Blogmas Day 9 – how do people from the UK experience Christmas in other parts of Europe?

On day 6, we looked at what people from other parts of Europe thought about Christmas celebrations in the UK. Today I have some interviews from people who were originally from the UK and who now live in France, Germany, and Spain. Actually I don’t think Molly lives in Spain any more, but she spent some time living there.

I asked when the Christmas celebrations take place, what new traditions they have discovered, what differences there are in terms of food, and whether there is anything that they miss.

Corinne –

Corinne moved to Berlin, where she now works as an English teacher. You can find out more about Corinne on her website, Byte Sized English.

The main celebration is on 24th December. The tradition is that the family goes to church and the strongest person in the house, normally the dad, get’s the tree into position. The kids come back to the house with a tree full of decorations and presents underneath it. The official start of the Christmas celebrations is the First of Advent (so this year this Sunday) . We have a Christmas wreath with four candles and the first candle is lit for the first time on the 1st Sunday of Advent, then the 2nd on the 2nd Sunday of Advent and so on. The wreath is a big deal here and can work out quite expensive. People are happier to spend money on a wreath than on a Christmas Tree which is only in the house from 24th December till 6th January. There is still a strong tradition of the Three Kings singing carols here too, kids from the church dress up as the 3 Kings and go from house to house singing carols, every house gets a chalked message

Reading aloud from a story book seems to be a lovely family tradition here that doesn’t wear off once the children can read independently in fact the older the kids get, the more involved they get reading for the rest of the family.

Cleaning boots is still very much part of the Nikolaus tradition here.

I missed mince pies. I make my own cranberry sauce now but you can’t get Port so easily, I miss that too

Jane

Jane is a German to English translator who now lives in Germany. You can find out more about Jane on her website Jane Eggers Translations.

The main celebration is on 24th December, in the late afternoon/evening

One thing we really like is the “Weihnachtsplätzchen” or Christmas biscuits. People bake big batches of them during Advent, serve them to guests, give them as presents etc. There are lots of different sorts. And the Christmas markets are a big part of Christmas too.

In my husband’s (German) family there is less emphasis on the food altogether. In our house, though, we tend to do Christmas dinner British style, with a roast and all the trimmings. I also like to bake mince pies and Christmas cake, which are not traditional here.

I miss the music. I find Christmas carols are very evocative, and the British ones still transport me back to the magical Christmasses of my childhood in a way the German ones don’t. So I make an effort to listen to some British carols while eating a mince pie or two, and then all is well!

Cara

Cara is an online English teacher who focusses on helping upper intermediate to advanced students to understand spoken English. Cara now lives in France. You can find out more about Cara on her website Leo Listening.

In France, the main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. People get together for a meal and open their presents on that day, rather than on the 25th like in the UK.

I haven’t really discovered any new customs, because I’ve only celebrated Christmas once in France and I think we actually had our celebration on the 25th rather than the 24th that time! One example is that people don’t really send Christmas cards like we do in the UK. They send each other New Year cards instead.

In terms of food, the main difference I can think of is ‘foie gras’ which people eat at New Year in France. This is a controversial French product made from goose liver. Their livers are fattened up through force feeding.
You can also find a special type of chocolate at Christmas (I’ve seen the first packets in the shops this week) called ‘papillotes’. They’re chocolates wrapped up in shiny packages with a little message on a piece of paper. It can be a quote or a proverb or a joke. The filling in these chocolates is generally praline. They’re pretty good!
People also eat Yule logs. My partner’s mum always makes one for us.

I find the UK more Christmassy than France which is why I make sure, as far as possible, that I’m there for Christmas. In terms of food, I really like mince pies. I even got my parents to send me a couple of packets one year so that I could share them with a group of students I was teaching. I’ve never found any ready-made ones here (I suppose I could have made them myself!). My parents have just sent me and my partner a couple of advent calendars through the post (we’re in our 30s!). You do get them in France, but these are Dairy Milk ones and Cadbury’s chocolate can be tricky to find here.

