Famous Christmas Traditions in Europe
Here is a quick overview of Christmas traditions in Europe and beliefs in some European countries…
Christmas is a family holiday celebrated in all Erupean countries.
Despite the similarities, European countries have retained their own traditions. All of Europe invites you to discover their customs.
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth each year, called the Nativity. Originally, this holiday was pagan and existed in different forms to mark the winter solstice.
In the 21st century, Christmas takes on a largely secular aspect. It has become a commercial holiday and a celebrated time of the year, including by non-believers. This holiday is characterized by a grouping of family units around a meal and an exchange of gifts, particularly (but not only) for children, who in several Western countries associate these gifts with the character of Santa Claus.
In German, Merry Christmas = Fröhliche Weihnachten.
The Germans invented the Christmas tree tradition 400 years ago.
In the north of the country, it is St-Nicolas who brings the gifts on December 6. He descends from the sky in a sledge.
But in the south, it’s Santa Claus who rewards children who have been good during the year.
Some families prepare very original calendars with garlands and small packages.
Every Advent Sunday, a crown candle is lit.
On Saint Barbara, we put forsythia branches in a vase, they will bloom for Christmas.
The Christmas tree is decorated on December 24 by the children.
On the evening of December 24, it is the infant Jesus (Protestant custom) or Father Christmas who brings the gifts and places them under the tree.
On Kings Day, children disguised as Three Kings write the initials of the three Kings on the doors.
At Christmas dinner, the Germans enjoy a grilled goose accompanied by red cabbage and apples.
The meal should be served in a multicolored dish, decorated with apples, nuts, almonds and cakes made for the occasion
In Spanish, Merry Christmas = Feliz Navidad
The little Spaniards are very spoiled: they receive gifts on December 25 but also on January 6 by the Three Kings, who put the packages in their shoes.
In many large cities the procession of the Three Kings takes place. It is a very popular holiday. The Three Kings parade in richly decorated chariots followed by numerous horsemen. Children and adults throng the streets to watch them go by.
After the parade, the Three Kings mingle with the children who are very impressed to see them so closely.
Formerly, on New Year’s Eve and Christmas morning in the Spanish villages, we rewarded the neighbor who had helped to bring in the harvest, to carry water or to keep the sheep by a payment in kind. When he rang the doorbell, loaded with a wicker-woven basket, it was filled with olive oil, nuts, almonds or even dried fruits.
The ancient tradition has been maintained and even developed since today we find in the best shops, at the approach of the holidays, Christmas baskets made up of the finest artisanal products of the country. The most steeped in history are the sweets, made from marzipan or butter, often prepared in convents by nuns, “with three Ave Maria and the grace of the hand”, as one song sings. popular.
The turròn, a kind of honey and almond nougat, also has its place in Christmas baskets. Nowadays, baskets are also enriched with a bottle of “Cava”, a nice sparkling wine, a whole ham, candied chestnuts from Galicia, truffles, fruits in brandy, splendid cornucopias overflowing with vegetables and fresh fruit, Good bottles, sherry, appellation wines (such as Rioja, Pénedès), old sweet Malaga that can be tasted in front of a tray of small cakes or liqueurs with multiple flavors such as “patxaràn”, a true national drink, made from anise flavored with sloes.
At Christmas, it is a tradition to offer canned asparagus from Navarre, the name of which is strictly regulated since, in order for them to be worthy of bearing the name, they must be put in jars by hand, the day after picking.
The origin of most pastries dates back to Arab rule as the conquerors introduced sugar and the art of confectionery to Spain. This is why marzipan has been made in Toledo since the 8th century, in the most varied forms, stuffed with pine nuts or egg yolk confit in sugar. In La Rioja, we put lemon in it, while in Andalusia it is presented in the form of bars truffled with candied fruit and iced with sugar.
In Alsatian, merry Christmas = Fréliche vinorde, In Breton, Merry Christmas = Nedeleg laouen
In Normand, Merry Christmas = Knotted Bouon
Several days before Christmas, the towns and villages of France take on a festive air.
We decorate the facade of town halls. A huge Christmas tree is erected in the large squares. The main streets and the trees are covered with fairy lights.
Department stores make very beautiful windows or some feature automatons.
Children are photographed with Santa Claus.
Kindergartens decorate their classes.
On the evening of the 24th, families have a New Year’s Eve dinner made up of tasty dishes such as oysters and foie gras.
