Seven Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions From Around the World

No matter the context, plants and flowers enhance the spirit of the holiday season.

By: THURSD. | 20-12-2023 | 8 min read
Christmas Designs Flowers Special Days
Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions

Christmas is a time of celebrations, and these are often complemented by rich cultural traditions. Flowers, over and over again, play a significant role in enhancing this festive spirit. While certain plants and flowers like evergreens, holly, and poinsettias - which are one of the most popular Christmas plants - may be traditionally associated with Christmas, there are other fascinating and unique floral traditions and customs observed around the world during this festive season. 

In many of these traditions, the plants and flowers are not just mere decorative elements, but also channels for communicating meanings and symbolism of the occasion. From different corners of the world, people incorporate them in their festive settings to enhance the mood of the season and also to highlight the importance of the festivities and what they mean to them. 

Which Are These Unique Christmas Floral Traditions?

All over the world, people have different floral cultures that attribute symbolism and meaning to the Christmas season. In these traditions, flowers often play a significant role in achieving the desired outcomes.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
A form of Advent wreath with flowers and candles.
Photo by Julie Rønberg


In this context, here are seven fascinating customs that you would find interesting to know about.

Mexico: Poinsettias, the Flowers of the Holy Night

In Mexico, the poinsettia - which is indigenous to the country - known as ‘Nochebuena’ or the ‘Christmas Eve Flower’ holds a special place in Christmas celebrations. Legend has it that a young girl named Pepita, who was too poor to offer a gift to Baby Jesus, was asked by an angel to gather weeds on her way to the church and place them in the Nativity setting.

And as she placed them near the altar, the weeds miraculously turned into beautiful red flowers, which became known as ‘Flores de Noche Buena,’ or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’. These flowers, according to the legend, were the first poinsettias. These red and green-leafed plants are now indispensable to Christmas festivities worldwide.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Poinsettias along a street.
Photo by @maskbalam


Today, poinsettias are prominently displayed in homes, churches, and streets throughout Mexico during the Christmas season. The red color of the poinsettia is said to represent the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice, while the star-shaped leaves are associated with the Star of Bethlehem. You too can also create your own poinsettia Christmas tree to celebrate the Christmas season.

Sweden: St. Lucia Celebration’s Candles and Lush Blooms

St. Lucia’s Day is a traditional Swedish festival that is celebrated on December 13th every year. The festival is named after Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr who lived in the 4th century and involves a procession of people adorned in flower crowns and dressed in white robes and carrying candles. The person leading the procession is called Lucia and wears a crown of candles on her head. 

The festival pays homage to Saint Lucia, the bearer of light, and while the tradition is not exclusively focused on flowers, the presence of lush white blooms is an integral part of the festivities. Participants, especially, young girls dress in white robes, donner wreaths with candles on their heads, carrying candles or bouquets of flowers including white roses and lilies. The lush blooms enhance the luminous atmosphere of the celebration.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
St. Lucia Day celebrations.
Photo by @visitlindsborg


The flowers also symbolize purity, light, and hope, and the songs the participants sing are meant to spread the warmth and cheer of the season to their communities. As they march on the streets, they sing traditional songs, including the famous ‘Sankta Lucia’ song. 

Japan: Orchids and Winter Illuminations

While Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Japan, it has become a festive season celebrated with great enthusiasm. With their elegance and delicate beauty, orchids play a significant role in the decorations for these festivities. 

Varieties, particularly the elegant and delicate moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), have become synonymous with the Christmas period in Japanese culture, with the vibrant colors and graceful blooms adorning homes, hotels, and shopping centers during the holiday season. They add a sense of beauty, elegance, and tranquility to the festive season, reflecting the Japanese appreciation for aesthetics.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Orchids add a sense of beauty, elegance, and tranquility to the festive season.
Photo by KamranAydinov


In addition, Japan is known for its magnificent winter illuminations, where orchids are often incorporated into stunning light displays, creating a magical and enchanting atmosphere.

Philippines: Simbang Gabi and the Vibrant Parol

In the Philippines, the Simbang Gabi is a series of nine pre-dawn masses leading up to Christmas. The tradition is also known as Misa de los Pastores, Misa de Gallo or Mass of the Rooster because the masses are held at dawn, when the roosters crow. They are held from December 16 to December 24 and are often followed by a feast.

