How to celebrate Christmas if you have bicultural family?

We've made a decision about Christmas. As we are a bicultural family (I'm from Finland, hubby from England) we will celebrate Christmas traditions from both sides of the family, not just the traditions of the country we live in. So we celebrate both the British Christmas traditions as well as Finnish. They are quite different from each other so I'll explain a bit how we celebrate Christmas in our bicultural family, and hopefully that will give you a good insight into how things can work out successfully. 

toddler wearing finnish marimekko elf hat in front of a christmas tree

Why do we celebrate both Christmas traditions? 

I think that if you want to be a truly bilingual family, you can't stop at just the language. You need more. You need to appreciate and celebrate the cultural traditions too, because otherwise you will never be quite fully versed in the language either. I reckon many experts would agree with this. 

I also prefer Finnish Christmas traditions. Just being honest here! It's what I've grown up with and no matter how many years I spend in UK the traditions from my childhood are the ones that make Christmas  feel properly Christmas.  

What are the differences between Finnish and British Christmas? 

The day - in Finland you have Christmas dinner and dish out the gifts on the 24th. In UK this happens on 25th. 

The food - obviously very different in both countries. In Finland instead of a turkey you would have gammon, instead of roast potatoes a sweet potato casserole,  and instead of brussels sprouts you have this strange but tasty combination  of beetroot, apples and whipped cream sauce called rosolli. No mince pies either but plenty of gingerbread biscuits.

Santa - every Finn knows that Santa lives in (the Finnish) Lapland. Nowhere else. Also, in Finland Santa doesn't just leave the presents stealthily under your tree at night. Oh no. He makes a personal visit on the Christmas Eve. Dad always seems to miss him though, year after year...

mum and baby wearing traditional british paper crown at christmas dinner

How do we celebrate Christmas? 

The biggest thing we do is to alternate Christmas. 

One year we have a British Christmas, complete with all the trimmings. We usually visit my mother-in-law, who hosts a big family get-together. Last year we hosted Christmas in our home. We have the most traditional Christmas dinner you could imagine and go full out with the stocking. 

The following year however we fly to Finland to spend Christmas there.  There we enjoy (nearly always) a white Christmas, go and get our own Christmas tree from the forest, eat lots and lots of traditional foods until we nearly burst, and get visited by Santa. All on the 24th. On the 25th we just relax, watch Christmas films on the telly and maybe go for a little walk. 

We also select some Christmas traditions to import.

If we spend Christmas in London, we often also have a little bit of Finnish foods on Christmas Eve and open one gift, although we rarely make it into much of a fuss as the next day is already manic enough. If Christmas Eve happens to be an a normal working day I try to take the day off. Our home also looks like Finland during Christmas time. Nearly all of our Christmas decorations are from Finland, and we anyway tend to decorate our house in a Scandinavian fashion. We also visit Finnish events held here in London, and try either make or buy some Finnish Christmas foods to get on the mood.  

It is nice to do it this way as it feels like we are being culturally equal. Our daughter gets to experience both of our cultures and I know that will enrich her life. It works really well, although I do wish flying would not be so ridiculously expensive at Christmas time!

scandinavian style christmas decorations with a star and elves

Ideas for a family Christmas in multicultural families! Explaining how we have successfully combined Christmas traditions from both of our cultures in our multi-cultural family.

How do you celebrate Christmas?


  1. How lovely to enjoy Christmas traditions from both cultures. I love the sound of your Finnish Christmases. Alternating the two sounds like a great idea and your daughter will get to enjoy the best of both worlds. Hope you have a lovely Christmas whichever way you are celebrating this year! :-)

    1. Thank you :) It is nice but it does take a fair bit of organising too... This year we celebrated in Finland and I am yet to do my Christmas 2016 post - I still haven't edited my pictures! I hope you had a great Christmas :)

  2. This sounds wonderful. How lovely to celebrate with traditions from both cultures, I'm quite envious! Hope you had a fab Christmas xx

    1. It is actually lovely to be able to draw on both of those traditions - we always have a bit of variety. I hope you had a lovely Christmas :)


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