European Christmas traditions you should know
December 2, 2016
Christmas is around the corner and the cities’ atmosphere is starting to change. Christmas markets, street lights, shops decorations… Everything reminds us that we are about to start one of the most important celebrations in the region. However, Christmas traditions vary widely from country to country, from region to region and sometimes even from city to city! Let’s have a look at some of them!
The German Weichnachten
In Germany, Christmas starts with Advent. Most Germans have their own Advent calendar, with a small candy behind each day until 24th December. During Advent, on 6th December, Nikolaus will leave small treats such as candies or chocolates to the good children, who would have left their Nikolaus-stiefel (Nicolaus boot) the previous night outside the main door of their houses.
On Christmas eve, families set up the trees – normally decorated not only with red glass balls, but also with red and white candles- and wait for the Christkind (Christ child), a gold female angel who is responsible for bringing gifts to children and adults. In order to have time for the gifts, the main Christmas meal is done on 25th December, which traditionally consists of goose, turkey or duck with Serviettenknoedel or potatoes and cabbage.
Wigilia in Poland
The Advent time is a busy period in Poland. People clean and decorate the houses in preparation for the Christmas day and they bake piernik, a gingerbread which can made in different shapes and sizes.
The Wigilia, or Christmas eve supper is the most important moment of all the Polish Christmas celebrations. Nobody can start eating until the first start appears in the sky and everybody should try the 12 dishes that should be in any Polish Wigilia dinner – 12 dishes to give you good luck during the next 12 months!
For children, Wigilia is always too long as Christmas presents are always given after the supper and after some Christmas carols are sung. If you have impatient kids, better to avoid Wigilia!
The Spanish Nochebuena
In Spain, the “unofficial” start of the Christmas period is marked by la Lotería de Navidad or the Christmas lottery which takes place every year on 22nd December and it is the most important lottery in Spain.
The most important gathering for Spanish is Nochebuena or good night, which takes place on Christmas eve. On that night, families – and in Spain family can mean having more than 20 people on your living room – gather around the Christmas and enjoy the Christmas mouth-watering dishes, and specially, the Christmas desserts, such as turrón or polvorones. Nochebuena can last until really late at night, as one can be with members of the family who might not meet really often.
Traditionally, no gifts are given during Nochebuena or Christmas day, as in Spain, the Three Kings, who arrive at the evening of 5th January, are the ones responsible to bring them. However, it seems Santa likes to enjoy the warm weather too, and recently, he is starting to pass by more and more Spanish homes!