Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

From late November each year, Europe starts getting into Christmas mode. Decorations go up in shop windows, fairy lights adorn the streets and Christmas trees are erected. But nothing quite says 'Christmas' in Europe like the annual Christmas markets. Wooden huts appear in city squares and village streets - and even along Paris' famous Champs Elysees, where market stall holders set up to sell their Christmas wares.


Christmas markets have long been a tradition in Europe, particularly in the German-speaking countries. The oldest known Christmas market is Dresden's Striezelmarkt which was first held in 1434. Strasbourg's Christmas market dates back to 1574 and attracts around 2 million visitors every year!


European Christmas traditions

The markets serve not only as a place to buy Christmas gifts, they are also a meeting place for locals where they can meet after work and enjoy a hot mulled wine and a chat with friends.


European Christmas traditions

Whilst Australians celebrate Christmas on December 25, for many Europeans, Christmas Eve is the time they gather together with loved ones. Family and friends celebrate with an evening meal on December 24, followed by their exchange of gifts. For some, it's then off to a midnight church service.


This is how we celebrate Christmas with my German-born husband's family and it's nice to be able to enjoy 'two' Christmas celebrations, each different to the other.  Italians generally enjoy their big day of celebration on December 25, as do the Dutch, and it's tradition to spend the day with family.


European Christmas traditions

German children receive a visit from St Nicholas on December 6 and if they've been good, he leaves goodies in their shoes. St Nicholas is often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht (the 'bad Santa'). He is dressed in dark clothing and serves as a warning to children to be good.


European Christmas traditions

The Christmas tree isn't normally displayed in private homes in German-speaking countries until the morning of Christmas Eve and gifts are then placed under it to be distributed after dinner. In Italy, however, the tree and decorations are put up on December 8 when the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated.


European Christmas traditions

For me, visiting Europe in the lead up to Christmas left wonderful memories. We were blessed with plenty of snow which added a certain charm to the wooden market stalls, and made a visit to the Christmas market seem just a little surreal. The temporary ice skating rink set up nearby, the snow plough clearing snow from the pedestrian mall and church spires sprinkled in snowflakes, it really was like being in a fairy tale.

Have you celebrated Christmas in Europe or do you have any European Christmas traditions that you celebrate at home?


Read all my articles about Christmas in Europe by clicking the image below.
Christmas in Europe Where to go what to see what to do


# Carolyn 2014-01-08 17:12
I agree, Amber - Galeries Lafayette is a great place to visit when in Paris, not only for the shopping but also for the excellent cafe on the top floor, and, as you mentioned, fabulous views over the city.
# Amber 2014-01-08 16:27
Has to be La Fayette in centre Paris ... a marvellous store we discovered by accident! Fabulous rooftop views across the city and bedazzling architecture inside. Good for a meal too and to get out of the weather :)
# Dubai Fishing 2013-12-23 23:21
Wow thats cool, definitely a great way to have fun!
# Carolyn 2013-12-09 20:28
Sorry to make you homesick, Johanna - I hope my post brought back lots of fond memories for you. Happy Christmas!
# Johanna 2013-12-06 17:50
Oh, your pics made me homesick for the cold at Christmas!
Markets, and festive shop windows, miss them too, oh and lots of mulled wine for me!
# Carolyn 2013-12-03 13:54
Thanks for stopping by, Annabel. Christmas certainly does have a different feel to it in Europe than Australia. It's hard to imagine snowmen and drinking hot mulled wine when the temperature is soaring in the high 30's here in Australia. Mind you, it never stops me looking forward to the roast lamb and hot veggies! I guess it's just what we get used to.
# Annabel Candy 2013-12-03 11:23
I have to say Xmas is definitely better in Europe than in Australia. It just doesn't work for me here...

Lol at your big boy enjoying some time with Santa! Lovely to see him and enjoy Xmas via your blog as it should be enjoyed with no beach or sand!