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Christmas traditions across Europe

Adeel Khalid

Christmas – A word that brings back many warm memories that we’ve shared with various people throughout our lives. Where it may be common for everyone to tell you about their wonderful experiences celebrating Christmas, what’s not so common is the way they do it. If you’re a radio jockey (RJ) you’re probably already thinking of ‘Last Christmas’ by ‘Wham!’ but I don’t think that’s quite the case. So, if you’ve ever wondered how people celebrate this memorable occasion across different countries, you’re gonna want to keep reading on. Here are 6 Christmas traditions across Europe:     

France – Bonne année et bonne santé

There are a lot of Christmas traditions that are observed in France and some of them require special attention to detail. For example, table decoration is something that’s taken very seriously. Having three candlesticks on the table is something that’s very common and that’s because these represent Trinity. Moreover, some people also knot the ends of the tablecloth in order to prevent the devil from getting under the table. On a cuter note, did you know that French children put their shoes close to the fireplace to be found by Père Noël and filled with sweets and other treats? Going ‘Awww’ already? Tell me about it.

Germany – Gesundheit, Glück und Erfolg!

When the Christmas season begins in Germany, one cannot miss the beautifully decorated Christmas markets that you find on every major square. Moreover, Glühwein and roasted chestnuts are also treats to be found commonly. The Christmas Advent calendar is also a very common tradition across Germany where there’s a present/sweet for each day that one gets to enjoy until Christmas.

Iceland – Gleðileg jól!

It doesn’t come across as a surprise that days are much shorter in Iceland compared to most other European countries, and this is why it is common to put up Christmas lights much earlier than when it’s normally done. However, what might surprise you are the facts that Iceland has 13 Santa Clauses and Icelanders usually celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, not the 25th. Shocked? Welcome to the club.

Italy – Auguri di un Natale sereno

In Italy, Christmas traditions usually last for as long as a full month. They begin on 8th December and don’t end until the 6th of January. The primary focus of the people is to spend more time with their families and show devotion to their religion. What you may not know is that Santa Claus isn’t the only one to bring gifts to the children in Italy. ‘La Befana’ (good witch) also pays a visit on 6th January to fill children’s stockings with either sweets or coal, depending on how the children behaved the whole year. It doesn’t end here, the legend says that she even sweeps the floors on her way back to ‘sweep away’ the problems faced throughout the year.

Portugal – Feliz Natal!

Since Catholicism is the main religion in Portugal, it is common for many families to get together on Christmas Eve and gather around the Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of Jesus. As much as we’re used to writing letters to Santa Claus to ask for presents, it may be interesting for you to know that many Portuguese children write those to Infant Jesus instead. Apart from this, Missa de Gallo, a Catholic Mass, is also celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve.

Spain – Feliz Navidad, prospero año y felicidad

When talking about unique Christmas traditions one cannot exclude Spain from the discussion. Why do I say that? It’s because Spain has a number of Christmas traditions that are different from what most of us may be accustomed to. One of these is called ‘Reyes Magos’ (also known as Three Kings Day). It’s not common to have Santa Claus bring presents, instead, during the night of January 5th, Los Tres Reyes Magos deliver gifts and kids wake up the next morning excited to open them. Another Christmas tradition is ‘El Gordo’ – the Spanish National Lottery (December 22nd) that happens to be a great deal for the locals. In order to give it a more festive touch, school children usually sing the winning numbers when announcing winners for the cash (or other) prizes. Pretty cool, right?

Are there any other unique Christmas traditions that you know of? If so, feel free to share with us. We can’t get enough of them!


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