Molly

How Spain celebrates Christmas is something I studied around 5 years ago during School and again in College. Whilst most of us Brits have Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day, the Spanish tend to have theirs on Christmas Eve. At midnight they may go to Midnight Mass or “La Misa De Gallo”, here they will walk around with torches and play music. Although the 25th December is prominently celebrated as the main Christmas Celebration, Spain does not do things by halves they celebrate the festive season on many days as religion is important here.
On the 28th December is Day of the Innocent Saints or “Día de los Santos Inocentes”, this is basically April Fools Day in Spain where they all play pranks on each other!
New Years Eve is also a very exciting time to be in Spain (I will be back in Barcelona and I am very excited!). It is the same environment as the UK, everyone is out in the streets and there are fireworks but Spain has a very different tradition. As the clock has twelve strikes at midnight, with each strike you have to eat 12 grapes and if you do in time you are meant to be lucky in the next year! The grapes here are seeded and rather large so it is a challenge!
The final celebration of Christmas is on the 6th January, it is called the Epiphany and it is about the Christmas Story. In Spain it is called Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Mages which translates as the Festival of the 3 Magic Kings and celebrates when the 3 Wise Men bought gifts for Baby Jesus. Some presents are opened on Christmas Day but the majority are opened on the 6th January (I used to hate that my mum made me wait till 6pm on the 25th!), children write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day. The night before the Epiphany they leave shoes on windowsills or under the tree to be filled with presents!
This tradition of Catalonia which is obviously where I live is new to me, I am currently writing an article for my job and it is about Christmas and any research I find always comes back to this tradition and it is rather odd.
There is a character at Christmas called “Tió de Nadal” (the Christmas log) or he is also known as “Caga Tió” which is funnily referred to as the “pooping log”. The wording is very funny to me but the concept is nice. It is a small hollow log with legs and a face painted on the end. From the 8th of December Catalan Families give it food to “eat” and a blanket to keep it warm. On Christmas Eve/Day, the log gives out small gifts and people sing songs and hit it with sticks to help it´s “digestion”. The log then drops sweets, nuts and dried fruits. When garlic or onion falls out, all the treats are finished for the year!
The food from what I have read in articles is the same food as England but just cooked a different way and with other foods. They have Turkey but it is stuffed with Truffles! In Galicia the most common food to eat is Seafood, I am not a seafood person I have never liked it so being in Barcelona is tough because it is everywhere! I am very much looking forward to having my Christmas Chicken Roast Dinner with all the trimmings! I think I have eaten all the tapas Barcelona has offered so far!
The main thing that I miss about the festive season in the UK and to be honest I have missed it throughout my time here is … Roast Dinners. They are a staple for Sunday lunches throughout the year. In Barcelona I haven´t seen any restaurants that sell Roast Dinners and to be honest I do not want to have one here in case I am disappointed by them, and I really want to wait because when I have my roast dinner at Christmas with my family it will be more special! If I could I would make them but I cannot find gravy, Yorkshire puddings or pigs in blankets so I may have to sneak some gravy back on the plane with me in my luggage! That is the only real thing I miss, apart from the Christmas Adverts of course! Luckily I have a Netflix account so I can watch all the Christmas Movies I want and the same with YouTube with the Christmas Songs but Christmas lights are already up so there´s not much to miss!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

Is nobody else doing advent calendars? I can’t believe that! If you do have one, what did you find behind door no. 9?

L’Occitane – today I got the repairing shampoo to go with the conditioner, which I have already used. I’m not mad about the scent, but it’s a nice enough product.

M&S: Molten Star nail varnish from Nails Inc. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with nail varnish. At school I got my nails done in exchange for help with homework! Then I went for a long time without wearing it because although I can do it, I can’t get it as good as someone who can see, which made me not want to bother. Now I have a nail fairy and have just accepted that everyone needs help with something, and in my case one of those things is nail varnish – so I’m looking forward to trying this out!

Question of the day

So, as there are people from different parts of the world reading this blog – when does your family celebrate Christmas?

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Blogmas day 6 – what do people from other parts of Europe think about Christmas in the UK?

Find out what some friends from other parts of Europe think about Christmas in the UK – what’s the same and what new traditions have they discovered?

I’ve interviewed a number of people from other parts of Europe who have lived, or who are now living in the UK. I wanted to know when they usually celebrated Christmas, whether they had discovered any new traditions, whether the food in England was different to the food that they usually ate, and whether there is anything that they miss from their home country. This is what they told me.

Andrea

Andrea is from Germany and she has spent some time living in England. You can find out more about Andrea on her blog.

The important day is Christmas Eve (“Heiligabend”), the 24th December. While this is in fact a normal working day (only the 25th and 26th of December are official holidays), most shops close at 2pm and most families attend church service in the late afternoon and then it’s time for the presents.

I was used to the Christmas tree being brought into the house on the morning of the 24th December, and then we would all help with the decorations, then have lunch and then the room would be locked until the evening.