The most observant then go with their families to midnight mass.
Santa Claus comes from the sky in a sleigh to drop off the presents at night and the children discover them on Christmas morning at the foot of the tree.
On Christmas Day, they gather as a family around the Christmas table.
The Christmas meal is often a roast turkey or capon and to finish with log cake dessert.
In Provence, in some seaside churches, at the end of midnight mass, a procession of fishermen and fishmongers place a basket full of fish at the foot of the hotel, as a sign of affection and gratitude towards little Jesus.
Tradition has it that the New Year’s Eve meal ends with thirteen desserts which symbolize Christ and the twelve apostles.
These desserts bring together all the fruits and sweets of the region.
In Dutch, Merry Christmas = Vrolijk Kerstfeest
It is Saint Nicholas (SinterKlaas), who brings their gifts to the Dutch children.
On December 6, on a boat from Spain, he landed in Amsterdam. Pierre Le Noir accompanies him. As soon as he dismounts, Saint Nicholas gets on his horse, Pierre Le Noir takes the bridle, and at the head of a long procession, they set off to meet the Queen.
Pierre Le Noir has a register in which all the good and bad actions of the year are counted. Well-behaved children get gifts, the rascals get hammered.
Sometimes, too, the Saint prefers to arrive by the roofs.
So Dutch children don’t forget to put their shoes in front of the fireplace and fill them with hay or carrots for St. Nicholas’ horse!
It may happen that the Saint hides the gifts. It’s up to the children to follow his trail to find them. Fortunately, the road is lined with little poems that provide them with clues.
That evening, after having discovered the treasure, the family ate the “letter cake”. It could be a big family initial cake, or individual initial cupcakes!
In Ireland, merry christmas = Merry Christmas
The Christmas holidays begin twelve days before Christmas. We call this period “little Christmas”, that is to say “little Christmas”.
A candle is placed on the windowsill on Christmas Day.
Before leaving for mass we leave a glass of whiskey for Santa Claus and carrots for the reindeer.
The gifts are open on Christmas Day. The Christmas dinner takes place in the afternoon around two or three o’clock.
A candle is placed on the windowsill on Christmas Day. Before leaving for church, we leave a glass of whiskey for Santa Claus and carrots for the reindeer!
On Christmas Day, we open the presents and participate in the traditional lunch.
The next day, December 26, is another day of celebration: it’s “Stephen’s days”.
Many Irish people attend horse races and make bets, while others sing in the streets.
In the countryside, young boys, the “wren boys”, dressed in old clothes, sing and make music. They go from house to house to claim a few coins.
In Italian, Merry Christmas = Buon Natale
The Christmas party lasts 3 days, from December 24 to 26.
The crib originates from Italy. As a reproduction of the stable, it appeared in Italy in churches in the 15th century. Family cribs developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly with very refined Neapolitan cribs.
According to tradition, Italian families install it nine days before the birth of Christ.
The Christmas tree is made on December 08 by tradition (a public holiday in Italy) Christmas traditions vary from region to region.
In certain regions of the north of Italy, it is Father Christmas, “Babo Natale” or the Little Jesus, “Gesu Bambino” who bring the gifts on December 25th. Elsewhere, it is Saint Lucia, on December 13th.
In Rome and in southern Italy, it is “la Befana” which brings the toys on the day of the Kings, during the night of the Epiphany.
La Befana is an elderly witch, but very kind. She moves on her broom and goes through the chimneys to distribute the gifts. The image of the Befana is often seen, for example on the windows of houses during Christmas time.
Of course, no Christmas without the traditional “Panettone”. This cake would have seen the light of day around 1490 in Milan, but it was quickly adopted throughout Italy.
The Italians also taste the Pandoro whose popularity closely follows that of the Panettone, it is
of more recent origin.
In Portuguese, Merry Christmas = Feliz Natal
There aren’t many Christmas trees in Portugal yet.
If there is no fir, there is a Christmas wood.
It is a tree that the notable of each village offers to young people.
They have to cut it up and bring it back in a very decorated chariot pulled by oxen. It is blessed in the square of the church and it is set on fire on December 24 so that it burns during the night.
We burn the Yule log in the fireplace.
It is also burned in cemeteries because old beliefs say that the souls of the dead prowl on Christmas night.
In Portugal, Christmas Eve is a public holiday, everyone attends midnight mass.
