Christmas traditions in Europe

Christmas traditions differ in each European country and range from the bizarre and wacky celebrations to the solemn and emotional remembrance services.

Some of the most interesting Christmas traditions in Europe include:

The ´Caganer´ in Catalonia, Spain

Strange but true, the Catalonian ‘Caganer’ is a figure of a Catalan man wearing traditional clothes, squatting with his trousers around his ankles. Dating back to the 18th century, his poo is a sign of good luck as it is said to fertilise the earth and ensure a good harvest for the coming year.

Closely associated is the ´Caga Tió´ which is a small log with a smiley face wearing a traditional Catalan hat. Small children ´feed´ the ´Caga Tio´ with nougat and fudge and keep it warm under a blanket so that he will ´poo´ out lots of treats on Christmas Eve.

Saint Nicholas and the Devil in Austria

A traditional Christmas story is told in Austria every 4 December. Saint Nicholas said to visit children along with the devil. The two ask the children if they have been good or bad. If the children say they have been bad, the devil tries to strike them with a stick. St. Nicholas sends the children running so he can protect them from the devil. On December 6, St. Nicholas´ Day, good children receive fruits, sweets and toys.

Midnight mass is held on Christmas Eve and a traditional meal is baked carp. A nativity scene is displayed in most homes.

Shoe-tossing in the Czech Republic

Single people in the Czech Republic who are looking for a partner stand with their backs to the door on Christmas Day and throw a shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe lands pointing to the door they will get married soon. If not, they will have to wait until next year.

All Night Celebrations in Croatia

Christmas in Croatia is one of the liveliest annual events on the social calendar.

Christmas Eve is celebrated with a family meal before midnight mass. After the church service the streets come alive and the bars open all night as Croatians party until the early hours. It is a tradition to stay awake from Christmas Eve until Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day Croatians traditionally cook roast pork, turkey, lamb and cabbage stuffed with minced meat. Home-made Christmas desserts, including strudel and poppy seed cakes also grace the table.

Remembrance in Finland

Families in Finland celebrate a day of remembrance on Christmas Eve when they visit the graves of their ancestors and light candles. Cemeteries throughout Finland are lit up, presenting a beautiful and emotional scene.

Saving the Goat in Sweden

In 1966, a 13 metre tall goat was made of straw and erected in Gavle town square. The goat went up in flames at midnight on Christmas Eve. Locals carried on building the goat, year after year while vandals continued to burn it down. By 2011 the Gavle goat had been burned down 25 times. In 2001 a USA tourist was jailed for the offence.

Whether you are planning to visit Croatia, Spain, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic or Austria for Christmas 2017, make the most of your stay by booking a guided city, cultural, gastronomic or adventure tour before you go. Learn more about some of Europe’s most vibrant cities with a guided tour.

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