DIY Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas Traditions We Love

I always love hearing about different holiday traditions! Some of these Christmas traditions seem like such normal things nowadays, but you may be surprised to learn where they originated!

A few years ago, I created a series called “My Scandinavian Christmas.” This series had contributors write about their traditions. You can check out all of the posts here. I’ve included some Scandinavian traditions below as well as traditions from other countries!

Learn the traditions of your family members

 

As Christmas is a time to gather with family and loved ones, it is also a special time to remember our ancestors. For our Heirloom Ornament Project I collected some photos of my family members, including great-grandparents, parents. Then we figured out an awesome way to transfer images onto fabric, then added a touch of love with embroidery, and turned them into ornaments! I absolutely love how they turned out. It’s literally a family tree! And a family Christmas tree at that!

Every year these ornaments start the best conversations about memories of our family members and Christmases past. Click here to download instructions on how to make your own!

Christmas Traditions in Germany

Christmas Trees

Many people all over the world decorate Christmas trees for the holiday season. The tradition of bringing decorated trees into the home originated in Germany! It was said that Christmas trees didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 1800s, but now they’re a Christmas staple in many homes! 

Whether you want a more traditionally decorated tree or opt for decorations out of the ordinary, we’ve curated all kinds of Christmas tree inspiration! Check out some of our favorite Christmas tree ideas here!

Dresden Wreaths

Dresden Ornament wreaths were originally made out of old candy molds or ornaments in Germany beginning in the late 1800’s. The brass figurines represent seasons and holidays throughout the year, making it a piece you can keep up all the time. There is space in between the trinkets so you can weave garlands, florals, or lights in it depending on the time of year. I love the stunning quality of it just as is.

They happen to cost a pretty penny, so we decided to make our own Paper Dresden Ornament Wreath (of course!) We created the files you can use on your craft cutter machine to expedite the process or you can hand cut them, because we know shopping, baking, and decorating are in full swing!

Christmas Traditions in Norway

St Lucia’s Day

If you’ve been following the blog, you know my love for all things Scandinavian. In the tradition of St. Lucia or St. Lucy’s Day, celebrated on the 13th of December, a procession of girls in white dresses and red sashes (symbolizing Saint Lucia) carry candles and sweets. The lead girl wears a candlelit crown on her head, as this is what Saint Lucia wore to light her way and serve the persecuted Christians.

We’ve created a couple of different St. Lucia crown tutorials here at Lars. You can view our classic DIY candle and leaf crown here. If you’re looking for something a bit easier and kid-friendly, you can get the printable crown version here.

Christmas Traditions in England

Candy Crackers

Christmas Crackers originate from British Christmas traditions, where these individual candy-filled poppers are set at each place at the dinner table, and playfully popped open before dinner. Fill these up with all of your favorite goodies for all of your favorite friends and make the giving experience all that much more fun when you pop these bad boys open to find anything from treats to tiny trinkets, the options are endless!

Christmas Traditions in Sweden

Dala Horses

A couple of years ago, we made Christmas decorations created entirely from paper. We incorporated traditional Swedish Christmas decor. This included straw ornaments, Dala horses, and advent stars. You can take a look at our head to toe Swedish Christmas here.

If you are any bit familiar with The House That Lars Built, or you’re good at reading in between the lines, we are a design company with a strong adoration for Scandinavian aesthetic. I went to design school in Copenhagen, married a Dane, and continued to live there until 2014. There is just something about Scandinavian design, culture, and lifestyle that I can’t quit. One item of Swedish culture I fell in love with are the Dala Horses!

The Dala Horse (or Dala Häst as it’s pronounced in Swedish) is a traditional icon of Sweden. It’s a carved and painted wooden horse, most commonly red, with intricate hand-painted details. They are utterly charming and come in a rainbow of colors. Because we’re such big fans, we decided it was high-time we created a DIY Dala Horse. You can also find our tutorial on how to paint your own traditional dala horse here.

Candles on Christmas Trees

It’s a very common Scandinavian tradition to decorate your tree with candles. However to avoid any fire hazards, we made this Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament instead. All you need is small baking liners, paper, and glitter and you’ll have a tree all aglow in no time!

Christmas Traditions in Mexico

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are one of the most common flowers around the Christmas holiday. The origin of these flowers comes from Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico. The flowers became a Christmas holiday staple due to their (typically) red and green colors. A few years ago, we created a tutorial for how to make your own paper poinsettia flowers for a more long lasting and sustainable version! You can read the full instructions here.