As the stroke of midnight strikes, all the faithful go to the local church to celebrate the Missa do Galo, literally “the rooster’s mass”.
According to beliefs, a rooster crowed on the morning of December 25, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in its own way.
The famous “Bacalhau cozido” (cod cooked with potatoes and cabbage and drizzled with olive oil) is the meal dish for New Year’s Eve remains sober until the arrival of the 13 traditional desserts. When the Christmas dinner is over, the table is left for the deceased.
It is little Jesus who brings the gifts, although Santa Claus is gaining ground.
In Swedish, Merry Christmas = God Jul
Christmas is the biggest and longest holiday of the year in Sweden. Jul Tompte replaces our Father Christmas and Saint Lucia is awaited with the same impatience as little Jesus at home!
Jul Tompte is a gnome who lives in the stable, or under the floor of the house.
In the past, on farms, according to legend, everyone had their Tomte. He kept the harvest throughout the year and made sure of the herd. The farmers respected him. Today he watches over the house and the family.
Oddly enough, Saint Lucia, of Italian origin, is more venerated in Sweden.
On the morning of December 13, the eldest daughter of the house puts on a large white dress with a red belt, a crown with four burning candles on her head. She carries hot drinks and cookies on a tray and, followed by the other girls and boys dressed in white with the pointed mage’s cap on their heads, she brings breakfast to her parents.
The highlight today is Christmas Eve, time for gifts with family and friends. The gifts are called “juklappar”, literally “Christmas shots”, because they are offered as a joke.
Traditional Christmas dishes in Sweden, made with fish and cold meats, bear the names of “Smörgasbord” and “Lutfisk”. Glögg is a spicy mulled wine.
In Sweden, Christmas takes a long time to prepare and everyone tries to make it a point of honor to do as much as possible for themselves. Myriads of lights illuminate the long winter nights, a tree stands in the squares of towns and villages.
The Advent season is joyful, festive, and celebrated with friends. It starts four Sundays before Christmas. To celebrate the first day of Advent, the first of the four Advent wreath candles is lit.
Made with spruce branches, pine cones and decorated with greens or delicacies, this wreath will burn its last candle on Christmas Eve.
Despite the cold or sometimes the snow, it is not uncommon to meet up after work in the evening with friends around a good mulled wine on a stand in one of the many Christmas markets, in the street or even in a coffee shop.
With the family, the Christmas party begins on the morning of December 24. Decorating the house is a parent’s business. Children are “not allowed to stay”, they stay in the other rooms of the house. It is on this day that the tree is erected. December 25 and 26 are public holidays in Austria.
The Christmas celebrations make Belgium vibrate from December 6 to New Year. Saint-Nicolas begins to delight all children with his gifts on December 6.
It’s the start of the festivities. Be careful, Saint-Nicolas does not travel alone. He is always accompanied by Father Fouettard. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of schoolchildren for resuscitating three little children whom an unscrupulous butcher had turned into sausage meat.
Belgian children must be very good because they are again spoiled at Christmas by Santa Claus.
Christmas Eve is a family celebration but also includes its highlights in public. Some go to midnight mass, others gather at midnight in the street. This is the case on the main square in Brussels where, whatever the climate, thousands of people attend the candle lighting as a family at midnight precisely. Many towns in Belgium also organize “Christmas markets”.
Budni vetcher is Christmas Eve in Bulgarian. The feast is carefully prepared: on the dining room floor is spread the straw covered with a tablecloth reserved for Christmas Eve. Seven, nine or twelve thin dishes are placed on this tablecloth. To cleanse and prevent misfortune, the oldest person walks around with incense sticks throughout the house.
The Christmas feast begins at the stroke of midnight: it is Koleda. The young girls bake a special bread: a Kravay (or Kravaj,) for their favorite Koledari. The Koledari are single men and the young girl expresses her preference for one of them. This Christmas celebration can be considered as an initiation rite for young men and girls of marrying age.
Like many traditions linked to Christmas, Bulgarian folklore is of pagan origin assimilated into Orthodox Christian culture. Christmas would correspond to the beginning of the rebirth of nature. Since Christmas comes a few days after the winter solstice, the resurgent sunlight would make it possible for young girls to imagine their future husbands. This vision would be influenced in particular by the koledari themselves who are also known to be a kind of hunter of evil spirits.
