christmas for one of these holidays? Are you team Santa or team Grinch?! Write it in the comments!

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