Christmas in Europe
Christmas in France
Christmas is the biggest annual festival in France. The festival
is characterized by family reunions, gifts and celebrations Midnight
Mass and le Réveillon. Advent is marked by preparations
for celebrations by the people. They perform special tasks including
baking Christmas pierniki or honey cake. They also prepare for
beautiful Christmas decorations, as they are major highlights
of Christmas celebrations.
In all the public arenas including
homes, streets, shops, offices or Churches, people in France place
beautifully lit Christmas trees. Sapin de Noël (Christmas
tree) are usually decorated with chocolate, gift walnuts, shiny
apples and candles. The sapin de Noël appeared in Alsace
in the 14th century at a time, decorated with apples, paper flowers,
and ribbons, and was introduced in France in 1837 by a German
Princess calledHélène de Mecklembourg.
An important facet of French
Christmas celebrations is the crèche occupied with santons,
which is displayed in churches and different places. Living crèches
in the form of plays and puppet shows based on the Nativity are
enacted to teach the important ideas of Christianity and the Christmas
One of the major components of Christmas celebration in France
is the beautiful Christmas gift. Celebrationsof Christmas is incomplete
without exchanging beautiful gifts. People exchange gifts with
each other to express their love and affection to loved ones.
Tradition in France has it that children put their shoes in front
of fireplace, so that Pere Noel (aka Papa Noël) will fill
them up with small toys, nuts, fruit, etc.
People in France also hang
Mistletoe above the door during the Christmas season to bring
Christmas in Italy
The Christmas festival in Italy lasts for three weeks, starting
8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period,
children go from house to house reciting and singing Christmas
People in Italy are renowned
for their culinary traditions, and so Christmas Eve and Christmas
are the times to cherish the special meals. A tradition Italian
Christmas bread called panettone is served after a strict feast
is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve.
Legend has it that panettone
traces its origin in the sixteenth century, when a baker named
Antonio baked a golden, buttery egg bread to win the heart of
a princess with who he fell in love. Over the years the name of
the bread evolved into panettone.
At noon on Christmas Day huge
crowd gathers in the Vatican square to seek blessings from the
Pope. In the twilight, candles are lighted around Presepio.
The wait of children for the
gifts extends upto the day of Epiphany on January 6. Tradition
has it that a kind ugly witch called La Befana visits the houses
on her broomstick to deliver presents to children. It is said
that she was busy sweeping her house when three wise kings appeared
at her door to ask the way of the place where Christ was born.
She was arrogant enough to reply that she doesn't have time to
tell them. Later she regretted not going and searched for them
but she could not find them. As the lady felt sad she still travels
to search for the Christ Child leaving gift at every doorstep.
Christmas in Germany
In Germany the preparations for Christmas often begin on the eve
of December 6th. Special evenings are set aside by people for
baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations.
Little dolls of fruit are traditional Christmas toys in Germany.
According to tradition children
in Germany leave letters on their windowsills for a winged figure
called Christkind, dressed in white robes and a golden crown,
who visits each house with a basket of presents.
With eatables, Germans make
amazing gingerbread houses and cookies. There are several Christmas
trees glowing and glittering throughout the length and breadth
of Germany. Christbaumgeback, the German Christmas tree pastry,
is a white dough that can be molded into different shapes and
baked for tree decorations.
People in Germany hang up
advent wreaths of Holly with four red candles in the center. They
light one candle each Sunday and last on Christmas Eve. Children
count the days until Christmas using an Advent calendar. They
open one window each day till the day of Christmas and find a
Christmas picture inside.
In Germany boys dress up as kings and carry a star round the village,
singing carols. December 6 is celebrated as St. Claus day, also
known as Nikolaustag. The advent wreath Adventskranz is a flat
table where one can light candles.
In Germany there is a Christmas
Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, he looks like
Santa Claus and also delivers gifts. Added to this, another traditional
visitor is the Christkindl who is the Christ Child's messenger.
She is a beautiful fair-haired girl with a shining crown of candles
and visits each house with a basket of gifts.