In England, my housemates bought a Christmas tree at the beginning of December and started decorating it, and also already putting presents there. Also, there’s the tradition of hanging up Christmas cards on the wall above the chimney which my Mum has since picked up, so this has become part of our own tradition now.

In Germany, we also don’t have Christmas crackers. One year, I brought them home for my family, but they were not too impressed 😉

Germans love their Christmas cookies and gingerbread. This is a very big thing here and I didn’t get quite the same impression in England. However, bringing the whole family together for Christmas and having a real feast (turkey in England, goose in Germany) is something that is rather similar.

I didn’t really miss anything since my Mum made sure that I received a parcel with gingerbread and “Stollen” (a kind of fruitcake). I invited the neighbour’s kids round for several cookie baking sessions, so this was covered, too. With all the decorations and new traditions to discover, I never had the feeling that something was missing.

Madleen

Madleen is also from Germany and she is now living in England. This is what Madleen has to say about Christmas in the UK:

Whilst in England Xmas is celebrated on 25th with a main meal and Christmas pudding and family get togethers, In Germany we actually celebrate Xmas on 24th, Xmas eve and 25th Xmas Day.

We get together with family and friends on 24th sit around the Christmas tree with loads of cake *the traditional Xmas Stollen* and home made cookies and ginger bread men to celebrate Xmas eve.

Some people attend Christmas church services and come home a bit later to share out the gifts “bescheerung”

Santa Clause will make an appearance For the young ones in the family, and if it snows he might come in a sledge pulled by horses of course with his huge sack of gifts and in the Santa costume.
The children have to recite a poem or sing a song before they receive their gifts. All gifts will remain unopened until everyone has had their share and then the big “unpacking” will begin.

Afterwards platters of fruit and sweets will be put on the table accompanied by wine and drinks.

A traditional Christmas eve dinner is potato salad with German Sausages *Wiener wuerstchen or Bockwurst*

I will never even begin to understand the rush and excitement of Boxing day sales.

For me, Xmas is all about creating a peaceful home, eating good food *even there we differ, more about this later, But here in England many people run out to pubs with their friends, and Xmas is not such a “stay at home affair” as in Germany.

On 26th people hit the stores to grab a good Xmas bargain in the boxing day sales whilst in Germany all shops remain shut for 3 4 days at the least.

Also we don’t hang up stockings for Santa to fill, And we don’t give a mince pie and milk to Santa on 24th in the evening and no carrots for the reindeer, however this is a custom I make my daughters do at all times every year!

Yes, although as the years go by, everything is changing a bit. We in Germany would eat Goose, or Duck, and in England its mainly turkey. In Germany our festive food is mainly accompanied by red cabbage and here we have all sorts of vegetables.

In Germany we bake Xmas cakes *the festive Christmas stollen with or without marzipan and currents and sugar icing* But in England we eat Xmas pudding also the biscuits are different.

I miss stollen, I can buy them here, but I like them home baked so I go to bake my Stollen every year with a really good friend in Leipzig! 😉 We bake 20 Kilos in one sitting *it takes usually 1 day* and we prepare the dough for the same in a huge baby bath tub!

I miss Domino Steine *a sweet, fruity, jammy filling surrounded by marzipan and chocolate.
Lebkuchen *ginger bread men*

But I miss the traditionally prepared Xmas duck only my mum and grandma know how to prepare with a plumb and apple filling, and red cabbage to go with it accompanied by potatoes or traditional dumplings 😉

I learned to cope without it, if I’m here and mix my Christmas meal. I cook a turkey crown with red cabbage and potatoes and bake the Christmas cookies that my children enjoy decorating. So I bring Germany that little closer to our home in England.

One thing I miss over here though is everything we’d buy at a German Xmas market/advent market. Gebrannte Mandeln *sugar coated roasted almonds* or cashew nuts and Mutzen and hot waffles / wafers are just a few to name here.

I believe the German markets bring the atmosphere we all need to get into the Christmas spirit.

But if we miss it too much, maybe we can all go to “winter wonderland!” or to the traditional mini German markets all over the country another good tip is: http://www.germandeli.co.uk ” a German supermarket where we can order our German food online.

Salomi

Salomi moved from Greece to the UK. This is what Salomi had to say:

In Greece, Christmas Day is celebrated on 25th December.

I’ve thought about this question for a while now, but no, not really, there’s nothing new I’ve discovered in the UK.

There are no big differences in terms of food. The meat is the same, roast turkey and potatoes, we don’t have Brussel sprouts in Greece and we don’t have pigs in blankets either.

I can’t think of anything that I miss from Greece at Christmas time.