Piñatas

Piñatas are now widely used for birthdays and other celebrations, but Mexico celebrates the Christmas holiday with piñatas! Traditionally, the piñata is in the shape of a 7-point star, like theseWe’ve got fun piñata tutorials for you here at Lars, including this sunshine piñata and post-it heart piñata!  

Christmas Traditions in Denmark

Paper Stars

These magical stars have are a common sight during the Christmas season in Scandinavian countries and have recently gained popularity in the United States and Canada. Traditionally hung in the window and filled with string lights, the stars would welcome visitors during the long and dark winters. Click here to see how to make your own!

Christmas Traditions in Finland

Himmeli

Himmeli are Finnish Christmas ornaments or mobiles, typically made from straw. We created a post about Himmeli geometric home decor a few years ago. Most importantly, these mobiles can be hung during any time of the year! The design ideas for this are endless. In the ‘My Scandinavian Christmas’ series, we talked with Rilla of the blog Kotipalapeli about Himmeli mobiles. You can find the original post here. We also included another post with Pinja of Pinjacolada on Himmeli Christmas tree garlands.

What are the Christmas Traditions where you’re from? I would love to hear below!

My Scandinavian Christmas day 8

Day 8 of My Scandinavian Christmas is by Mette Kærlig Hilsen, a web designer here in Copenhagen. She is also the blogger behind Ungt Blod (Young Blood), a blog that I can only describe as really cool. She’s one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram too. 
All my life Christmas has looked like this. My family moved in to my childhood home the same year I was born and every year Christmas has looked, smelt and felt the same: Dark, warm and full of traditions. 

But last year was our last Christmas in that magical childhood home; in the spring my parents moved out of the huge house and this year I will for the first time celebrate Christmas in my own home; in our small Copenhagen apartment. I will buy my first Christmas tree, I will cook Christmas dinner for the first time and I will be responsible for creating all the special Christmas tradition that my 3-year-old daughter will come to remember.

I feel like this is one of the most grown up steps I have taken since moving out of my parents house 10 years ago. Luckily my daughter gives me a good perspective on all the pressure and stress: I am not even going to try to create the most beautiful, stylish, picture perfect Christmas. instead I will focus on the things that makes her happy: Lots of sparkles, ‘nisser’, red and white colors and simple family DIY projects – and Santa, of course. 

I love Mette’s perspective on the Christmas season and I think it’s so important not to get too caught up in being stylish or going overboard. Thank you Mette for participating in My Scandinavian Christmas! Check out Ungt Blod here.

My Scandinavian Christmas day 11


Day 11 of My Scandinavian Christmas is with Julia from Vintage Hausfrau here in Denmark. Julia is a jack of all trades. She designs textiles, makes cupcakes, and loves all things vintage.

When Brittany asked me to guest blog about something Christmasy, I immediately knew what I wanted to write about: the christmas tree!
The christmas tree has always been magical for me and I’ve been collecting ornaments since I got the first home of my own. I have a special love for vintage handblown bulbs, but I collect all sorts of ornaments. I remember where each and every one is from. Since I had my son, more and more cute and funny figures have found their way into my collection instead of just the traditional bulbs.

This year our son is old enough to start remembering things we do and appreciate the magic of Christmas. Therefore traditions have become even more important and we wanted to start implementing the tradition of getting the tree ourselves not from any plain old tree seller on the corners around town, but from a place where we could search for the perfect one and cut down the tree ourselves.
Today was the day to get it, and we ignored the heavy snow and went on our way. We usually get the tree on the 1st or 2nd of advent, because I want to enjoy it as long as possible and we always go away for Christmas Eve. It was magical to wander around the plantation in the snow looking for the perfect tree!

At home we tucked our son in for his midday-sleep and I started preparing to decorate the tree. First I put on the lights, then I carefully unpack all my ornaments and put them on the table. Then I start with the bigger ones and continue till all of the ornaments are on the tree. When my son woke up, the tree was done and he was thrilled. I hope he’ll grow up with the same feelings about Christmas that I have. And still do.

 Thank you so much Julia for participating! Check out Vintage Hausfrau.

