Christmas is a time for celebrations, family and most importantly, a whole host of wonderful traditions! Every family has their own, but what about those traditions that the whole country partakes in? We’ve decided to take a look into some of the best of Europe’s offerings, and trust us, they’re more than a little weird! So make sure you get your ehic renewal done, get your bags packed with your gifts, and get ready to choose your holiday destination for this Christmas – here are the top five Christmas traditions Europe has to offer.
For the Christmas lovers among you, this one might make you a little jealous. Christmas in Spain/Catalan starts on the 8th December! Yes, really. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the feeding of the Tió de Nadal (Or ‘Christmas log’) mark the start of the holiday season – but what is the Tió de Nadal do you ask? Well, this log is hollow, with stick legs and a smiley face, often seen with a floppy red hat. From the 8th December all the way through until Christmas Eve, children offer the log dried fruits, nuts and water and keep it warm with a blanket. Then, on Christmas Eve, they gather around and beat the log with sticks while singing the traditional Tió de Nadal song! This beating will finish with the children lifting the blanket to reveal sweets and small gifts – and then burning the log for warmth. Sounds fun, right?
The Christmas traditions start a little earlier in the Netherlands. St Nicholas – known as ‘Sinterklaas’ locally – arrives by boat on the last Saturday of November, but this festive figure doesn’t live in the North Pole like Father Christmas. Instead, he comes from Spain. Yes, the land of sunshine, beaches and log-beating is the home of Sinterklaas too! There’s even a rumour that the Sinterklaas will take any naughty children back to Spain on his boat. Sinterklaas doesn’t ride a sleigh, either. Instead, he rides upon a white horse called Amerigo, whom children leave carrots and hay out for – and a shoe for Sinterklaas himself! Presents are usually given on December 5th, also known as Sinterklaas Eve – how many children do you know who would love this part of tradition?
Christmas Day is much quieter in Finland, with Christmas Eve being a much bigger celebration. In Turku specifically, a ceremony takes place in which a period of peace is announced lasting from midday until 20 days later. Rice porridge and a special plum fruit juice are traditional choices for breakfast on Christmas Eve, and there’s even a tradition of hiding almonds in the porridge! Whoever finds an almond is said to have good luck for the coming year. The strangest tradition amongst all of this, however? Santa is known as ‘Joulupukki’ which means ‘Christmas Goat’ and, yes, people really do go around delivering gifts in goat masks.
Another early starting Christmas, celebrations start on the 6th December in Germany, with St Nicholas Day. Children will leave shoes outside the front door, and ‘Nikolaus’ (Father Christmas) will leave presents in them if they’ve been good, and if they haven’t? Well, Santa’s servant will leave twigs instead! German children will open their gifts on Christmas Eve, and a meal – without meat! – will be eaten on Christmas Eve. Don’t worry, though! A meat-rich meal will most definitely be served on Christmas Day if you’re a fan!
The residents of Greece don’t tend to celebrate Christmas as heavily as other European countries, with Easter being a far more widely celebrated event. However, it’s still important and they have their fair share of traditions just like anywhere else. On Christmas Eve, children will go from house to house playing music and singing in return for treats to eat, and before Christmas, basil will be wrapped around a wooden cross. Why, you ask? Well, this cross will be used to sprinkle water around the house in order to keep away the Killantzaroi – a kind of Goblin. Some people even keep their fires lit to stop these goblins causing chaos. For fans of gift giving, however, you have a bit of a wait – gifts aren’t given or opened until the 1st of January!
So there you have it – five of the most unusual, but top traditions that Europe has to offer. Of course, every country has their weird and wonderful routines, so it’s well worth looking to see what takes your fancy if you’re planning on travelling for Christmas this year. Whatever the case and wherever you end up, have a happy Christmas!