Christmas in Europe in 2022
The majority of European countries are Catholic and Protestant, which means that in Europe, unlike Orthodox Russia, Christmas is celebrated on December 25, not January 7. This does not change the meaning of the holiday.
The decision to celebrate Christmas on 25 December was made by the Third Ecumenical Council in the 5th century. Since then, the December pre-holiday period and Christmas itself is the most joyous and hectic time of the year.
Traditions of the holiday
In almost all European cities Christmas fairs and markets begin to work, and houses and stores are decorated with special decorations: illuminated garlands, decorated Christmas trees, and white fluffy snow.
Even closer to Christmas itself, children in Europe begin to go door to door with carols, singing holiday songs and making good wishes to the family. And in return, they receive gifts: roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, and sweets.
In Catholic countries before Christmas there isn’t such a strict fast like in Orthodox countries, but there is an Advent. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is considered a time of spiritual purification. Each week of Advent has its own name: the first week is called iron, the second bronze, the third silver, and the last gold.
On December 25, Christmas Day, churches hold three festive liturgies: a night mass, a morning mass (at dawn) and an afternoon mass. Thus, it is as if Christmas is celebrated three times.
By the way, in the Catholic Church Christmas is tacitly put at the head of the church holidays, while the Orthodox regard it as the second major holiday after Easter.
History of the holiday
Two of the four evangelists, Luke and Matthew, have a detailed account of the birth of the Messiah. There are also references to this event in two apocryphal (that is, not included in the biblical canon) gospels – the Pseudo-Matthew and the Protoevangelium of James.
The main symbols of the Catholic Christmas
Advent wreath .
It is made from the paws of a fir tree, twigs, simply wooden branches. Such a wreath symbolizes not only the theme of Christmas, but also emphasizes that this holiday is a family holiday. The wreath is hung on the front door, placed on the windowsill or placed on the dinner table.
And for the first time in history such a wreath was made by theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern. He wove it for the children of poor families whom he took into care. They kept asking the teacher when Christmas would come, so he made a wreath from… an old wooden wheel, decorating it with 19 little red candles and 4 big white ones. The children lit one red candle every day and one white candle on Sundays. When the last candle burned out, it was Christmas.
This is another constant attribute of the holiday. The most common candles used for Christmas are red or white, although there are some fancy art exceptions. In recent years, real candles have been increasingly replaced by their electric counterparts, where the candles flicker with the light of a small flame-shaped light bulb instead of a flame.
Holiday candles are lit by the fireplace, on the window or during dinner when the whole family is gathered around the table.
Socks for gifts
The holiday of Christmas in Western countries is closely associated with the New Year. This means that one of the main characters of these days is Santa Claus (the prototype of which is the Christian Saint Nicholas, or, in our words, Nicholas) Unlike our Santa Claus, Santa does not put gifts under the Christmas tree, but, coming down the chimney, leaves them in special red socks for gifts. The socks themselves are hung next to the Christmas tree or by the fireplace.
By the way, the custom of putting presents in socks dates back to the Victorian era. That’s when the legend arose that Santa Claus, flying over one of the houses, dropped a couple of gold coins – and they fell straight through the chimney into the sock, which dried over the fireplace. Since then, it has been the custom on Christmas night to hang up the socks in anticipation of gifts.
In some countries, the custom of keeping a small bundle of hay under the Christmas tree or just in the living room survives. Or even put hay under the tablecloth on the holiday table.
The hay is a symbol of poverty and an occasion to remember the stable and manger in the cave of Bethlehem in which Jesus was born.
Why Catholics and Orthodox celebrate Christmas at different times
This is due to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century. Before that people lived by the Julian style, which was set by Emperor Julius Caesar in 46 BC, but over the centuries and years the calendar added up to one uncounted day every 128 years.
That is why in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian one, more precise.
In Russia, however, they preferred to keep the old style, because in those days the whole country was closely connected to the faith and the church, and the Orthodox Church did not welcome the changes of that time.
Since then, Western Christians (Catholics and Protestants), as well as some Orthodox autocephalous churches, have celebrated Christmas on December 25. Here’s more about which church celebrates Christmas:
Catholics, as well as the Orthodox Churches of Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt celebrate Christmas on December 25.
On January 7, Orthodox Christians in Russia, Jerusalem, Serbia, Georgia, and Mount Athos celebrate Christmas.