The Christmas carers, dressed in traditional clothes, hold in their hands a Koledarka, a large staff made of carved oak wood. They tour the village and stop at each house to offer their best wishes and to receive gifts specially prepared for them. The Christmas party lasts until the early hours of the morning.
On the island of Cyprus, Christmas traditions are the same as those in neighboring Greece. The gifts are distributed to children on January 1, Saint Basil’s Day, who lived in Greece in the 4th century.
Very learned and modest, Basil was satisfied with one meal a day, wore light clothes even in winter, prayed all the time. He founded several monasteries. Orthodox Christians revere him and call him Basil the Great.
The Christmas tradition in Croatia, as in any Catholic country, begins 4 weeks before Christmas. This is when the Advent wreath is erected: 4 candles on a wreath of fir branches. The first Sunday we light the first candle, then every Sunday we light one more candle
We decorate the tree and place a crib at its foot, covering the ground with moss. While children receive gifts on Christmas Day, in the interior of the country, tradition has it that Saint Nicholas brings the gifts on December 6, and Saint Lucia plays this role on the coast on December 13. The children then hang a sock in their window and will discover their gift there in the morning. So that Croatian children are doubly spoiled, once by one of these two saints, and the other time by Santa Claus.
On Saint Lucia’s Day wheat is also planted in small cups, it will have grown at Christmas and will be a sign of prosperity for the year to come.
Scandinavians call Christmas Jul. They adopted the name of the pagan winter solstice holiday “the wheel”. It’s the wheel of the year that once again turns to spring.
It was the start of a 12-night period, from December 24 to January 8, and it symbolized the winter night, the longest nights of the year, during which the renewal of light and vegetation is being prepared.
It was both a feast of the sun and of fertility. This night world was also a time when the deceased were honored.
For the feast of Jul, an oak log was brought into the house, which represented the sacred fire. We also planted a tree in front of the house. The evergreen fir symbolized the triumph of nature over winter.
Christmas in Denmark is a time of celebration that can be shared with friends and family. The Advent festivities begin four Sundays before Christmas. The Christmas wreath is raised with family or friends. Every Sunday before Christmas, one of the four candles is lit. This ceremony is the occasion for a festive afternoon tea with loved ones.
On December 1, the Advent calendar candle is lit. It has 24 marks, like as many days before Christmas. We blow it out every day before it goes past the daily mark. And time goes by like this until December 24. Saint Lucia, patron saint of lights, is celebrated on the night of December 12 to 13.
At the beginning of December, all houses and apartments light up in red, either with a candle, a tealight, or more sophisticated decoration. Fir trees or other trees, all the trees in front of the houses are also illuminated and the balconies of the apartments are decorated.
Consequently, many establishments, companies, administration, canteens, restaurants organize their “Christmas buffet”, a festive lunch to which all are invited.
The evening of December 23 is already a special celebration. Friends and relatives visit each other to drink beer, spiced mulled wine or Gloegg together and to taste cookies.
Häid jõule is Merry Chrismas in Estonian.
Christmas begins during the Advent season when Estonians buy calendars and start decorating their homes.
Every year on December 24, the President of Estonia declares the Christmas truce, a custom three hundred and fifty years old.
In the past, in the countryside, peasants scanned the stars and questioned the ice to read the future. They believed that that night both good and bad spirits were walking. So we had to put food on the table and leave the fire in the hearth until morning.
It is traditional to go to the sauna before the Christmas service. As they leave the church, Estonians will light candles on the graves of their loved ones.
For Finns, Christmas is probably the most important holiday season. The first Sunday of Advent officially opens the Christmas season. But there is already a lot of animation before then.
Each year, Santa Claus makes his official entry into Helsinki. The month of December is marked by important dates, most notably December 6, Finland’s Independence Day, and the 13 th, Saint Lucia celebration.
This holiday comes from a popular Swedish tradition, introduced in Finland in 1950. It is about electing among ten young girls, the “National Lucie”.
Dressed in a long white dress and wearing a crown of illuminated candles on her head, Lucie made her first appearance on December 13. Until the end of the month, this young girl visits hospitals, schools and attends various Christmas parties delivering a message of light, hope and charity.
To look forward to the big day, all children in Finland count down the days of December using their Advent calendar.
On Christmas Eve, Finns go to the cemetery when they have a missing relative. This tradition takes place at 6 p.m. They put a candle on the grave of the deceased. It is also an occasion to pay tribute to the Finnish soldiers who died during the Winter War.