My Scandinavian Christmas day 15

Day 15 of My Scandinavian Christmas is with….drumroll…me! Check out the other guest contributors to My Scandinavian Christmas here. There are some pretty awesome blogger and projects.
Ok, this holly and ivy balloon garland is not Scandinavian at all, but it’s one that I recently did for Hello Bee and it’s a super easy Christmas decoration to make for a party or for kids. I modeled it after my fruit balloon DIY. It’s pretty much the same concept, but with different shapes.

You will need: balloons, tape, scissors, twine, green paper for leaves, glue gun

Step 1: Blow up some balloons aso they are small enough to group in small clumps as berries.

Step 2: With scotch tape or double-sided stick tape attach a little to the balloon and stick to another. Clump in threes or twos.

Step 3: Cut out holly leaves in proportion to the size of the balloons. Draw or paint yellow veins on the leaves.

Step 4: Tie the groups of berries onto the twine and leave extra twine at the front and back.
Step 5: Glue gun the edges of the leaves to the edge of the balloon and a bit to the twine to secure it in place.
Donzo! That’s it! So simple!

Check out the rest of the amazing Christmas stories and projects for My Scandinavian Christmas here.

My Scandinavian Christmas day 21

I’m thrilled to announce Jennifer Hagler from the impeccable A Merry Mishap as day 21 of My Scandinavian Christmas. If you’re just joining us, My Scandinavian Christmas is a series of guest posts from my favorite Scandinavian bloggers sharing how they celebrate the holiday season. A Merry Mishap is Jennifer’s blog and shop where she sells her beautiful, geometric and Scandinavian-inspired jewelry. Welcome, Jennifer!
I wanted to share one of our Christmas traditions, something we look forward to making every Christmas morning. For the last few years I’ve made Aebelskivers for Christmas breakfast after my husband and I decided we needed to start a holiday tradition for our new little family of 3. We are not from Scandinavia but have a fondness for the culture and design so this just seemed like a natural solution.
Of course Aebelskivers are great with fruit preserves and Nutella but you can also stuff them with ham & cheese or even bacon, I love that they are so versatile. I prefer the buttermilk version of this recipe, this one works fine!

They’re easy to make and delicious but more importantly remind us that Christmas is here. I hope you give them a try, and of course you can make them any time of the year, not only in December!

Thank you, Jennifer for participating in My Scandinavian Christmas. Check out her lovely blog and shop. Check out more of My Scandinavian Christmas here.

My Scandinavian Christmas day 18

Day 18 of My Scandinavian Christmas is with Élise from eliseenvoyage. Élise is French living in Copenhagen and she’s a super talented creative. Welcome!

I come from the south of France. I come from a place where there are days you can sit outside in the sun without jacket in December and not be cold. Maybe this is why I love waiting for Christmas in Denmark so much. Here Christmas lights and decorations make sense; you need something to help you go throught the darkest days. Here you start preparing for Christmas very early. Here people sell Christmas trees every corners and shops are decorated well in advance. Everything is red and white, there are paper hearts and candles, branches and more candles, little cookies and mulled wine, and we even got snow on the 1st of December! Right on time to properly start the Christmas preparations.

This year I decided to add new guests to our home for Christmas. I made these super simple little Nisser. Nisser are small beings that used to live in attics or stables, and protect the farmer’s family. No one can really say how they look like because they are able to make themselves invisible, but at Christmas, the family would give them some rice porridge, to thank them. Would they forget and the nisse would bother the family, by turning the beer into milk for example, or that kind of tragedy. Today nisser are still very present at Christmas time and you can see them about everywhere.
I don’t know why but I like Nisser. It may come from my childhood, when my grandma used to read aloud to us the story of Niels Holgersson, this little boy turned into a nisse, and his trip around Sweden on the back of wild geese. She even had a big map of Scandinavia pinned to her wall so we could follow the trip. Last year she gave me the map and today I have it pinned to my wall. The paper is getting yellow and the edges are worn, but I love it so much.

To make these ones I just painted them red and tied a little bit of wool around their necks so they wouldn’t be too cold, the weather has been pretty bad in Copenhagen recently. Then I just had to find hats for them, and to give them faces. They are very simple, but also exactly what I wanted. They don’t take much space, and they can easily fit almost anywhere at home (as long as the tiny little baby hands cannot grab them). 

Now they are standing there, next to our christmas candles, waiting patiently and observing every moves. And maybe, if they are not too mean to us, they will receive a nice bowl of rice porridge for Christmas. With a bit of butter slowly melting on top.
Thank you so much, Élise! So glad to have you on My Scandinavian Christmas. Check out her wonderful blog here and some more Scandinavian bloggers sharing what Christmas means to them here.

