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It’s that time of the year again when we all start thinking about Christmas! Most people will agree that it’s the best time of the year. Families are getting together, exchanging presents, etc. Since you are someone who enjoys this holiday, you’ll want to move to a place where people value Christmas as much as you do. Customs and ways of celebration are different from country to country, and they are all beautiful in their own way. That’s why Transparent International, an international moving expert, will show you some of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
1. United Kingdom
Christmas Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom. This means that it’s a day off for schools and the majority of businesses. Just like in most countries that celebrate Christmas, people in the UK decorate their streets, trees, and perform Nativity plays. But what’s so special about Christmas in the UK, you ask? Let’s find out!
Festive Markets called fayres
The best way to celebrate Christmas in the UK is to go to your local holiday market, also known as “fayres” in Old English. In some of the largest cities in the UK, huge markets last for a few weeks prior to Christmas. They frequently have vendors selling a variety of gifts, food, beverages, and other items You, can find them in city squares. There is also a ton of entertainment available, including fairground rides and live music. This sounds like a good enough reason for moving to the UK from USA.
The term “advent” refers to the four weeks before Christmas and is derived from the Latin word “adventus” (meaning “arrival”). In the UK, homes traditionally hang wreaths on their front doors during this time, while neighborhood churches decorate their altars with white and gold decorations.
Advent today, however, usually refers to children’s and adult advent calendars. You’ll find a lot of chocolate themed advent calendars in many of the UK supermarkets, as they are always in high demand. There is a variety of alternative advent calendars available if you are not that big of a fan when it comes to chocolate. Some other themes include:
2. Denmark is among thee best places to spend Christmas in Europe
Unlike most of the world, people in Denmark celebrate Christmas on December 24, on Christmas Eve. That usually includes having a fancy Christmas dinner that evening and then spending the rest of the night opening presents. Jul is, by the way, the Danish word for Christmas. If you are considering moving to Denmark from US, keep reading!
This is the most unique part of the Christmas celebration in Denmark. Before you begin exchanging presents, it’s common in Danish homes to dance around the Christmas tree while the whole family sings holiday carols. Some households might choose to do this before dinner, it varies from family to family.
Christmas dinner is an important event. You will typically spend a huge amount of time at a table, enjoying a dinner of roast pork and duck along with boiled potatoes, red cabbage, and gravy. The main Christmas dessert is risalamande, a rice pudding covered in cherry sauce but it also contains a whole almond. A prize or additional gift is given to the member of the family who gets the said almond in their plate.
Aebleskiver, little fried doughnuts covered in powdered sugar, Christmas Beer, gløgg, hot mulled wine, and candied almonds are just a few of many delicious dishes the Danes enjoy throughout the holiday season, which you’ll be able to enjoy after your overseas relocation.
The lady with candles
Her name is Santa Lucia. On December 13, she arrives in Denmark dressed in white to offer light to those in need of it. A girl that plays Santa Lucia wears a crown of candles in her hair and leads a group of girls who are all wearing white as well. Children look forward to participating in the parade through their school or in their neighborhood in stead of the nativity play that is performed in schools around the nation.
French towns and villages typically have some Christmas lights, even though they don’t always have string lights on the outside of their homes. Another custom is to place a huge Christmas tree in the city square or near the city hall. Even if they are minimal, Christmas decorations are typically present in French stores. Generally speaking, retailers don’t play Christmas music as often as they do in the US, if at all. You may find this strange if you decide on moving from USA to Europe. However, when the week of Christmas comes, all of this changes, and you can feel the spirit of the holidays in the air!
Letters from Santa – Père Noël
Santa Claus always responds to the letters sent by French children to him. Since 1962, a law in France has required that any letters to Santa receive a postcard-style response. Each year, the law assures that every child gets a response to their letter to Santa. The delivery of Santa’s responses makes the postmen happy and helps them get into the holiday spirit easier. Therefore, moving to France from USA is going to make your kids happy as they’ll be able to receive a letter from Santa every year!
Decorating a Christmas tree
In France, decorating a Christmas tree in homes has been a holiday custom for a very long time now. But they usually decorate their trees a little differently than people in most countries of the world do.
They commonly use ribbons, paper flowers, and apples to make their trees look pretty and all ready-for Christmas. However, nowadays most families choose to decorate their trees with baubles instead of apples. Whatever you choose is fine, it’s important that you have fun.
December the 5th is the Eve of St. Nicholas
Some French families believe that St. Nicholas is the one who brings presents and protects children. Children leave their shoes and treats for St. Nicholas’ donkey outside their front door on December 6 waiting for his arrival.
They’ll wake up the next day expecting to find gifts and tasty treats in their shoes. For some French families in the north, this festival may occasionally serve as the main celebration of Christmas.
