European Christmas Traditions

When Christmas markets start popping up in city centres and the aromas of mulled wine, hot apple cider and steaming hot chocolate start to fill the air, you know that Christmas must be on the way. Being able to spend time with friends and family, creating new traditions and making memories, are what makes the festive period so special. While it’s easy to get bogged down with the stresses of this time of year with busy shops, heaving supermarkets and some very merry people, it’s also a time to look back, be thankful and have some fun.Christmas candles and baubles

Across Europe, there are different ways of celebrating the festive period. While here in the UK, the main Christmas festivities take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a lot of other countries start their traditions as far back as the beginning of December. We took a look at what our European neighbours do to celebrate this wonderful time of the year.

Joyeux Noel! Enjoying festivities in France

Whilst in the UK Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, celebrations in some parts of France can start as early as December 6th with la fête de St Nicolas, the patron saint of children. On the eve of the 5th, French children place their shoes in front of the fireplace in the hope that Jolly St Nick will fill them with gifts and treats. As with most places in the world, a lot of focus is on the delicious Christmas food. A favourite dessert is ‘La Buche de Noël’, known in English as a Yule log. It’s a log shaped cake traditionally made with chocolate and chestnuts. It really is delicious!

Yule Log

Feliz Navidad! Celebrating the festive period in Spain

Christmas traditions in Spain start on Christmas Eve when most families will attend midnight mass together. Instead of indulging in their Christmas feast on Christmas Day, a lot of families will enjoy the delicious feast before attending the service. A traditional Christmas meal usually consists of Pavo Trufado de Navidad (turkey stuffed with truffles.)

Christmas Table setup

Buon Natale! Celebrating Christmas in Italy

Instead of going down the well-known route of a jolly old man dressed in red delivering presents, in Italy it’s a witch that brings sweets and gifts. The friendly witch – La Befana – rides around on her broomstick and visits homes a couple of weeks after Christmas on the 6th of January which is also know as ‘Epiphany’. She delivers presents, usually sweets, to the good children and ash or coal to the naughty ones. To celebrate Epiphany, towns and cities arrange parades and festivities.

Christmas cookies

Fröhliche weihnachten! Enjoying Christmas time in Germany 

When you think of Germany at Christmas you may immediately think of German Christmas markets. A lot of UK cities now have the markets running up to the festive period and really do melt the heart of the most stubborn scrooge with their twinkling lights, delicious smells and beautiful gifts. Christmas markets play a large part in the festivities in Germany and start to pop up in nearly every town and city – small or large. The markets have played a large part in German Christmas traditions for hundreds of years, some even dating back as far as the 14th century.  Family festive traditions start on the night of December 5/6 and similar to France, children leave out their shoes for Santa Claus, Nickolaus, to fill with chocolate, oranges and sweets if they’ve been good. However, if children have been naughty, they’ll wake up to twigs in their shoes – delivered by Santa’s sidekick ‘Knecht Ruprecht’, ouch!

German Christmas market


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