My Scandinavian Christmas Day 5

Day 5 of My Scandinavian Christmas is by Tina Fussell of Traveling Mama. Tina’s blog is a constant source of inspiration where she showcases her wonderful DIY projects combined with beautiful photography. She’s lived in some pretty exotic locales and her aesthetic reflects that.

After having spent three years in Morocco, a Muslim country where Christmas is not observed, we were especially grateful for the Scandinavian Christmas that greeted us our first December in Copenhagen.  We had exchanged a string of ordinary days where the world around us went on as if nothing were happening, with streets strung with twinkling lights, windows filled with soft candlelight and the bustle of Christmas shoppers.  We were filled with unending happiness that first year… tears of joy flowing freely as we observed the beauty of Christmas… not alone, but with an entire country who seemed to know a thing or two about creating a very cozy holiday!


I bought every Christmas issue on the newsstands that I could find and was mesmerized by this new and unfamiliar way of decorating… the Danish way was much simpler than my native Southern USA Christmases and almost always accompanied with a white background. I was in love!  

But it was not just the decorations that had caught our eyes, but new treats to try as well.  It seemed every time my husband went to the grocery store, he came home with a new cookie to try!  He talked nonstop about how every store and office building had a basket of pebernødder cookies, a new favorite, asking to be eaten (and we were happy to take them up on their offer!).  Then there were many varieties of gingerbread and marzipan and chocolates…

I was recently chatting with a friend, Heidi, of Wool Rocks, and she mentioned the Scandinavian tradition of creating an edible Christmas tree.  Though the idea is considered fairly old school, I decided to embrace it this year, with a modern twist…A combination of all the lovely white, the traditional modern and earthy branches, and strung cookies in several varieties to tempt anyone that came very close with it’s fragrant aroma of cinnamon, ginger, and pepper nut!

Thank you, Tina, for participating in My Scandinavian Christmas! I can’t wait to make my own edible Christmas tree (one day when I’m not living out of suitcases). Check out her awesome blog, Traveling Mama.

My Scandinavian Christmas Day 2: Three bird mobile

Day Two of My Scandinavian Christmas is by Mette Hornung Rankin of Bureau of Betterment. Mette is an amazing illustrator/designer from Portland living in Copenhagen. 

When Brittany asked me to contribute to her 24 days of Christmas blog series about holiday decorations, I took the opportunity to work in a new format I’d been wanting to try – mobiles. My inspiration came from a small felt bird I have placed above my doorway that my mom sewed for me when I was a baby.
For the simplest mobile possible, forget about balancing acts and bars and doing pseudo-math (or even real math). Just hang three things in a row with a string between them – they still spin gracefully and take up much less space than a traditional mobile.
Step 1
The materials you need are cheap and easy to get: thread, a needle, scissors (and an X-acto if you want to be crafty), and thick colored craft paper.
Step 2
Cut out the pieces to your mobile using the PDF template I made, which fits on an 8.5×11″ letter size sheet of paper. Choose colors that will stand out well against the wall color where you plan to hang the mobile. You can also use patterned paper or wallpaper for a more eclectic look. If you want to put a holiday twist on the mobile, cut out different shapes to hang inside the birds’ bellies that make you feel whichever holiday spirit you want to get into.
Whatever you do, be sure to ask the people who are going to see the mobile every day (i.e., your roommates, boyfriend, husband, or kids) if they like the colors. That way, you will avoid mistakenly making a SWEDISH colored mobile instead of a DANISH colored mobile just because you think the colors are pretty.
Country specific colors – choose them carefully!

 

Step 3
Thread the pieces together using white or clear thread, and hang it up for everybody to enjoy. This type of mobile is relative easy to balance, but it is still a good idea to tie a piece of thread around the bird where you plan to thread a hole to test the balance before actually puncturing the poor fowl.

