Christmas is a holiday billions around the world celebrate every year. Over time people in different countries form their own traditions and rituals that are “normal” to them but may be completely unheard of within another continent or even region within the same country.
These different, strange and crazy traditions are what holds communities and families together for generations. Keep in mind that even though some of these traditions are common in their specific countries not everyone in the country may partake in the tradition and within other regions of the country there may be differing traditions so take this list with a fun grain of salt.
During the festive months in Europe the air is cool and maybe even frosty with the ground filled with snow if you are in some countries. Without further ado, here are 10 of some of the “weirdest” Christmas traditions in Europe!
Norwegians celebrate Christmas primarily on Christmas Eve the day before Christmas with presents being opened after dinner. But before that, people will have porridge for breakfast as a family and one of the bowls will have an almond hidden in it. Whoever has the almond wins the game and gets a pig made out of marzipan!
Also Norway has a little tradition that it shares with London, England. If you have ever been to the city center in London, specifically Trafalgar Square there is a Christmas tree standing tall during the holidays. This tree is donated to London from Norway and this is a tradition that has been going on since the 1940’s after the second world war when British forces were part of assisting Norway during war time.
13 desserts after dinner! This is a tradition to symbolises Christ and the disciples during the last supper. In France from cities such as Marseille, Nice and Paris and more, typical desserts of the region are served. This includes items such as dried grapes, dried figs, various nuts and even a cake called Pompe à l’huile. Tasting each dessert can provide good luck for the new year coming. An even better tradition? Each child puts one of their shoes in front of the fireplace so that Santa can fill it with presents and treats!
Every year children prepare to put on a nativity that depicts The virgin Mary and Joseph travelling to birth Jesus Christ. This is a big affair with all children singing hymns and nativity songs. In England and most of the UK presents are opened on Christmas day in the morning so the earlier you wake up the sooner you can find out what presents Santa left under the Christmas tree.
Something common in England that is not present in other countries is that Christmas crackers are placed on the dinner table. This is a tradition that dates back as early as the 1840’s in England. These paper tubes are broken open and can be filled with small things such as little toys, playing cards or if you are lucky a few little sweet treats.
Nativity scenes in small figurines are displayed in homes to depict the birth of Jesus. The fat lottery “El Gordo” takes place, this is something many people take part in as it is one of the biggest lotteries in the world with a HUGE cash prize. If you ever go to Madrid, Barcelona or any or major city in Spain you will see long lines to buy these tickets! One year a town shared a ticket and shared the winnings of 900 million euros, this tradition has been held since the early 1800’s and 2 decades later is still going strong!
In Germany families decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, interestingly the whole house is decorated many days before but the tree is saved for last.
Advent calendars are traditionally done in many parts of the world but in Germany traditionally for the 24 days leading to Christmas there is a wreath of fir tree branches with decorated boxes hanging from them. Each box has a little present in them! And of course we can’t talk about Germany without bringing up the amazing Christmas markets. This is a very popular tradition that is done in many European countries but if you ever go to Berlin or Hamburg the Christmas markets there are amazing and super cosy!
In Portugal some believe that baby Jesus brings the presents instead of Father Christmas. Each region has their own traditional desserts that they share but there is one in particular that is rather interesting in the northern region of Portugal there is a dessert called “Lampreia de ovos” this is a desert made of sugary egg yolks made into the shape of a fish weird but kind of cool right?!
The most important day in The Netherlands is December 5th and tis is when major celebrations are held. This is the day of Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) and this is where the name Santa Claus originates from! Sinterklaas is believed to live in Spain and travel with his helpers to make sure everyone gets their presents on time around the Netherlands whether they live in Amsterdam or a little village in the country.
Similar to France each child will put their shoes near the fireplace or in modern times near the door. This is so that Sinterklaas can leave treats and presents in them leading to the day of December 5th when people get their bigger presents if they have been good throughout the year.
In Finland Santa Claus is called Joulupukki which translates literally to Christmas Goat. Over time the goat became a human figure who gave presents. If you are good you get a bag of presents but, if you are bad you get a bag of coal.
Christmas Eve is the main event in Finland and this is when the dinner, presents and most of the festivities take place. Fun fact, there are more saunas in Finland than people! This means that the sauna is a big part of Finish life and the festive season is no exception. People traditionally as a family visit the sauna on Christmas Eve to relax and bond as a family.
Witches are evil right?! Well not in Italy well at least not all of them. There is an old legend of La Befana, an old witch who was invited to visit the baby Jesus. The story is that the witch declined as she had too much to do but she later changed her mind and went looking for them with homemade items for the virgin Mary but she was unable to find them.
So every year La Befana searches all the homes in Italy looking for the baby Jesus and the three wise men leaving sweets for the good children and coal for the naughty ones. Children leave a glass of wine and soft foods out for her so that she does not lose the little teeth she has left!
In Poland tangerines represent Christmas time so the smell of oranges is everywhere. Traditionally no food is eaten and no presents are opened until the first star appears in the sky. This means that children would always stare out of the window in their homes in the hopes of the first star to start eating all the amazing treats. Poland is a religious country traditionally and some will fast on Christmas Eve in observance of their religious beliefs. 12 dishes are made meat free to represent the animals that looked after baby Jesus in the manger.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
So those are some intresting traditions in Europe! We hope 2022 has been an amazing year for you and that you enter 2023 filled with peace, happiness and excitement for what the new year holds. To everyone celebrating we wish you an amazing festive season and look forward to continuing to support you as you support us revolutionising real estate.