4. Portugal is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe
The holiday season in Portugal is unlike any other. It doesn’t feel like Christmas to some people, especially those who are from really snowy regions of the world. Others consider it a true Christmas miracle to be able to go outside and enjoy some sun in the middle of the Christmas season. But what else is there?
The Portuguese are huge fans of Nativity plays
Nativity scenes are very popular in Portugal. It is a bit unusual for counties in the North, but you can really feel the Christmas spirit. Around Christmas, you may find them all around Portugal, usually by the side of the road close to roundabouts. A common sight in many Portuguese cities are live nativity scenes, in which participants dress as members of the Christmas tale.
People take their own nativity plays extremely seriously, no matter how simple they may be. Great effort is taken into gathering moss, bark, and stones to create a realistic background, as opposed to simply setting them up on the hall table. The objects used in these plays are typically passed down from one generation to another and include both religious and cultural figurines.
A unique tradition in Braga – Bananeiro
There is a very special Christmas tradition in Braga. Every year on Christmas Eve, December the 24th, people from all part of the city gather at Casa des Bananas on Rua do Suoto so they can all eat bananas and drink Muscatel together. The history of this unusual tradition is very interesting as well. It all come from a simple desire of the shop owner to make some extra money during the holiday season. He set up his stall with glasses of Muscatel, when a random person asked if he sells any food and got a banana.
So how did it actually become so popular? The son of the man who owned this shop found this story quite interesting. Therefore, he brought a bunch of his friends to eat bananas and drink Muscatel together the following year. Reason for it becoming so popular and how actually it spread so fast among the citizens of Braga is still unknow. However, before they knew it, it became a very popular Christmas tradition you’ll enjoy if you decide on moving to Portugal from US.
Christmas is celebrated based on a variety of customs, rituals, religious practices, and folklore throughout Germany. We’ve gathered some of Germany’s most well-known customs, so you may either adopt some new ones for the holiday season and see why Germany is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
When it comes to decorations – Christmas tree comes last
It’s very common for people all around the world to start decorating their house way before Christmas Eve. The same goes for their Christmas tree, it doesn’t matter when you want to put it up. However, when it comes to Germany, they like to decorate their tree exactly on the morning of Christmas Eve. They usually do other decorations way earlier and the holiday spirit is surely not something the Germans lack, but there is something special about the Christmas tree. That’s why many people decide to do it at the very end, like a cherry on top. This is something that varies from family to family nowadays, but it’s still a popular tradition. So keep that in mind when moving boxes overseas if you’re moving right before Christmas, you don’t have to unpack your tree just yet.
When you visit any German home during Christmas season, the first thing you’ll notice is how many angel decorations are all over the home. Germans call them ‘Weihnachtsengel’ specifically. As you can probably already tell, this is the most popular piece of decoration in Germany. They come in form of tree ornaments, figurines, and much more. Just like with ornaments for Nativity plays in Portugal, these angel decorations are usually passed down from one generation to another. What makes it even more unique is that in this case, they frequently carry special meanings such as joy, peace, hope, etc.
Christmas is not Christmas without Christmas carols, isn’t it? While some families will meet at each other’s houses to sing the carols together, others decide to go to church services organized specially for this occasion and time of the year . Many of the carols were composed by local clergymen and usually date back to the Middle Ages. They feature well-known folk melodies.
Since we’re talking about some of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, we have to mention Switzerland. The Advent season is exceptionally beautiful right here in the center of Europe. You simply know it’s the holiday season because of distinctive customs practiced in the majority of cities and villages of Switzerland, which are spread throughout the Swiss Alps. In fact, Switzerland offers a perfect version of everything that creates a cozy Christmas atmosphere and makes it so unique.
This is something that you may haven’t heard before. Popular Swiss holiday customs include candle dipping, which is done in public spaces like outdoor booths. Anyone can make their own candles by dipping wicks in hot, molten wax even from the middle of November. The wax is often offered in a range of colors. While beeswax candles are preferred by adults, kids can express their creativity by crafting their own candles using colorful wax.
In Switzerland, candle dipping is a significant social activity. It brings the community closer while raising money for nearby nonprofits or charity at the same time. In Switzerland, the Bürkliplatz in Zurich and the Sempacherplatz in Luzern are the two main locations for candle dipping. Now you know where to go if you want to experience this unique tradition after your move.
Baking cookies as a family
Another reason why Switzerland is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. On the days of Advent, it is customary for many Swiss families to gather and prepare Christmas cookies together. Although prefabricated cookie dough is now available in supermarkets, those who truly value the tradition will start from scratch. The secret to preserving the history of family recipes, which can date back several generations, is to use local ingredients. It’s a tradition that brings families closer and very well portrays the Christmas spirit.