We’re getting in the holiday spirit at SPI: putting together our travel-themed gift wishlists, dreaming of snow here in sunny Austin, TX, and researching fun traditions from our program countries! 

1) France

“Happy Holidays” is… “Joyeuses (or Bonnes) Fêtes!”

Fun Fact: This was probably already evident, but the French eat waaay better than most of us do on Christmas Eve. The official feast, called le réveillon, usually consists of snails, oysters, smoked saumon, goose, and, you know, other average, everyday holiday food items.


Kinda puts Aunt Susie’s mashed potatoes to shame, n’est-ce pas? 

2) Spain

Happy Holidays is…“Felices Fiestas!”

Fun Fact: Leave it to the Spanish to extend the holiday season! In Spain, festivities begin Christmas Eve, and don’t end until January 6th (Three Kings Day). Talk about a true fiesta!


Colorful Madrid stays lit up like a firework during the holiday season!

3) Italy

“Happy Holidays” is…“Buone Feste!”

Fun Fact: In Italy, kids get presents from both Santa Claus and La Befana, a witch in Italian folklore that is said to deliver gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). Let’s hope those gifts don’t include a bunch of broomsticks! 


Christmas trees and the Colosseum: a combination so bright that La Befana is guaranteed to find her way through the night sky.

4) China

“Happy Holidays” is…“Jie Ri Yu Kuai!”

Fun Fact: In China, the Chinese New Year is a much bigger deal than any other winter holiday (though, commercialized Christmas traditions have found their way into the bigger cities). The night before the New Year, it’s traditional to give your house a thorough cleaning in order to cleanse yourself and your surroundings, and properly prepare for the comings of the New Year.


We’re guessing that National Confetti Clean-Up Day follows New Year’s Day…

5) Costa Rica

Happy Holidays is…“Felices Fiestas!”

Fun Fact: Christmas is an event that pretty much takes over the whole month of December in Costa Rica — for instance, in San Jose (the country’s capital city), an annual Parade of Lights featuring hundreds of marching bands and brightly-painted entertainers kicks off in mid-December and runs through Christmas. So fun!


Surely, an old man in a red suit squeezing down chimneys is weirder than this.