12 Traditional Gifts … Holiday Giving Around the World


We asked field correspondents from around the world to tell us about favorite holiday gifts in their countries. The results are intriguing!


Aren’t these beautiful rattles? Sonajas, as they are called in Spanish, are a popular baby gift in Mexico.

Their cheerful sound brings smiles to boys’ and girls’ faces, and the gifts serve traditionally as protection. (It’s a folk belief in Mexico that the ringing bells will keep bad luck away.)


Children in Tabaco, Philippines, often enjoy a Christmas gift we’d all love – cash!

Giving money in ang pao – red envelopes – is a tradition Filipinos acquired from the Chinese.


Photo albums are also a sentimental favorite during Christmastime in Tabaco.


Christmas is celebrated with little pomp in Zambia – few decorations and fewer gifts. But gifts do carry deep cultural significance and reflect traditional gender roles.

For example: young women traditionally receive these braziers and pots shortly before marriage. The gift reminds the recipient to nurture her family.


Later in life, a Zambian woman may receive a chitenge when she first becomes a mother.

This fabric is cut into equal pieces. One piece for a skirt; the other for a strap to carry the baby on the mother’s back. The gift demonstrates great love and respect for the recipient.


A prestigious gift for a Zambian boy is a spear.

At a certain age, a young man receives a spear to lead and defend his own family. The gift indicates the recipient is in charge of providing food and defending the family.


These red bracelets – each with tiny “hand” beads – are an important gift for Ecuadorian babies.

All children under a year of age traditionally receive the gift – either from parents or grandparents. Worn all the time, the trinkets ward off negative spirits and protect the baby from “evil eye,” an illness that manifests itself through a cranky and uncomfortable baby.


Gifts aren’t just about protection, though. A sweet treat that awaits children in Quito, Ecuador, are delicious candies and cookies on Christmas!


Although Christmas is recognized in Kolkata, India, the major holiday celebrated there is Durga Puja, which takes place in the fall.

Families normally purchase new clothes for the fête, including traditional garb for the girls.


An entertaining toy with which Guatemalan children like to play at Christmastime is a capirucho.

Deceivingly simple, a capirucho requires skill to master. The goal is to flip the yellow bell up and land it on the stick.


These colorful Guatemalan instruments are called chinchines.

This special toy is an important part of Christmas Eve; the children use the chinchines to accompany Christmas carols.


Inexpensive wooden cars are a traditional holiday gift for the poor along the northern coast of Colombia.

The custom grew out of economic necessity but continues to be a family favorite to this day.


Did you know that Children International gives every child in our program a Christmas gift? Families rely on us to provide practical items, such as new clothes, shoes and jackets. Not only do these gifts meet families’ needs, but they give family budgets wiggle room to purchase small – but significant – traditional gifts.

If you’d like to help needy families with their Christmas this year, make a donation here.

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