Christmas Traditions

christmas gift bags in Zambia

Our Global Mission Partners Celebrating Christmas

Christmas in Zambia looks and feels similar to many of our local traditions, but there are also some unique traditions. Just like here in the States “many churches in Zambia have nativity plays and a crib in the church. One or two days before Christmas, Zambians like to go carol singing around the local streets. After church, on Christmas Day, it is a custom that all the children go to one house and all the adults go to another house to have a party and to eat!”

We know more specific details on how our partners at the Village of Hope celebrate Christmas, too. At a peaceful Christmas Eve celebration at the Village of Hope in Zambia all of the children, aunties, moms and dads (these are the loving adults who live with the children) from the village gather under one roof. The day starts with a cookie baking tradition and decorating with a special group of children, who use lots of colored sugar! To some, it’s their first Christmas ever. At night, the house is lit up with candles. Each child receives a cookie after a time around the tree singing and sharing the Christmas story. On Christmas Day, last year, each child, auntie, mom and dad received a gift bag. These gifts included new socks, a clothing item (many handmade dresses, such as pictured) and a small toy/coloring book. All of the gifts were generously given/created by congregations in the US.

More photos of Christmas at the Village of Hope

More about our Mission Zambia

Christmas in Jamaica is very similar to everywhere else in the world with decorations and festivities. The only difference is the climate and cultural practices. Christmas is considered a time when families get together so Jamaicans living abroad usually come home to celebrate with loved ones. Jamaica is a tropical island so they do not have cold winters. Due to this, Christmas is considered a part of the peak tourist season as a lot of visitors come to soak up the sun and enjoy the festivities.

In Jamaica, on Christmas Eve the ‘Grand Market’ happens. It is a really exciting time, especially for children. In every town and city there is a cross between a festival and a market. During the day, people go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets and toys, etc. You might also buy some new clothes ready for the celebrations in the evening. (But you don’t want to spend all your money during the day as there are lots of great things to buy in the evening as well!)

As night falls, everyone heads to the town squares where street dancers, stage shows and shopping is still in full swing as stores are open beyond midnight. This is usually a night for the children as they are given pocket money for rides such as merry-go-round and go-carts. Local food vendors come out in numbers with jerk pans, soup & hotdog stands, roasted corn and many more. Following the Grand Market, some people will go to a Midnight Mass church service and others will party all night. Many people will also go to a church service on Christmas Day morning before the end of Grand Market.

The Christmas Day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include turkey, chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, and very importantly, rice and peas. Jamaicans look forward to this event as all families come together to cook, eat, tell stories, laugh, dance and just have a fantastic time.

Another tradition by Jamaicans as well as the entire world is the singing of carols. From the end of November through December, you can hear Christmas carols being played on radio stations, in homes, at business places and people humming the words of these songs. It is guaranteed on Christmas morning nothing else will be played, it’s wonderful carols all day.

More about Mission Jamaica

General tradition information from

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