While flowers are not a central part of the Simbang Gabi tradition, they are often used to decorate the churches where the masses are held. The Filipino national flower, Sampaguita, for instance, is a key flower used. Other flowers commonly used in Simbang Gabi celebrations include poinsettias, roses, and lilies. The flowers are sometimes woven into garlands and leis and are used as decorative elements, adding beauty and fragrance to the festivities.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Misa de Gallo, also called Mass of the Rooster.
Photo by @geeyanos


Devotees also offer garlands of jasmine to the Virgin Mary and use the flowers to create intricate decorations in the churches. Also, during this period, parols are largely used. These star-shaped lanterns are adorned with colorful paper and illuminated from within. 

Guatemala: The Carpets of Flowers

Oftentimes during festivities including Christmas, in the town of Antigua, Guatemala, the streets come alive with flower carpets of vibrant colors and elaborate designs, in an age-old tradition to create alfombras or flower carpets, on the streets. During Christmas, for instance, the alfombras, which are then mostly made with poinsettia petals, showcase different scenes important to the artists creating them. They are sometimes religious in nature, and other times focus on Mayan traditions, mother nature, and Guatemalan history as well.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Antigua artist designing the alfombras in Guatemala.
Photo by @bellaguatemalatravel


These carpets are meticulously crafted using a variety of natural materials, including flowers, leaves, colored sawdust, and pine needles. Families and communities work together to create spectacular floral designs, which during the Christmas festivities, mostly depict religious symbols like scenes from the Nativity.

These ephemeral masterworks are then trampled upon during religious processions, which could symbolize the transient nature of life. The celebrations are held for different other festivals especially Easter as well.

Australia: Native Floral Wreaths and Festive Bouquets

In Australia, where Christmas coincides with the height of summer, native plants and flowers are the highlight of the festivities. Australians embrace their unique flora by incorporating native blooms into Christmas wreaths and decorations that have a summer touch to them.

Instead of the traditional pine trees, it is common to see Christmas decorations and wreaths made from eucalyptus, banksia, and kangaroo paw during the festivities. They bring a distinct touch of Australian beauty to the holiday season. 


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Native Australian plants and flowers in floral compositions.
Photo by Thrive Flowers & Events


Festive bouquets featuring native flowers, such as waratahs and Christmas bush, are also popular as they add a vibrant pop of red and green to the festivities. Here are other unique flowers that define the Aussie landscape.

Germany: Advent Wreaths with Evergreens and Flowers

The Advent wreath is a long-established tradition in Germany that is still popular today. The wreath is usually a circle of evergreens and is set horizontally, with candles spread around it. The addition of flowers, such as red and white roses, in the wreath symbolizes the purity and joy of the season. Its circular shape represents the everlasting love of God, and evergreens also signify a love that never dies. 

The Advent wreath is typically set up on the first Advent Sunday (the fourth before Christmas) to start off the Advent season. A typical Advent wreath has four candles; one for each Advent Sunday leading up to Christmas Eve. Some wreaths also feature a fifth candle in the center, usually larger than the other four. 


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
An Advent wreath with one lit candle
Photo by @melinill


Traditional families gather around the wreath on each Advent Sunday to light the next candle and sing Christmas carols. This had been an important activity in the past when the Christmas tree was usually reserved for a special unveiling only on Christmas Eve. Until then, the Advent wreath provided the evergreen look and aroma in the home.

Traditions That Exemplify the Spirit of Christmas

Different cultures have their unique floral customs and traditions that exemplify the spirit of Christmas. To these diverse cultures, the Christmas period and the flowers used in the season’s decorations are, each, uniquely characteristic of specific symbolisms.


Unique Christmas Season Floral Traditions
Christmas floral scene.
Photo by Waldemar


In the end, however, the true magic of Christmas lies not just in the flowers used but also in the love, compassion, warmth, cheer, and togetherness that these flowers represent and their influence on the Christmas season. In that respect, which Christmas floral tradition will you partake in this festive season?

You may also be interested in knowing about these iconic Christmas trees from around the world, or even these strange and unusual Christmas trees.


Feature image by Waldemar, header image by Alexandra Mitache.


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