On Christmas Day, Finns go to the sauna, share their Christmas meal with their family and listen to the Christmas Peace Speech. According to an ancient tradition, at noon on Christmas Eve, the general secretary of the town hall of the city of Turku, in southwestern Finland, publicly proclaims the beginning of the Christmas Peace.
This statement is broadcast nationwide on radio and television. The tradition of announcing the Peace of Christmas is an ancient Nordic custom dating back to the Middle Ages. Before Christian times, a year was marked by 27 different “peacetime,” including times for women, court sessions, and harvests.
December 25 and 26 are public holidays in Finland. On the 24th, the shops are only open in the morning. Christmas is the quintessential family celebration. For Saint Etien On the 26th, the Finns are visiting their colleagues and friends.
In Greece, an Orthodox country which adopted the Gregorian calendar, the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25 and not on January 7 as in Russia. The holiday season begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Epiphany. This 12 day period is called a “Dozen”. Christmas in Greece is less important than Easter.
On December 24, the little children get up very early in the morning with the aim of going from house to house “saying” and singing the “calanda” (little poems and kinds of hymns retracing the history of Christmas and the New Year) , while waving their “trigona” (a small musical steel triangle which is struck with a steel stick). Their hosts, who appreciate the continuity of this tradition which dates back to Greek calends, warmly welcome them and reward them by giving them a few pieces, fruit or a kind of pastry made for Christmas: the kourabiedes (kinds of small pancakes covered with icing sugar. ) or melomacarona (cake made with nuts and honey syrup).
On Christmas Eve, a frugal New Year’s Eve meal closes a 40-day fasting period. We go to bed early to attend mass which begins at four in the morning. On December 25, when they return from church, the whole family shares honey, dried fruits and Christopsomo (literally “Christ’s bread”), a kind of nut cake that the hostess has prepared the day before and where she took care to leave the imprint of her hand, symbol of the mark of the fingers of Christ, proof that he was born.
Traditionally, each house was adorned with a wooden model ship decorated with a light garland or small candles. The boat is the traditional symbol of Christmas in Greece. The Christmas tree first appeared in Greece in 1839.
The gifts are not distributed at Christmas but on January 1st when the Greeks celebrate Saint Basil. It is the latter who brings the gifts. Saint-Basile was a poor man and he sang in the streets to raise money for study. The Greeks say that one day when he was laughed at, the stick he was leaning on blossomed, miraculously. On Saint Basil’s Eve, the whole family clan gathers in a house to sing, talk and play cards.
On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and Epiphany (January 6), Greek children pass by the houses of the neighborhood and sing in front of the doors these songs which announce the birth of Jesus, the coming of the New Year, and the Baptism of Jesus in exchange for a few coins.
Saint-Nicolas Mikulás, in Hungarian, passes on December 6. The children put their boots under the window on the evening of the 5th, in which will be deposited treats, toys and books, if they have been good.
If they’ve been mean, they’ll have a wand with a little devil figure on it. Almost all children receive both.
The Christmas season is, for Hungarians, a time of prophecy. The first important date is the last day of November, Saint Andrew’s Day.
Girls who are able to fast all day long will dream of their future husband. Second, Saint Lucia is considered the day of evil spirits because it is the longest night of the year.
To find out the name of her future husband, a young girl takes 12 papers and writes a young man’s name on eleven papers and leaves a blank piece of paper. She puts them in a box. Every day until Christmas, she picks one up and burns it in the fireplace. The paper remaining on December 24 is the correct one.
If it’s white paper, she won’t get married. If you want to be rich the next year, you can’t spend a dime on December 13th. If someone has the good idea to give you some money, it’s good luck.
On the 24th, the closest family gets together and decorates the tree. The Hungarians believe that you must first hang fruit (apples and nuts) and then honey cakes to have a good harvest the following year and put sprouted wheat and a cradle under the tree. More commonly, they decorate their trees with chocolate balls and papillotes.
The next step is to light the candles and sing Christmas carols before exchanging the gifts. In Hungary, it is little Jesus who brings gifts to children.
Most families go to midnight mass. It is said that you must leave a candle burning to prevent the evil spirits driven from the vicinity of the church by the smell of incense from taking refuge there.
When the days in Latvia begin to lengthen after the winter solstice on December 21, Latvians have celebrated the return of the sun for ages, and these traditions blend with those of Christian Christmas.
