Starting from the Advent weeks and leading up to the Epiphany on January 6, Christmas in Europe is celebrated with big festivities full of joy and hope. All over the continent, lights brighten up some of the darkest days of the year, Christmas markets become mini winter wonderlands and December air is filled with the fragrance of special food as well as the excitement of uniting with family and friends.
In such a magical and happy atmosphere, let us take you on a wonderful trip around Europe where you can spend your holidays with us and also enjoy unique Christmas traditions!
In Greece, it is traditional to put up big decorated boats alongside Christmas trees to celebrate the safe homecoming of seamen. Mouth-watering pastries, like the honey-glazed Melomakarona and the sugared shortbread, Kourabiedes decorate the tables of households during Christmas days. Meanwhile, a traditional bread, Christopsomo, is eaten at Christmas dinners.
Several traditions like cutting into the typical Greek dessert, Vasilopita with a coin baked into it, also mark the new beginning and your luck for the year. Celebrated on beloved Basil's Day (Jan. 1), whoever finds the coin in their slice of Vasilopita is considered to be lucky for the rest of the year!
Boats and trees light up Christmas in Greece
In Slovenia, modern Christmas celebrations became a part of this solemn and religious festival only after World War II. However, in the past, whole rooms were decorated with string beans and wheat ears to celebrate a good harvest. Now, Christmas is celebrated with loved ones and traditions like the burning of incense, eating special Christmas bread called Potica and telling of fortunes.
For special events, the historic town centre of Ljubljana with its Christmas markets and breathtaking decorations sway you into a festive vibe, while 5-km long live nativity scenes in the famous Postojna Caves (25th-30th Dec.) form part of a typically Slovenian event during the festive celebrations.
Nativity Scene in the famous Postojna Caves
The midnight mass, or “La Misa Del Gallo,” is one of the most important Christmas traditions of Spain. Usually, these masses take place on Christmas Eve, with people coming home late after the masses and continuing the festivities out on the street!
Presents are opened on Epiphany, when parades of Los Reyes Magos, the three magical kings who are thought to bring presents for kids, sail down all over the country. Usually, on the morning of Epiphany, a traditionally baked Roscón de Reyes is also brought from the bakery, which may have fillings of cream, chocolate and tiny figurines of the Reyes Magos themselves!
Cream-filled and mouth-watering roscón
Tip: Don’t miss out on other sumptuous sweets like Polvorones that will melt on your tongue or Turrones, a type of delicious almond brittles!
Croatia starts its Christmas celebrations on St. Catherine’s Day (November 25), with a majority of the population engaging in religious activities in the days leading up to the advent. It is also traditional to put up advent wreaths decorated with evergreen twigs and four candles as well as the sowing of wheat on St. Lucia’s day (13th Dec.)! Christmas trees are put up too with traditional decorations like real and candied fruits adorning the tree.
Advent wreath with four candles denoting love, peace, joy and hope
Once again, the intimacy of the family brings real warmth to the entire festivities that culminate in New Year’s Day, with adults handing out presents and money to kids who wish them the season’s greetings. The delicious Christmas food that is whipped up during this time consists of Bakalar (a type of fish), rum or lemon flavoured Fritule and a main course usually made up of turkey, goose or duck.
Big Christmas markets are one of the most loved Christmas traditions of Switzerland. However, in many villages, an advent calendar circulates amongst its houses so that when the advent calendar falls on you, an advent window is put up on the house and a Christmas party is kept.
At this party, the rest of the villagers dig in wine, music, food and sometimes even fondue. Save a kiss! as you might have to land one on the cheek of the person standing left to you, dipping their bread in hot fondue.
On Christmas Eve, meals with ham, scalloped potatoes and Christmas cookies are eaten, for which most families dig into their traditional cookie recipe treasures for the season.
If you want to know about Christmas traditions in other parts of Europe, then you can check out our festive December blogs right here.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!