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Where to Go and Celebrate the Festive Season in Europe

The festive season has started with plenty of different celebrations around Europe. Here are five festivals you can join this December or January in Slovenia, Rome, Germany, Tyrol, and Andalucía.  

 

(c)Europe-Video-Productions-Three-Kings-Parade-Spain

 

1. Three Kings Parade | Andalucia, Spain

Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos is the Three Kings Parade celebrated across Spain on the 6th January. In Andalucia, towns and cities welcome the Three Kings when the evening falls on the Iberian Peninsula on the 5th January. It's a colourful parade where the kings toss out sweets for the children waiting along the streets for the parade to pass by. 

Thousands of spectators come to witness the arrival the three wise Kings Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar dressed in traditional costumes. 

When: 6 January 2016

(c)Shadowgate-Postojna-Cave-in-Slovenia

 

2. Nativity Scene | Postojna Cave, Slovenia

The Live Nativity Scene in the Postojna Cave in Slovenia, about 1 hour drive from Trieste, is a unique performance. The caves are an attraction on its own already, but when the biblical scenes come to life they're even more rewarding. Fantasy stalactite forms, the inventive play of light, harmonious music and singing in a very acoustic environment together create an almost surreal Christmas atmosphere. At the cave's entrance a Christmas market takes place. If you want to experience the nativity scene, it's best to make a booking in advance. Shows run every half hour from 1-3pm. 
When: 25-30 December 2015

(c)www.riegersburg.com - Perchtenlauf in Reigersburg.

 

3. Krampustag | Eastern Tyrol, Salzburg & Bavaria, Austria

Perhaps less suitable for younger children, in Austria on the 5th of December the Krampustag is celebrated. Young men dress like demons: wearing fearsome masks made out of wood, fur robes, tails and use branches as weapons to chase away bad spirits. The processions organised are known as Perchtenläufe and are truly spectacular to watch. The Perchtenläufe originally take place only four nights a year, on December 21 and 24 and New Year's Eve and January 5. Good places to observe this festival are Gastein, Altenmarkt, St. Johann and Bischofshofen in Salzburg, Henndorf and other places in Eastern Tyrol and Bavaria.  
When: 21 December 2015 - 5 January 2016

Sherpa Expeditions self guided walking holidays in Tyrol & Bavaria


4. Christmas market | Stuttgart, Germany

One of the best places to go for a typical German Christmas market is Stuttgart. It is said to have one of the most beautiful markets in Europe and has a very nostalgic feel to it. The market is set up in and around the Old Palace on the Renaissance inner courtyard. There are over 280 wooden Christmas stalls, which sell a range of Christmas items and gifts. Obviously there's also plenty of German snacks and drinks available, try for example roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, Swabian specialities and mulled wine (gluewhein). 

When: 28 November - 23 December 2015
Sherpa Expeditions trips in Germany


(c)neigesdantan-Fireworks-in-Rome

 

5. Fireworks | Rome, Italy

For those of you who are in Rome over the holiday period, make sure to be part of the New Year's Eve celebrations in town. Prepare for lots of fireworks after the midnight countdown. It's especially spectacular with the backdrop of some of the world's most impressive monuments like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, and San Marco square. Prepare for lots of noise as well; people throw old pots, pans and furniture out of their windows to 'let go of unhappiness and prepare Rome for a happier future'.  

When: 31 December 2015

Sherpa Expeditions trips in Italy


Image of Three Kings in Spain, copyright of ©Europe Video Productions | Image of Postojna Cave, copyright of ©Shadowgate Postojna Cave | Image of Perchtenlauf, copyright of ©riegersburg.com | Image of fireworks in Rome, copyright of ©neigesdantan

It's the Season Across Europe

Christmas traditions across Europe are as varied as the villages, mountains and countryside in which they take place. To give you an idea what traditional Christmas celebrations look like in Italy, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, France, Iceland, Slovenia and Germany, we did a little research among our friends and came to the below typical traditions. 

(c)tristanf-rudolph rednosed raindeer-in-Iceland

ICELAND - GLEÐILEG JÓL!

