Purple Tips: Christmas around Europe

GREECE

melomakarona-kourampiedes

Image via @ www.glikiazoi.gr

Decoration – The Christmas Tree is the most well known festive decoration. People use colourful lights, homemade decorations, a bit of tinsel and on top of the tree a big shiny star, symbolising the Star of Bethlehem that revealed the birth of Jesus. But, as always, the Greeks have their own particular traditions! Mainly, in the Greek Islands, the locals decorate a wooden model ship to show their love and appreciation to all the seafarers on duty during these special days.

Christmas delicacies – Apart from the sweet savoury pastries, such as melomakarona (honey cookies with walnuts) and kourabiedes (shortbread-type biscuit usually made with ground almonds – recipe), there’s another special treat made only on the first day of the year. It’s a cake or bread called Vasilopita, and on New Year’s Day families cut the pastry for a blessed and luck year. This is usually done at midnight on New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking.

Old beliefs - Christmas goblins are a Greek tradition about some unsightly creatures, considered to be a group of naughty spirits appearing during the 10-day Christmas period to annoy the humans, but they don’t usually create actual harm – it is said at night they steal food. When their mischief is done they start dancing proudly in circle. In the past, villagers wouldn’t leave their houses after night had fallen, until the celebration of Epiphany when the waters were blessed and the goblins disappeared. According to the myth the goblins go under earth until next Christmas.

 SPAIN

reyes magosImage via @ El coleccionista de instantes

Celebrations – On the night of Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) people gather in the main square of every town and wait for the clock to strike midnight. When the time has come the bells are heard ringing twelve times. At the same time  traditions says everyone must eat 12 grapes, one for each strike of the bell. If you eat all the grapes you can look forward to a lucky year ahead.

Special days – On 6th January, Spaniards continue celebrating, whereas for the rest of the world it’s time to put an end on festivities. The day of the Three Wise-Men is dedicated to the children, as this is when they receive their long waited presents. On 5th January parents take their children to watch the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (parade of the three wise-men) and get plenty of candies given away by the wise-men, as well as place their orders for presents. Later in the night and before they go to bed, children leave their shoes in a place where they can be easily spotted and sleep hoping that the next day their wish will be fulfilled by the wise-men.

Christmas delicacies – Again, on the 6th day of the new year, families gather to eat the traditional Roscón de los Reyes, a sweet bread adorned with fruit resembling the emeralds on the Three Wise-Men’s clothes – recipe. What’s more, the cake hides a surprise for the one who finds it.

Weird traditions – People in Catalonia seem to very much enjoy the tradition of caganer, a Catalan villager pooping in the Bethlehem crib…seriously! This figure is used to symbolise the fertility of the soil.

AUSTRIA

gluhwein

Image via @ miss mass

Decoration- Austrians celebrate the Christmas Tree in a unique way. The tree is not decorated until Christmas Eve. A bell is rung by the parents and the children then come into the room to see a beautifully decorated tree.

Traditions – The Advent season is a high priority for many Austrians. The traditional Advent calendar full of chocolate, cookies, songs, little readings and more spreads the Christmas spirit and fills the little ones with anticipation. Beginning with the first week of Advent, the market stalls offer ornaments, baked treats, Advent calendars, and of course, gluhwein, a traditional Austrian drink of spiced wine served warm. Check this traditional recipe for homemade gluhwein!

The Austrians also put clementines, chocolate and peanuts in a pair of shoes, which are cleaned in the hopes of them being filled on December 6 (Santa Claus’ day).

Weird traditions – Krampus, according to the Austrian tradition, is the evil assistant of Santa Claus. While Santa rewards the good and obedient children with presents, Krampus intimidates the ones considered to have been bad and threatens to send them to Hell!…Not christmasy at all, don’ t you think?

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PurpleTravelHelen
  • Isabel Brocket

    I had the good fortune of enjoying 3 great Christmas Traditions growing up.
    Spanish/ Latin
    German/ Austrian
    &American/English

    Confusing @times when v
    Young but always interesting !

    • http://blog.purpletravel.co.uk/ purpletravelkate

      Wow @isabelbrocket:disqus That sounds amazing… you must have had a great mix of food at all those times :)

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