Each year over two billion people across the globe celebrate Christmas, but how they celebrate and even when they celebrate can differ greatly.
National holidays during the festive period vary dramatically, from countries where Christmas is not observed and businesses operate as usual, to more religious Christian countries where workers may be given up to 9 days off, seeing many businesses draw to a halt.
Understanding how nations throughout the world mark the date is a great way to ensure you’re ready for the season, even if you’re not lucky enough to be one of the people enjoying the most days off.
Every country in Europe, excluding the majority Islamic states such as Turkey, has at least one statutory day off at some point between 15 December and 15 January.
Most western European countries get a similar deal, having Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, with Catholic countries usually getting Epiphany too (6 January). It’s worth noting that whether a day off is taken for Epiphany can vary from region to region in some countries, including Spain, Germany, Switzerland and France.
Christmas Eve is also a national holiday for those in countries including Sweden, Denmark.
As the home of the eastern Orthodox Church, Russia has a total of nine days off. Unlike the West, who use the Gregorian Calendar, Russians observe the Julian calendar, meaning Christmas Day falls 13 days later on 7 January. Every day from New Year’s Day to the day after Russian Orthodox Christmas Day is a national holiday.
Armenians are not far behind Russia, taking seven days off for celebrations. Their Christmas Day falls on 6 January and they enjoy a public holiday than runs from 1 -7 January.
Liechtenstein also gets seven days, which are Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day, two days either side of the New Year and Epiphany.
While Christmas Day is observed in many Asian countries (the Japanese for example, mark the day by eating fried chicken), in most cases there’s not a public holiday.
Countries in Asia where Christmas isn’t a national holiday include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
South Korea and the Philippines do however take one day off to mark Christmas on 25 December.
The Coptic community in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea celebrate Christmas on 7 January, according to the Coptic calendar.
Meanwhile nations including Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia celebrate Christmas Day on 25 December, with both Christmas Day and Boxing Day being national holidays.
Christmas is not observed in African countries including Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria, Djibouti.
Workers in the United States have little statuary leave during this period, with most businesses and schools closing for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, as well as New Year’s Day.
While Christmas Day itself is a national holiday, Boxing Day is only a public holiday in some states, meaning employees elsewhere generally take it as a vacation day.
Central and South America
Christmas Day is observed on 25 December in this region, with a national holiday given across the board on this day and New Year’s Day (1 January).
Exceptions to this are Belize, who also have public holiday on Boxing Day and Columbia, where an additional day is given for Epiphany.
Australia and New Zealand
In keeping with most other western Countries, Australians get Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
New Zealanders get the added bonus of an additional public holiday on 2 January, Day after New Year’s Day. This is New Zealand’s traditional summer holiday period, which means business can close for two to three weeks at the time.
So, who gets the best deal?
While the Philippines and India enjoy the most public holidays over all, having 18 each, when it comes to Christmas it’s the Russians who get the best deal.