Christmas in Europe 2021: Europe’s 5 Most Beautiful Fairs
Christmas in Europe will delight any traveler. Christmas trees are decorated on the main squares, garlands hang along the streets, festive music can be heard from all sides, and the air is filled with the terrific aroma of mulled wine, the freshest pastries and meat that is roasting on a spit. And then there are the fairs, where you can’t leave without a bargain. And today, in the first part of our big Christmas review, we want to tell you about 5 cities with the most beautiful Christmas in Europe.
Catholic Christmas in Europe in 2021 will be celebrated on December 25, 2021.
Prague, Czech Republic
The most beautiful city in Europe on Christmas Day is considered to be Prague. The capital’s most famous fair is located on Old Town Square. The buzz can be heard on all sides of the place, and crowds of people with happy smiles on their faces walk down the street. In the center of the square there is a fancy Christmas tree, and in the evening you can go to concerts and theater performances. Nearby you can find quite a few stalls with different delicious food, from where you can hear the stunning aromas of grilled meat, delicious sausages, classic sweet pastries called trdelnik, intoxicating mulled wine, grog and mead. In the souvenir stalls you can see marvelous marionettes, stunning paintings and Christmas decorations.
By the way, be careful with the souvenir tents, among the uninteresting junk you can find pretty good handmade products that can be a great gift for family and friends.
In the evening of December 24, almost all the booths stop working, and near those that are still open, there is a huge line. When Czechs are faced with a choice: money or Christmas with family, they choose the latter. But the fair closes last, bringing joy to travelers until early January.
The dates of the Christmas fairs are from 01.12.2021 to 06.01.2022 – from ten in the morning to ten in the evening (the food stalls are open until twelve at night).
There are alternatives if you’re not a fan of large crowds: you’ll need to look for ‘own people’ fairs. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to outlying districts. Try Peace Square (11/21/2011-25/12/2011) or the place near the Anděl subway station (11/25/2011-23/12/2011). You’ll find less people and a quieter atmosphere. The food is flavorful and the prices are not as high.
Note that it is easiest to go to Prague from Moscow – there are many daily departures to the Czech capital, a direct flight by Aeroflot will cost 20000 rubles for a round trip ticket. With connections in various European cities from 12оооо roubles.
The most beautiful Christmas fair in Vienna can be found on Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz, near the Town Hall. In 2021 there will be 153 tents with delicious treats and various aromatic dishes, drinks and souvenirs and an ice rink of 3100 square meters (you can save 10% of the standard price and you do not have to wait in long lines).
And for those who come with children, there will be organized lessons from the masters of making delicious gingerbread, creating and decorating toys, weaving “dream catcher” and making Christmas decorations. The event will be held at City Hall. To participate you will need to buy a ticket for 3-5 €, advance registration is not required.
All who come to the fair the last three days of the week will be able to listen to carol singers from around the world. Be sure to try the famous Viennese sausages, mulled wine (here it is called a little differently – glüwein) or punch. These warming drinks are poured not only in plastic cups, but also in souvenir mugs (one of them you can keep for 5-6 €).
- The opening dates for the Christmas Fair in Vienna are from 12.11.2021 to 26.12.2021, Sunday to Thursday from ten in the morning to half past ten in the evening, Friday and Saturday from ten in the morning to ten in the evening. On December 6, the fair will be open from ten in the morning to ten in the evening, December 24, from ten in the morning to six in the evening, and December 25 and 26, from eleven in the morning to half past ten in the evening.
Alternative: A fair in the Belvedere palace complex will be organized in the Baroque style, where you can buy souvenirs that were made by local craftsmen, and also try classical sweets, taste the real Austrian punch and different variations of mulled wine.
Christmas in Europe – Christkindlesmarkt – is organized in the Hauptmarkt square near St. Sebaldus Church – it is one of the oldest markets in Europe dedicated to Christmas. Its symbol is the infant Christ, the sweetest child with snow-white curly hair, dressed in robes of golden color. This role is played by one of the young residents, who is chosen every other year. The girl opens the fair on the Friday that precedes the first Sunday of Advent.
As soon as you feel slightly hungry, go and find the Nuremberg sausages. They’re made with ground pork and majors, and are served 5,7,9 or 11 of each with horseradish or mustard, or you can get them in a 3-piece cut bun.
