Unique Holiday Traditions Around the World

 The Bean Belt

The holidays are a special time for people to come together. While the activities spanning from late November to early January look different across the globe, there are common threads of community, love, and reflection over meals with special food and beverages. Here at San Francisco Bay Coffee, we cultivate a global community of coffee lovers by sustainably and ethically sourcing coffee from farms all over the world. This holiday season, we want to shine a light on some of the many holiday traditions celebrated where our farmers live and grow our beloved brews. 


In Nicaragua, the holiday season begins with Purísimas or Immaculate Conception Celebrations. These celebrations last several weeks and are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. People say special prayers, called novenas, each day and give gifts of oranges, candies, sugar cane, and squash cooked in sugar syrup. Nicaraguan holiday traditions also feature the celebration of Los Posadas, or nativity plays, that last for nine days. Two community members play Mary and Joseph and travel from home to home, looking for lodging. On the ninth day, they are welcomed at an inn, and everyone celebrates. For Christmas Day, La Navidad, it is customary to rest, enjoy a family dinner, and exchange small gifts of fruits or candies. Photo Credit: Nestor Jarquin


In Colombia, the official start of Christmas is Noche de Velitas or the Night of Little Candles. On December 7, everyone lights candles and places them on balconies, windowsills, and sidewalks to celebrate the Immaculate Conception. Instead of crediting Santa, gifts to children come from Niño Jesus. December 28 is El Día de los Santos Inocentes or Day of the Holy Innocents. On this day, it is a Colombian holiday tradition to play pranks, broadcast fake news reports, and tell jokes. 

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, families begin the month of December by decorating their homes with cypress wreaths and light displays. Christmas trees are decorated and set out on patios for neighbors to see. Baby Jesus brings gifts, and everyone enjoys slow-cooked tamales and Rompope, an eggnog-like beverage made with eggs, vanilla, and milk. It is also a Costa Rican holiday tradition to make Queque Navideño, a traditional Christmas cake with orange, dark rum, cinnamon, and mixed nuts. Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson 



In Honduras, Christmas begins with the appearance of the Warini, a masked and costumed dancer who walks through the streets and visits houses. In preparation for Christmas, families and communities make elaborate, homemade nativity scenes with clay. They are often inspired by Hondurans’ hometowns. On Christmas Eve, it is a Honduran holiday tradition to set off fireworks. Many people give the gift of a new set of clothes, referred to as an estreno. 


In Guatemala, there are unique New Year celebrations. To eliminate all bad things from the year that is ending, it is a Guatemalan holiday tradition to burn dolls. Men also wear cages of firecrackers and run through the streets, setting them off.


Christmas in Panama

In Panama, families welcome the holiday season by painting their houses, renovating, and buying new home furnishings and decorations. They also decorate their homes with bright, multicolored lights to welcome Child Jesus. There is a Christmas parade with floats, bands, and troupes. It is a Panama holiday tradition to enjoy a Christmas Eve dinner of tamales, rice with chicken, roasted pork, potato salad, and fruit. On Día de los Reyes Magos, Three Kings Day, children leave out their shoes and shoeboxes to be filled with little gifts by the Three Wise Men. Everyone enjoys the King Cake, Rosca de Reyes. Photo Credit



In Mexico, communities also celebrate with Los Posadas. In addition to nightly parties, they include Pastorela performances representing the journey the shepherds took to worship baby Jesus. On Noche Buena, Catholic families attend midnight mass and enjoy family dinner. Those who are not religious gather for dinner parties and open gifts. In the Mexico holiday tradition, La Navidad is generally a day of rest and recovery from Noche Buena. On Año Nuevo, New Year, as the clock strikes midnight, people eat 12 grapes for good luck or sweep 12 coins from outside the house to bring in good fortune. Photo Credit


In Rwanda, Christmas Eve is one of the few days of the year that many families have meat. Some will save the whole year to buy meat for Christmas. People gather to see loved ones, get new clothes, and attend church. It is a Rwanda holiday tradition to spend Christmas Day relaxing, praying, and eating brochettes - sticks of marinated meat is customary. New Year is a day of partying, attending church, and exchanging gifts with family members. 


In Indonesia, the holiday season is a time of many different celebrations. Sometime between October and November, during the new moon of Kartika, Hindus celebrate Diwali. Known as the Festival of Lights, the joyful time is filled with fireworks, gift-giving, and worship. On December 8, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi, the day Buddha experienced enlightenment. It is a calm and quiet day of meditation and prayer. Some decorate a Bodhi Tree with lights and display statues of the Buddha. 

This holiday season in 2024, the Muslim holiday The Three Holy Months, begins January 12, or the Hijri date, 1 Rajab. Laylat-ur Raghaeb, the Night of Wishes, marks the beginning of The Three Holy Months. Muslims recite special prayers, ask for forgiveness, and begin a time of distinct spiritual and physical resilience. 

For Christmas, Christians in Indonesia attend church, make nativity scenes, and host special nativity performances. Each region has its own special Indonesian holiday traditions. In the Papua region, for example, families cook pork on a barapen, or grilling stone, to celebrate togetherness, gratitude, and love. Photo Credit

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