Because the days are so short and dark the Christmas lights are put up early in Iceland. Icelanders celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. On Christmas day the traditional meal that most Icelanders enjoy is smoked lamb (hangikjöt) served with leaf bread (Laufabrauð). The leaf bread is a hard, deep fried, thin bread that families get together to bake, cutting decorative patterns in the dough.

Baking holds a special place at Christmas time as it provides an opportunity for families and friends to do something together while the kids dance around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols.

There are 13 Santas, or Yule lads, in Iceland with each providing children a small present in their shoe for each of the 13 nights before Christmas. If the kids are naughty they get an old potato. This tradition has helped to ensure good behaviour for the second part of December!

 

(c)Nicola-since-1972-panettone-italy-christmas

ITALY - Buon Natale!

On Christmas Eve, children across the country leave out a glass of wine and cake for Babbo Natale (Father Christmas). In some cities, like Trieste, San Nicolò (Santa Claus) brings presents on December 6, while in Verona the tradition of Santa Lucia sees the whole city celebrate with Christmas markets and children receiving presents on December 13.

The traditional cakes eaten through the season include pandoro, originally from Verona, and panettone, from Milan, both sweet breads with raisins and candied fruit included in the panettone. On Christmas Day the hero dish is roasted capon (cockerel).

CZECH REPUBLIC - Ježíšku panáčku!

Advent, the period of fasting that begins four weeks before Christmas holidays, is the most eagerly awaited time of year for many Czechs as it means the preparations for Christmas can begin.

On Christmas Eve, fairy-tales are told and houses are decorated with mistletoe and of course a Christmas tree. Traditions include an all-day fast (it is said that whoever lasts until the evening will see a golden pig) or the throwing of a slipper (if it lands with the toes pointing at the door, it means that the girl in the house will marry within a year). Meatless dishes are served for lunch – peas, barley, or a mushroom casserole.

Other unique Czech Christmas traditions include; placing a candle in a nutshell and put it in the water. If the candle doesn’t sink, it means a prosperous year ahead.

(c)Dokiai-Aikido-christmas-lights-in-Slovenia

SLOVENIA - Vesel božič!

Around 60% of Slovenians are Christians and typically only this part of the Slovenian population celebrates Christmas. For many other non-Christian Slovenians New Year’s Eve is celebrated, instead of Christmas, however the family gets together on January 2 for the celebratory meal.

Children in Slovenia can receive gifts from St. Nicholas, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, or Grandfather Frost. St. Nicholas visits on St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Santa Claus or Baby Jesus visits on Christmas while Grandfather, or Father, Frost may appear on New Year.

THE NETHERLANDS - Gelukkig Kerstfeest!

Most organisations in the Netherlands share in the festive spirit by rewarding their employees with a kerstpakket (Christmas box). Traditionally this contains groceries like lobster soup, bread sticks, ragout & patties, candles, crisps and maybe even a bottle of mulled wine.

The main Christmas meal is embraced by everyone, usually even two days in a row on the 25th and 26th (second Christmas Day) of December. These dinners in the Netherlands typically include either a roulade with trimmings or a raclette dinner.

GERMANY - Frohe Weihnachten!

For most Germans the one colourful tradition is the Christmas market. Beginning mostly in late November in almost every German city, town or village, Christmas markets will pop up on the local square and often in several other locations with beautifully decorated stalls, entertainment and all kinds of delicious foods like Glühwein (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts.

Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) is the main day where presents are exchanged. Traditionally a small meal like potato salad with small sausages (Frankfurter/Wiener Würstchen) or carp are served before the opening of gifts.

(c)sarahstierch-christmas-market-in-France

FRANCE - Joyeux Noël!

As you would expect in France, the Christmas meal is something to behold with a Christmas turkey served with pommes dauphine (crisp potato puffs made by mixing mashed potatoes with savory choux pastry), green beans rolled in bacon, and some chestnuts. And it wouldn’t be a French Christmas without some good red wine of course!

Several days before Christmas the towns and villages of France take on a festive air. Town hall facades are decorated, huge trees are erected in the major squares and the main streets begin to dazzle with a wonderful array of Christmas lights.

Image of reindeer in Iceland, copyright of ©Dokiai Aikido | Image of panettone in Italy, copyright of ©tristanf | Image of square in Slovenia, copyright of ©Nicola since 1972 | Image of Christmas market in France, copyright of ©sarahstierch