Angelika

Angelika is a German teacher who lives in England. You can find out more about Angelika on her her website.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are Bank Holidays just like in the UK, but the Christmas celebration starts on Christmas Eve, where the shops and most companies finish around lunchtime. Many people go to church and they also open their presents on Christmas Eve.

Apart from the Queen and some Germans (and possibly other foreign nationals), English people open their presents on Christmas Day and not Christmas Eve. Also it seems that only churches have an Advent wreath but unlike German Advent wreaths which have four candles for the 4 Advent Sundays, the churches have a fifth one for Christmas Day.

One big difference in terms of food is that the English Christmas dinner is turkey where as in Germany it varies. Also I had never heard of mince pies and Christmas pudding until I came to England.

My first Christmas in England in 1982 was the only time I was ever homesick. I was used to opening presents and going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve but in England I got taken to the pub before church. That just didn’t seem right to me.

During the first few years I couldn’t get any typical German sweets, so my parents used to send me ‘red cross’ parcels. In return I used to send them some mince pies … until I found out nobody actually liked them 🙂

Thanks to shops like LIDL and ALDI, nowadays I can get almost all the German Christmas sweets I like so much. Now I only need red cross parcels with Marzipankatoffeln, those little marzipan balls that look like potatoes. I wish I could get them here!
This is Angelika’s website about learning German.

Carmen

Carmen is from France and she spent a number of years living in England.

In France, the main celebrations are on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some people go to mass on Xmas Eve. The Christmas Eve meal starts around 8:30 pm and lasts until Santa comes at midnight.

Boxing Day, Xmas crackers, minced pies, and The Queen’s speech were all new to me.

There are more shellfish in France, such as oysters; the main dessert in France is the Christmas Yule log. In France we also eat goose liver paté and boudin blanc (white meat with port or truffle in a sausage skin) at Xmas time. These are the things that I missed when I celebrated Christmas in the UK.

H3> Nic

Nic moved from Germany to the UK. You can find out more about her on her her website.

The main celebration is on 24th December. Shops are open until mid-day but then preparations get underway for the evening (cooking, decorating the tree, putting everyone’s presents underneath), as that’s when we have our actual Christmas dinner. The 25th and 26th, both public holidays in Germany, are usually reserved for visiting family, having even more food and exchanging gifts.

Christmas crackers were new for me! And wearing the hat that comes with them. And Christmas jumper days at work, which I love. Also eating Christmas pudding, which we don’t have in Germany.

Duck or fish might be more prevalent in Germany but turkey is definitely popular. No Christmas pudding but some sort of festive dessert or the home-made Christmas biscuits: some similar to shortbread but thinner, lots of “lebkuchen” (which you can get in more and more UK supermarkets, it’s a dark dough, similar to gingerbread but less gingery), cinnamon stars with icing…

Foodwise, I definitely miss the cinnamon stars, but I also miss the romantic, promising festivity that comes with having the actual Christmas in the evening, rather than the morning.
Christmas markets are missing, although I haven’t tried the ones that the UK has to offer yet.

Honza

Honza is from the Czech Republic and he now lives in the UK.

The main date for Christmas celebrations in the Czech republic is 24th December

Opening presents in the morning is a new custom for me. We open them in the evening plus the day before the British do.

Carp is the typical christmas meal. Quite often you would buy it while its still alive and have it as a “pet” in the bath before it gets served on a plate on christmas day.

Christmas is not that much of a big deal for me and I don’t celebrate it much since I am never home for it so all it is to me is just a busy period at work so I’d say I miss being on holiday during christmas as a child.

This post was first published on English with Kirsty.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

Are you opening an advent calendar this year? If so, what’s behind door number six?

L’Occitane – today I got some conditioner. I have tried this before and wasn’t mad about the smell, but it’s still a good product and I’ll use it!

M&S: today I got a liquid lipstick – Stila stay all day in perla. I got this calendar because I knew there was a lot of skincare in there, but it was nice to see some make-up too. I usually prefer satin creamy lipsticks because I find liquid lipsticks can be a bit drying on the lips. However, this one isn’t sticky (I had a bad first experience!) and I’m happy to have it in my collection for when I feel like a change.

Question for the day

So today’s question is – Christmas jumpers, yes or no? And if yes, what’s your favourite?

I tend to wear more Christmas jewellery than jumpers because I don’t like wool against my skin. If the jumper’s made of something else, I’m fine, but I don’t like woolly things next to my arms or neck! Maybe I should get a Christmas fleece or hoodie!

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