Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Are you an expat planning to spend the Christmas holidays in Europe? While the celebrations will certainly not be exactly like they are in the UK, there are many common elements in different regions, including Christmas trees, lights, Christmas stockings and the singing of Christmas songs. And most importantly, wherever Christmas is celebrated in the world, it is a festive season when families and close friends gather to enjoy the holidays and spend quality time together.
In this post, we will look at how Christmas is celebrated in some of the European countries. In our next post, we will also look at how Christmas is celebrated on other continents.
While Christmas celebrations in France vary by region, most people celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. Sweets, fruits and small toys are also hung on the tree. Christmas trees are not as popular in France as in some other parts of Europe, but many families decorate their homes with a Nativity scene. Some families also attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. After this, the family gathers for the Christmas dinner, called le Reveillon, which often lasts well past midnight. The menu for this dinner varies by region – dishes may include goose, turkey stuffed with chestnuts, oysters and lobster. Common Christmas desserts include la buche de Niel, which is a log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts and le pain calendeau, which is a traditional Christmas loaf.
The Christmas period in Spain usually lasts from Christmas Eve on the 24th of December until Epiphany on the 6th of January, and is a festive time when streets are decorated with Christmas lights, Nativity scenes are set up in many homes, shops and public spaces, and families and friends have time to spend together. Christmas celebrations start with a large family dinner on Christmas Eve. Each region has its particular menus, but the dinner may include a seafood dish with salmon or prawns, home-made soup and roast lamb. The most popular Christmas dessert is the turron, which is made from almonds, honey and eggs. What might seem strange about Christmas celebrations in Spain, is that children usually receive only one or two presents on Christmas Day. They receive most of their gifts on the 6th of January, and these are said to be brought by the Three Wise Men.
In Germany, the main Christmas season starts with advent and the 6th of December. The 6th of December is Saint Nicholas' Day, who visits children in kindergartens, schools and at their homes and brings sweets to put in their shoes. Christmas trees are usually decorated on the 24th of December, and gifts are placed under the tree. Gift-giving takes places on Christmas Eve and gifts are said to be brought by either the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man) or by the Christkindl. A traditional Christmas dinner menu includes dishes such as a potato salad with frankfurters, vegetable or pea soup, roasted duck, or goose filled with plums. Christmas desserts can include a wide variety of spiced cakes and cookies.
The Finnish Christmas season starts with advent and the first Sunday of December. People clean their homes and start cooking and baking Chistmas treats from early December. Homes are decorated with Christmas trees that are usually set up on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, people usually take a Christmas sauna and prepare for Christmas dinner which is traditionally served between 5-7 in the evening. The Christmas dinner, called joulupoyta includes traditional dishes such as the Christmas Ham, roast suckling pig, turkey or casseroles. Christmas desserts include prune jam pastries, plum soup and rice porridge with cinnamon. Finnish people celebrate by singing Christmas carols and giving presents