And so this is Christmas – I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young… As John Lennon so memorably sang, Christmas is a time for celebration, goodwill to others and togetherness. But you don’t have to be Christian or even religious to share in the spirit of celebration.
Every culture around the world celebrates – we just do it in a wide variety of different ways. Some have festivals based on religious beliefs, while others celebrate their ethnic or ancestral heritage. And whether we do so on December 25th, at New Year’s or at a different time each year, we all take time to reflect, relax and enjoy being together.
A traditional Christmas with a local twist
Around two billion people celebrate Christmas each year and although many share similar traditions, there’s no such thing as a universal Christmas experience across every country and culture in the world. In the United States and the United Kingdom, traditions like a decorated Christmas tree, an elaborate meal with seasonal trimmings, gifts from Santa Claus and carol singing are popular in both countries.
Such customs have spread across much of the English-speaking world – especially those in the British Commonwealth. So despite Christmas falling in the middle of summer in countries like Australia and New Zealand, you’ll find plenty of ‘White Christmas’ themed decorations and even traditional roast turkey Christmas dinners – although many now favour a poolside barbecue instead.
In the former British colony of Hong Kong, many Chinese Christians celebrate Christmas with church services and gifts from Father Christmas whose Chinese name translates as ‘Christmas Old Man’. They’ve also adapted other traditions to give them a local twist, like hanging paper decorations with big red and gold letters from the Chinese alphabet.
Christmas Eve festivities
In much of continental Europe, Christmas Eve is the most important of the holidays. The Finnish people share a special meat-based dinner before exchanging gifts in the evening of December 24th. Their folklore maintains that Father Christmas lives in the north of the country near the Arctic Circle and many children around the world send letters to Santa in Finland.
The French celebration of ‘Noel’ – as in Italy, Spain, Portugal and other major Catholic countries across Europe – focuses on gift giving and dining on traditional festive dishes after a visit to church on Christmas Eve.
Similarly in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, the afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve is spent attending church services, decorating Christmas trees and opening presents before sharing a traditional Christmas dinner. In the lead-up to Christmas, many towns in these countries hold Christmas markets and festoon the town centre with twinkling lights and other decorations, creating a magical winter wonderland atmosphere.
Europe’s Christmas markets
The unique charm of the Christmas markets captivates visitors from around the world, offering them the chance to indulge in delicious festive treats while browsing the stalls for handcrafted gifts as the sound of Christmas carols fills the air.
Anyone who’s experienced the markets first-hand will tell you there’s something especially good about the taste of gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, Christmas crescent cookies, piping hot ‘kiachin’ doughnuts and warm, spiced ‘gluhwein’ when enjoyed right where many of these traditional favourites originated.
Trafalgar’s Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany & Switzerland trip brings all these experiences to life in true insider style. We not only treat you to the incomparable delights of the region’s most spectacular Christmas markets in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Innsbruck, Lucerne and Zurich, but we take you deep into the heart of these historic cities as only a real insider can.
So if you’re looking for a truly unique and authentic way to celebrate Christmas next year, join us on an enchanting journey through Europe’s Christmas markets to experience the holidays like never before.
In the meantime, happy holidays and safe travels from the team at Trafalgar!