Another local delicacy is gingerbread, which has been baked here for more than six hundred years. About seventy million of them are sold in Nuremberg each year. Feeling the chill? Go ahead and have some mulled wine, it will surely warm you up.
In Hans-Sachs-Platz kids’ entertainment includes a carousel and a steam train, a Christmas Angel, a gingerbread cake making workshop (€4), a candle and glass making workshop (€3) and a sand painting class (€4). You can also write letters to your relatives and friends, visit St. Nicholas and get warm in the playroom (you can get in for free).
- Christmas Fair opening hours: 11/26/221 to 12/26/2021, Opening on 11/26 at 5:30 p.m. Mode of operation: Monday through Sunday from ten in the morning until nine at night. Christmas Eve, December 24, the fair will delight guests from ten in the morning to two in the afternoon.
- Visit the fair’s official website for a detailed program of events.
Alternatively, the other side of the Christkindlesmarkt’s fame is the large crowds, with an estimated 2 million people coming here each year. You can get away from the crowds to one of the nearby cities: Bamberg, Erlangen or Forheim.
From Moscow and St. Petersburg, it’s one of the easiest options for where to go for a Catholic Christmas in Europe – WizzAir, the low-cost carrier, flies to Budapest. The oldest fair in Budapest is located at Vörösmarty Square. This place will be a paradise for those who like to eat good food and won’t leave hungry. Those who like sweet things should definitely try the cinnamon pastry, which reminds of Czech trdelník, and for fans of meat dishes there are sausages and goulash in bread, and if you just want to have a snack, then go for potato dumplings dodolle, langos or roasted chestnuts. And how to be without the classic mulled wine!
In the evening you can see a laser show on the facade of Gerbeaud and listen to folk, jazz, blues and pop music concerts (all absolutely free).
- The 2021 Christmas Fair hours are from 11/19/2021 to 12/31/2021, Sunday through Thursday from ten a.m. to nine p.m., Friday and Saturday from ten a.m. to ten p.m.
Alternatively, in the square near the Basilica of St. Stephen, the fair will delight its guests from 11/27/21 to 12/31/21, Monday through Thursday from ten in the morning to nine at night, Friday through Sunday from ten in the morning to ten in the evening. The fair will not be open on December 25 and 26.
Here you can buy souvenirs handmade by Hungarian craftsmen, or spend time at the skating rink, and also every day at one hour intervals, from 4:30 pm to 10 pm, you can watch a video projection on the pediment of the basilica, this year it will be shown in 3D.
Well, the top spot for visiting Christmas fairs for Russians is Helsinki. This is due to the proximity to St. Petersburg and the ease of obtaining a visa. The St. Tuomas Christmas fair in Senate Square is a hallmark of Pikku Joulu, “a little Christmas.
It’s a paradise for those who love stylish goods – you’ll find costume jewelry, housewares, toys, garlands and oddballs at 125 stalls. In the middle of the fairgrounds there’s an antique merry-go-round that delights visitors of all ages.
Here you can meet Joelupukki, the Finnish “Father Christmas,” buy a warm reindeer jacket for yourself and your family and warm yourself with a delicious tea or glög (an alternative version of mulled wine, this drink is mixed with vodka or madera). When you feel a slight hunger, go to one of the kiosks to buy a sausage or yoluttorta, a puff pastry bun with jam.
- Dates of the Christmas fair in Helsinki: from 24.11.2021 to 22.12.2021, weekdays – from eleven in the afternoon to eight in the evening, on weekends – from ten in the morning to seven in the evening.
Another option: from November 28 to the end of the year you can walk through the fair in the medieval town of Porvoo, it is located thirty minutes from the capital. Vendors in period costumes sell the masterpieces of local craftsmen, townsfolk ride on skis and classic sleighs, and small houses are beautifully dressed up for the holiday. Walking through the narrow streets you can steal a moment’s respite from the hustle and bustle of the old days.
Here we have learned where is the most beautiful Christmas in Europe. Write your questions in the comments if you still have them, share this article with your friends on social networks and don’t forget to check if you have insurance to travel to Europe for Christmas . You can take out this health policy right on this page.
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- AviaSales: an aggregator for finding cheap airline tickets and a service with the best parking at Moscow airports.
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- Or buy an “all inclusive” tour at OnlineTours
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