Thank you Mette! Go check out Mette’s awesome work on her site, Bureau of Betterment

My Scandinavian Christmas day 20

Day 20 of My Scandinavian Christmas is with the lovely Elaina Keppler of Fint og Deilig. Elaina was my very first blogging friend in Copenhagen. As a Canadian living in Denmark she brings rustic elements from her native homeland to her new home and infuses it into her new Etsy shop, Fog and Cedar that she shares with Nicola Ens.
This time of year means a lot of different things for different people. Though one of the things I think we can all agree is worth celebrating (especially those of us living in the north) is that the days start getting lighter after the 21st. Since I’ve been living here in Copenhagen, I’ve started a tradition of celebrating the winter solstice and appreciating the beauty of these cold, dark, and quiet days by bundling up and taking a long walk in the nature reserve near our apartment. I watch the earliest sunset of the year and then spend the evening in candlelight, enjoying a simple meal and good company.

This year I decided to make some easy decorations by gathering branches and berries on my walk to make a candle centerpiece. To make your own you’ll need some branch and greenery cuttings, candles, a board or plate (I used a plank of cedar), and clay (sold here in grocery stores but hobby or craft stores should have it too). All you need to do is spread the clay on the board to make a base to stick the candles and greenery into. I find it’s easiest to work in layers, arranging them as you’d like and adding cuttings until the clay isn’t visible. Once you are done, you can add an ornament or other decoration to personalize it a bit. Happy solstice everyone! 

Thank you so much Elaina! Check out her blog and Etsy shop!

My Scandinavian Christmas day 22

Don’t you love these last few days leading up to Christmas? I hope the stress is low and you’re able to enjoy it all. I’m pleased to announced day 22 of My Scandinavian Christmas, photographer Lina Ahnoff. Lina is one of my favorite people. She was kind enough to let me share part of her studio space  the last 6 months I was in Copenhagen, and I got to know her talent and kindness. Welcome, Lina! 
Every year we celebrate the holidays by making a gingerbread house with the kids. This year my friend, Pia Lindgaard, came over and I photographed her niece exploring her creation. I think she was highly tempted by all the candy!

Thank you so much, Lina! Check out her wonderful photography site and blog. Stay tuned for the last 2 days! 

My Scandinavian Christmas day 12

Day 12 of My Scandinavian Christmas is with Gina of Willowday based out of Stockholm, Sweden. Gina has some of the most clever DIYs and I’m so glad she’s with us today.

It’s an honor to be a part of the Brittany’s My Scandinavian Christmas. Contributing from Sweden, I thought instantly of lights and candles. These play a prominent roll in Swedish holiday decoration from the hanging paper stars in windows to Advent Candelabras and candles; right down to the Candle Crown worn by Lucia, which she wears ceremoniously as she brings in the sun at dawn on December 13 for the holiday of St. Lucia. 

Candles and lights are not restrained to the indoors. During my first Swedish Christmas, before we sat down to enjoy our Christmas Eve feast, several snow ball lanterns were built outdoors, just outside the dining room window for the final ambiance. Today, in my home, we make Ice Lanterns. I’m happy to share them with you here, today. These are both a fantastic outdoor project with kids or to made conveniently in the comfort of your home and stored until the party. For an Ice Lantern tutorial, click here. Thank you Brittany for this Swedish-Danish Christmas interlude here with you. 

Thank you, Gina, for participating! Check out her blog, Willowday here.

My Scandinavian Christmas Day 3: Orange and Clove Pomanders

Day 3 of My Scandinavian Christmas is by Hilda Grahnat. Hilda is one of my absolute favorites. She photographed a lot of my DIY projects when I first moved here and before she moved to Oslo, where she now resides (she’s from Sweden). Aside from being a fantastic photographer, she’s also a wonderful person and stays very true to her artistic vision always.

This simple and all natural decoration is pretty much the only Christmas craft I do each year. It’s so easy and quick and best of all – it makes your home smell great! I’ve always thought this was a Swedish thing, but after some googling I’m not so sure. I used to make them with my mom when I was a kid and the smell of these is one of the few things nowadays that get me in a holiday mood.

All you need is some oranges, cloves and something sharp, like a sowing needle, tooth pick or push pin. Push the pin through the orange peel in the pattern you want to create, then insert a clove in each hole.

The traditional way to decorate with pomanders is to hang them in your window with red ribbon, but I prefer to put them in my fruit bowl with the rest of my fruit. Or I just lay one on a pretty plate with a stick of cin- namon beside it. Variation is endless! Why not spell out Christmas with one letter on each orange and put them in a row on your windowsill?

Thank you so much Hilda! Come and visit us in America! Check out Hilda’s beautiful photography here. And check out my version of this project from last year’s 24 days of Christmas Crafts.