Christmas Traditions in Europe

Europe is certainly one of the most popular places to travel for Christmas – and why not? With its cultural and historic attractions, all blanketed with a light dusting of snow, couldn’t be a more atmospheric backdrop for the season.

Slowly, Europe’s Christmas traditions are expanding beyond borders – for example, the classic German Christmas market can be found in nearly every country, and the shopping frenzy that started in America and spread to the UK is now alive and well in every European capital. Still, each country has its own special treats and festivals, making any Europe tours during Christmas a trip to remember.

No matter where you end up, here are three of the best Christmas Traditions in Europe that travelers love – and you haven’t enjoyed them yet, you’ll love them too.


Christmas Markets and Street Lights

We’ve all seen those amazing photos of Europe ablaze in Christmas lights – there are so many cities that really roll out the Christmas cheer in terms of lights, and in most cities and even many smaller towns, you’ll find the squares and streets lined with Christmastime markets. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but many of Germany’s major cities – Nuremberg, Hamburg, and Cologne, to name a few – have some absolutely incredible Christmas markets and light parades.

Christmas Parades, Music and Theater

Performances and parades are also a mainstay of the Christmas traditions in Europe. Perhaps a favorite, not that well known, is the panto in Great Britain – not to be confused with a pantomime, these are funny skits that are a hit with children. But in many countries there are parades, such as the Netherland’s unusual cookie-throwing Santa Claus parade, but in other towns, like Vienna, you’ll be treated to wonderful Christmas ballets and operas. If you happen to be in Scandinavia, check out the local television for some of the Christmas shows playing – it’s all part of the experience.

Even if you don’t totally understand the customs or the language, dive in – these wonderful events are certainly a memorable way to enjoy the holidays.

Christmas Food & Drink

Just like in your own home, one of the best Christmas traditions in Europe is the tasty food and beverage! Many of the items you’ll find on sale are at the aforementioned markets, but of course many restaurants feature special holiday menus. I love the fried dough balls at some of the Belgian and Dutch squares, or any of the gingerbread treats you’ll find at the Austrian or German Christmas markets. In Ireland and the UK you can fill up on mince pies, or how about some yummy marzipan in Spain? And who can’t pass up some hot chocolate (spiked or not) or a warming glass of mulled wine? If those aren’t for you, you could always enjoy a cold glass of Kolsch, a popular beer in Cologne that goes down well with the hot food at the Christmas markets.

Have a look around during your European Christmas trip and see what the locals are enjoying, and jump in – you don’t know what you’re missing!