It’s coming up to the most wonderful time of the year again! Looking forward to tucking into a Turkey dinner, enjoying mince pie after mince pie, and opening up your presents on Christmas morning? Us too!
And are you keen to spice things up with some new traditions this year? We’re definitely up for that too! So, why not look to Europe for some inspiration? Plenty of European countries have some incredibly unique (and very fun!) Christmas customs. Wherever you are for Christmas this year, why not embrace one or more of the following European traditions for an added spin on the festive fun?
1. If you want to start Christmas a little early, make like the Dutch
Can’t wait for your presents? If you go Dutch you can celebrate Christmas much earlier.
Tell us more! So in the Netherlands they start as early as the 6th of December with St. Nicholas Day. This is when many Dutch people traditionally celebrate Sinterklaas. So, what do they do we hear you ask? Basically, the evening before (known as St. Nicholas Eve), kids leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors. If they’re good, they’ll wake up to a treat perched inside them. And if they’ve been naughty? All they’ll get is a piece of coal!
And then on the 6th, the Dutch give out their main presents. And the festive fun continues. Presents aren’t just wrapped in the usual festive paper either. No, the Dutch wrap them up to look like something completely different to what they actually are! Why not confuse your curious children by gift-wrapping their toys in strange shapes?
2. For families who love a good sing along, get some inspiration from Denmark
Can’t stop singing Christmas carols in December? Add some Scandi-style festive joy to your big day with a group singalong!
In Denmark, a lovely tradition many families follow is to gather around the tree in a circle after the main Christmas meal. They then hold hands and sing Christmas carols together (usually after a few glasses of mulled wine!). Think your kids might be up for it? They might need a bit of persuading, but who knows – it is Christmas after all.
Singing in circles not your thing? Another Danish tradition involves watching a different Christmas themed movie or TV show every night over Christmas. Now this is one we can definitely get involved with! Who needs chocolates when you’ve got feel-good, festive-themed entertainment?! And every night to boot!
3. Want to make gift unwrapping more interesting? Write down a witty poem like they do in Sweden
Disguising your gifts as other objects sound a little too complicated? We hear you. Well then, Sweden’s Christmas traditions might be a little more up your street.
Why not do like the Swedes do and turn your Christmas gift unwrapping into a much more memorable morning routine? All you need to do is write a short poem on the outside of each present, giving whoever is receiving it a clue as to what’s inside. Before people tear open the wrapping, why not get everyone to guess what their present is?
Yes this sweet Swedish tradition might be a bit much for a large sack full of gifts, but it’s perfect for Secret Santa gift giving!
4. Ever get yourself in a pickle about how many presents to buy? This one is for you
Legend has it that in Germany, a very old Christmas tradition was to place a pickle in the Christmas tree. Yes it sounds a little out there, but we’re up for it! After the tree was fully decorated, the parents would hide a pickle in the branches for the children to find on Christmas morning.
The child with the best detective skills would then get an extra present. Ready to add a pickle to your tree this year? If you do some digging online, you might even be able to find some special pickle Christmas tree decorations – if you don’t fancy going for the real thing!
5. Keen to mix up your Christmas décor? Turn to Catalonia for some inspiration
Christmas trees, fairy lights and reindeer ornaments all seem a little mainstream? Consider this odd yet cute Catalonian Christmas décor idea instead!
Now stick with us on this one. The region of Spain is used to having its own customs and traditions – some of which are a bit random to say the last. And that includes the Tió de Nadal (the “poop” log!). This fun decoration is basically a log that’s hollowed out and decorated with a face. It’s usually brought into the house on December 8th, covered with a blanket to keep it warm and fed treats to keep it full.
On Christmas Eve, kids then sing a song to the Tió de Nadal to make it “poo” out sweets. What really happens is that the parents will fill up the hollow log with sweets and chocolate for little ones to enjoy! Who said the spirit of Christmas wasn’t alive and kicking?!
6. For an extra unique advent calendar, Hungary has a delightful option
Steering clear of extra chocolate this year? Or maybe a cheese advent calendar is just too much for you? We hear you! Well, Hungary’s traditional option might just be your best bet.
So, what does this tradition involve? Locals across the country basically make a Christmas wreath which features four candles. Each Sunday in December, they’ll light one candle. The final candle is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve when the tree is also put up and decorated all over with sweets.
Like the sound of a candle advent calendar? Why not mix it up by using your favourite festive scented options? Just be careful not to leave them unattended when they’re burning!
After more ways to make the festive period particularly special this year? Why not take a look at our guide to fun Christmas games to play while driving home for Christmas? You’ll also spot some ideas on the most festive places in Europe, plus inspiration for brilliant Christmassy films to get you in the spirit.