In the U.S., expensive holidays are nothing new. The average American spends nearly $800 on winter holidays, with the lion’s share of that going to gifts.
But Christmas in different countries — or holidays of any flavor around the world — can bring completely different vibes, customs and holiday costs. From bizarre Christmas ideas for dinner to traditional drinks for New Year’s Eve, here’s how much people spend on the holidays and their traditions.
Exchanging Holiday Cards
Country of origin: Great Britain
Cost: 50 cents to $10 per card
Europeans have been buying, selling and exchanging holiday cards since the 1400s. The first Christmas card, however, was custom made for Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843.
Today, you’ll find that holiday cards are one of the most universally recognized Christmas holiday traditions, with 1.3 billion Christmas cards sold every year in the United States alone, according to Hallmark. The company got people to spend even more on the holidays when it printed its first Hanukkah card in the 1940s and its first Kwanzaa card in 1992.
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Eating Mopane Worms
Country of origin: Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Cost: 6.49 pounds (or $8.49) for 30 worms
Mopane worms are actually caterpillars of the emperor moth. On Christmas Day throughout Southern Africa, however, they become one of the world’s more unique holiday recipes for dinner.
Fat and spiny, the creepy-crawlies can grow to the size of a human finger. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and most importantly, protein. In a region of Africa where nutritious food has historically been scarce in December, feasting on the local mopane worm harvest made sense — and eventually became a holiday tradition.
KFC Fried Chicken Christmas
Country of origin: Japan
Cost: 3,780 yen to 5,800 yen (or approximately $33 to $51 per family)
In the West, the traditional Christmas dinner is no stranger to poultry — usually a turkey, a goose or sometimes a duck. Christmas is not, however, a fried chicken event — unless, that is, you’re in Japan, where 3.6 million Japanese people spend the holiday gorging on KFC.
Japan’s very first KFC franchisee started the tradition of serving “barrels” of chicken on Christmas in 1970. It was such a hit that KFC’s marketing team took the tradition national in 1974. Four decades later, Japan’s most celebrated Christmas traditions include feasting on chicken from an American fast food chain. One-third of all annual KFC revenue in Japan now comes from the sale of Christmas barrel packages.
Country of origin: Germany
Cost: $74.70 for a real tree; $98.70 for an artificial tree
Celebrating the return of long, sunny days after the winter solstice by bringing green plants indoors can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. The modern Christmas tree, however, began with devout Christians in 16th-century Germany. Today, however, it’s a global phenomenon.
Whether it’s the traditional Norway spruce in Great Britain, fir trees in Ukraine or even imported pines in Greenland where it’s too cold for native trees to grow, Christmas celebrations center around a tree in most of the Christmas-celebrating world. In the U.S. alone, people spend $2.04 billion on 27.4 million trees.
Country of origin: Germany
Germany not only gave the world Christmas trees, but it also is the birthplace of another one of the season’s most beloved family Christmas traditions — decorating for the holidays. It started simply with lighted candles, which is a dramatic difference from the explosion of ornaments, candy canes, Christmas lights and mistletoe that are so popular today.
In the 1600s, Puritans in early America shunned, and even forbade decorating for Christmas. But as the country’s mood lightened up beginning in the 1800s, so did their homes.
Black Friday Shopping
Country of origin: United States
Cost: $743 per person in 2017
A common misconception about Black Friday is that it got its name because it’s the day that retailers make the year’s first profit — or when they leave the red and enter the black. Although that’s how retailers and shoppers view Black Friday today, the real origin occurred decades ago.
In the 1960s, the mood in Philadelphia was black on the Friday after Thanksgiving because the city was chaotic with the flood of tourists in town for the city’s classic Army-Navy football game. For retailers, however, the influx of outsiders was an opportunity, and they began offering deep discounts to lure flush-pocketed tourists trying to find unique Christmas gifts. The tradition spread and morphed into what it is today: a ritualistic annual shopping event that more than half the U.S. population indulges in.
Firecrackers on Chinese New Year
Country of origin: China
Cost: $100 per carton of 1,000
From lion dances and ornate dragon heads to dancers draped in bright yellow and red clothing, Chinese New Year is a festival unrivaled for its sights and sounds — and those sounds include plenty of exploding firecrackers. Firecracker celebrations snap, pop and bang in the new year everywhere from New York City to Beijing, with the belief that the loud noises and bright lights will chase away evil spirits in the coming year.
Champagne Toasts on New Year’s Eve
Country of origin: France
Cost: $8.99 and up
Although you can spend more than $2 million for a bottle of Goût de Diamants, the world’s most expensive Champagne, you’re likely to spend a lot less for a bottle of bubbly if a midnight toast is one of your New Year traditions. But if it’s Champagne, by definition, it has to come from France. If you’re drinking a bottle that wasn’t produced in France, it’s called sparkling wine.
Revelers have been ringing in the new year since antiquity, but in the 1800s, two things happened: The holiday shifted from religious to secular, and the price of Champagne — which rich Europeans had been drinking for centuries –plummeted, making it affordable to the masses. It was a match made in heaven.
Pictures With Santa Claus
Country of origin: United States
Cost: $23 to $46
Early images of St. Nicholas in the 1500s depict the Christmas icon as a reserved saint, rather than a jolly bearer of toys. In the 1800s, however, Father Christmas began to look more like the Santa Claus we know today.
But in one of history’s little-known Christmas facts, something else happened around that time: Photography came of age — and marketers saw dollar signs. Santas began appearing in department stores and charity drives, and the modern photo-with-Santa craze was born.
Giving to Charity
Country of origin: Ancient Hebrew culture
Cost: From $704 to $2,935 throughout the year, with donations being the highest during the holidays
The concept of giving to those who have less dates back to 2500 BCE with ancient Hebrews and the origin of the word “tithe.” Today, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is known informally as the “Giving Season,” when people who can afford it tend to give the most. It’s also the time that charitable organizations report receiving the bulk of their donations.