Christmas tree decoration traditions from around the world: How other cultures dress their trees

Georgia Chambers
Toni Cuenca/Unsplash

What makes a Christmas tree? The tinsel, twinkly lights, baubles - you know the drill.

But if you’re bored of the usual baubles and tinsel, perhaps it’s time to look further afield than the cupboard under the stairs for some decoration inspiration.

Why deck the halls with boughs of holly when you could string up popcorn, origami and biscuits?

These are just some of the Christmas tree decoration traditions from around the world that put us Brits to shame in the creativity stakes, according to Celebrity Cruises.

Here are the most charming international Christmas tree trends for us to copy. So if your festive forest needs a makeover, take heed from some of these ideas.

Popcorn on a string in the USA

Popcorn wasn’t always just a healthy millennial snack. In America in the 1950s and '60s, adorning the tree with delicate strings of popcorn was a craze. The sweet-and-salty tradition is thought to originate from when outdoor Christmas trees were decorated with food for wildlife. Perfect if you’re feeling peckish while you’re putting presents under the tree.

Real candles in Germany

This decorative tradition might be something of a fire hazard, but a cosy look can be just as easily achieved with LED candles. Legend has it that Protestant reformer Martin Luther introduced real candles to Christmas trees in the 16th century to recreate a starry night sky. O Tannenbaum.

Sparkly spiderwebs and spiders in Ukraine

It’s not just a hangover from Halloween: in Ukraine, families dot their trees with shimmering spiderwebs to celebrate a famous folklore. The story goes that there was once a poor family who couldn’t afford to decorate their tree, so a Christmas spider decorated it with webs that turned to gold and silver on the big day, making the family rich. Magic and riches not guaranteed, sadly.

Shell ornaments in Australia

Christmas takes place during the summer season in Australia, meaning the trees have less of a wintry theme. You’ll often find pretty little shells on the branches of Christmas trees down under, either in their natural form or embellished with glitter.

Straw ‘himmeli’ in Finland

Who knew geometry could be so trendy? These structures, traditionally made from rye straw, can be found in UK department stores, often in copper and gold. In Finland, they were hung above dining tables at Christmas and remained until midsummer as they were said to bring a good harvest. Himmeli can now be seen on the trees of Finnish families and are very popular on Pinterest in case you fancied making some DIY décor.

Kerstkransjes biscuits in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands at Christmas, you’ll find delicious treats on their trees called kerstkransjes, biscuits in the shape of Christmas wreaths tied to branches with red ribbon. A buttery cookie base, they can be decorated in many ways but you’ll mostly see almond and chocolate versions. It’s a common occurrence in many Dutch households that these tasty ornaments will be nibbled away before Christmas Day, leaving just the red ribbon behind.

Origami birds in Japan

Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday in Japan, in fact it’s considered a normal working day. But this hasn’t stopped those in the country who do celebrate to put their own spin on the festive traditions. More shops in Japan are stocking Christmas items now, but many years ago there weren’t many places to buy decorations. This is why origami birds are commonplace on many Japanese Christmas trees, as they could be made easily at home.