In the old days, locals walked the streets, their faces hidden behind a mask of a bear, horse, wolf, goat, dwarf or giant to scare off evil spirits.
Today, the trend is to decorate the Christmas tree with 100 candles, not to mention baking delicious ginger cookies.
It is customary in Lithuania to clean the house from top to bottom the week before Christmas Eve. Christmas is a very important family holiday for Lithuanians.
Traditionally, Lithuanians play fortune-telling games on New Years Eve. The mother, for example, pours wheat seeds on the table. The more you can hold in your hands, the richer you will be the year after.
The girls also draw straws. The shorter straw means the girl will get married and the thicker straw means the girl will be happy and have a long and prosperous life.
The gifts are distributed before going to midnight mass.
The children are the first to celebrate with the arrival of the Klesschen and the Hoséker or Père fouettard. These last two arrive by helicopter, train or even by donkey depending on the case!
The night of December 5 to 6, near the socks of each child, delicacies but also a glass of wine await them to help them gain strength. In exchange, they leave the gifts and the famous “Bonhomme en culotte” or Boxemännchen. Until Christmas, children will feast on these brioche men, split in half with butter or jam.
Then the party atmosphere wins over all adults. We prepare the Stollen, these cookies with dried fruits and raisins that will be tasted at Christmas.
The Christmas markets liven up the public places every Sunday until Christmas. We like to share with friends a glass of spiced mulled wine or an Egg Nogg, a drink with sweetened milk, crème fraîche, vanilla and rum. We then feast on sweets or Gromperekichelcher, a specialty with potatoes and eggs.
The party is in full swing on December 24 in a very family atmosphere from the afternoon.
The holidays are fervently celebrated from Advent to New Year. Four weeks before Christmas, we plant millet seeds and let them grow in the dark. Deprived of chlorophyll, the shoots will be white, like Santa’s beard. This Gulhiena will be displayed at the window or next to the tree and the crib on the evening of December 24.
The streets and the interiors are very illuminated and multicolored. Candles and glass Christmas balls sparkle on all sides.
Nativity scenes are numerous, in churches, in squares and in houses. Living, in wood, in clay, it is even made into bread.
In Poland, Christmas is called Gwiazdka or “Little Star”. Andrzejki, Saint Andrew, the eve of the first Sunday of Advent, marks the start of the Christmas festivities. On this evening, strange rituals are performed to predict one’s future, such as passing wax through a keyhole.
Over time, very ancient customs have mingled with Christian rites. The period is dedicated to the regeneration of the vital forces of the world, that is to say of men, animals and nature, so that the cycle of passing time can be accomplished under the best conditions.
Traditions today combine magic, blessings for the coming New Year, home decor and symbols of conciliation.
Christmas carols are still very present during this period. In some areas, the “cantiqueurs”, groups of children or young adolescents go house to house with multicolored stars and cribs.
The tradition of the crib came to Poland with the Franciscans in the 13th century. The crib has two floors: above the nativity and below the national heroes. The Krakow Nativity scene is remarkable, a model of the city, it represents its soul and charm, but also the hope brought by Christmas.
On December 24, before the meal, all the children look up to the sky because they are waiting for the first star to appear before they sit down to eat. The star therefore announces the start of the party. To prepare the Christmas table, we slip straw under the tablecloth to remind us that Jesus was born in a stable. Before starting the meal, all share the matzo (oplatek), marked with nativity scenes, offering each other their best wishes.
December 26 is a public holiday. Originally, gifts were given only on St. Nicholas Day. Today, children also receive gifts on the evening of the 24th, which the lucky “star” brings them under the tree.
Finally, Mass is an “almost” obligatory passage. The churches are crowded.
The holiday season begins on the first Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. With family or friends, we go from church to church where songs resound, Czechs visit nurseries of all kinds, whether they are believers or not (the Czech Republic remains the most atheistic country in Europe).
The women begin to prepare small homemade pastries (“cukroví”) according to their own recipes, trying to have as many different ones as possible.
The trees are never erected before December 24. After the New Year’s Eve meal, the Czechs have a rendezvous with the magic of Christmas at the foot of the Christmas tree. We receive gifts there but we also read the future with a few accessories.
If you can see a star in an apple cut in half, it will protect you throughout the New Year. When you crack four nuts in a row, if all are healthy, then you will be in excellent health.
Other instruments of divination, pieces of molten iron poured into cold water, which, depending on the shapes they take, reveal the contours of the new year.
After unwrapping the gifts, Czechs can attend Christmas mass, called “půlnoční” (midnight mass).
On January 2, the trees are undone and the new year can begin auspiciously.
In Romania, Noël is called Craciun and Santa Claus Mos Craciun. This festival has kept a living religious tradition and colorful folklore. Each Romanian region has its own customs. The Christmas tree is decorated with nuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, candies and chocolates wrapped in colored paper and apples. The tree is kept until Saint John’s Day in early January.
In the cities, we sing in the houses of friends. In the countryside, the inhabitants wear traditional dress and dress up with masks. Songs and dances accompany their processions. The men go away with a star, and sing the song of the star to receive cakes as well as nuts and apples. The children go to their neighborhood or village, to sing from neighborhood to neighborhood. They refer to themselves as the “colindatori”. These Christmas carols are always religious in character and announce the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As for the older ones, they take part in the Christmas Eve and have the pleasure of meeting Santa Claus in the flesh! This one asks them to recite a poetry or to sing and then gives them their gifts.
The Christmas holidays extend in Slovakia from December 24 to January 6. December 24, 25 and 26 are public holidays. January 1 is not only the New Year but also the birth of the Slovak state on January 1, 1993. January 6 is Kings Day (Epiphany) but also Orthodox Christmas.
Christmas dinner in Slovakia is very traditional and full of religious rituals. It all begins with the appearance of the first star in the night sky on December 24. This is the moment when a large candle is lit and placed at the table.
To celebrate Christmas, Slovaks like to go to midnight mass afterwards, called “polnočná omša”.
Christmas celebrations are the biggest family celebrations in Slovenia. Long before the Christian holidays, the Sun God and his descendants were already celebrated around the same time of year. At the time of the winter solstice, we were indeed celebrating the end of the old sun and the start of a new cycle.
This is why an incredible number of legends, traditions and even superstitions around Christmas still exist today. However, there are traditions known in Europe such as decorations in homage to nature with tree branches and thorny wreaths and in the light with candles.
Slovenians speak of the “3 Christmases”: December 25, New Year and Kings. We give gifts on the evening of December 24. The Slovenes sing a lot during the holidays according to a very rich repertoire of Christmas carols. Choirs perform everywhere to bring good luck. We burn incense in the houses.
UK | Famous Christmas traditions and customs in Great Britain
Christmas is a holiday celebrated all over the world but once again, the British do nothing like everyone else!
A tradition and ancient beliefs
If the “official” holiday of Christmas which consists of celebrating the birth of Christ was introduced in England in the 6th century, many festivals already took place on the same date before the arrival of Christendom. Thus, we could in particular celebrate the Saturnalia with the Romans, who then asked the sun to return after the winter solstice, on December 21. It was not until the reign of Queen Victoria that the party took on the aspect we know it now.
Welcome Santa Claus
The British put a little less emphasis on New Years Eve, with December 25 being the day mainly dedicated to celebration. The day begins of course with the opening of the presents, followed by a light breakfast, the traditional Christmas meal taking place around 3 or 4 p.m. Indeed, according to some studies, 27% of British families will then listen to the traditional Queen’s Speech which begins at 3 p.m. A tradition that dates back to 1932 and the first speech of King George V whose speech was written by Rudyard Kipling.
A classic dessert
It is unthinkable to celebrate Christmas with dignity in Great Britain without offering the famous Christmas Pudding for dessert. Usually prepared several weeks before the holidays, this pudding made from dried fruits, various nuts, spices and alcohol, is reheated on Christmas day and then flamed. It is a dish that can be found in all English homes, regardless of their social level.
December 26 is known in Great Britain as “Boxing day”. This is a custom dating back to medieval times when nobles gathered the remains of Christmas meals in boxes which they then offered to their servants. Boxing Day is still a public holiday nowadays so once again a date to avoid for shopping freaks across the Channel.
For the passing traveler
The British take their Christmas party very seriously. From December 24 in the evening you will not find anything open. From shops to public transport to restaurants, everything has slowed down considerably. You will undoubtedly find a train to connect the city and the airport but for the rest… If your favorite activity is shopping, Great Britain may not be the ideal destination on the day of Christmas. The event has kept its aura of family celebration and the British are not ready to give it up!
Photo credit: Pxhere