Please sign in to post.

Christmas Traditions brought home Frome Europe

What if any traditions have you brought home for the holidays from Europe.
Or what decorations recipes or other Christmas related things have you incorporated in your Christmas celebration?

Ironically even though I am starting this topic and I love Christmas and cole t reasonably pricey Christmas ornaments I don’t have anything that truly fits this subject myself.

My dad is from Germany and my moms family came over a long time ago (some on the Mayflower) I can’t realy say we do anything that is not typical in the U.S.

We have a big tree (tall ceiling’s) and a Manger. And such but nothing from Europe directly.

Posted by
4287 posts

We have a lot of straw ornaments we picked up in Poland when we were there in the early 1980s. Most are small - donkeys and roosters that we put on the tree, but several are larger and hang from the ceiling or on the wall. Our favorite is a crown of angels, about a foot or so in diameter. It hangs from the ceiling on a red ribbon, and is beautiful.

Posted by
15 posts

My Dad is German and my Mom’s family emigrated (separately) from Germany to the US in the 1920s. We always had German sausage and sauerkraut for dinner, and opened Christmas presents, on Christmas Eve. For the past 20 years or so we have been making my Opa’s bratwurst (he was a butcher) and eating that on Christmas Eve.

Posted by
2660 posts

I confess to overspending at the Christmas markets when we lived in Germany. So I've got literally dozens of glass and wooden tree ornaments from there. I'm also a sucker for wooden nutcrackers. There are 10 fairly good sized ones that fill the mantel over the holidays, and a bunch more small ones that decorate the stairway railing. The only other thing we still do is mulled wine. I have a friend who always gifts me with a great spice blend, so we can enjoy it all through the winter.

Oops - one more: lebkuchen! Nothing says Christmas like those gingerbread cookies. We have a deli in town that only brings them in in December.

Posted by
1868 posts

Most of our tree ornaments are “family” but I do have some from Europe and the U.K. like a glass pickle ornament to be hidden in the tree for the kids and then grandkids to find (Germany, I think) and “crackers” to pull during our Christmas dinner (London). Other than that, small ornaments that have special meaning for us from various places we have traveled. We also have cathedral ceilings and thus a tall tree so plenty of room.

Posted by
1068 posts

No European traditions except we make homemade pizza on Christmas Day. Hubby's grandparents were from Calabria and we use his mom's recipe, slightly changed for our tastes. This is the first year in 30+ that we are cancelling our annual Pizza Party. Usually we have anywhere from 20 to 30 friends visit on Christmas Day. Our tradition started when we moved to Phoenix, didn't know anyone and pizza sounded better than traditional Christmas fare. It's evolved and grown over the years.

I bake cookies and fruit cakes. It wouldn't be Christmas without my Grandma's rum balls. I won't be baking as much this year because I'll have to eat it all. The scale is already laughing at me since Thanksgiving.

I started decorating yesterday. Santa didn't make these tree lights. I've replaced so many burned out bulbs, I lost count. The living room tree is up and will be decorated with Waterford, crystal, glass and silver ornaments. The three 4' alpine trees are set up in the family and are awaiting their Santa ornaments. Only one 3' tree is going up in the guest bedroom, decorated with travel ornaments and whatever is left over. I will probably give in and put its buddy 3' foot tree up too for the turtles and their friends. The master bedroom tree is 4' green foil decorated with angels and breast cancer ornaments in remembrance of my brother. Finally the den will have a 5' tree decorated with horse ornaments. Then there are all the Santas, creches, small village and other decorations that will be spread throughout the house. I’m not a snowman fan so they are relegated to the guest bath. This is a week long project if I don't do anything else LOL. No outside lights except port and starboard at the front door.

I'm married to the Grinch but after 50 years he knows better than to say anything to Ms. Santa.

EDIT: I had a left-over lightless 2' tree that I didn't know what to do except put back in its box. Lightbulb moment: put timer battery lights on it. Hang Grandma's and my souvenir spoons from Europe and the US as ornaments. Tree is going up on the kitchen soffit, along with the usual nutcrackers.

Posted by
852 posts

I have a lot of decorations that were bought in Germany (nutcracker, pyramid, wooden tree, ornaments...) I make several types of German cookies including lebkuchen and bethmännchen. After visiting with several friends in Germany last year I now have advent candles to light every night at dinner. I have also started getting Christmas crackers and we all end up with paper crowns. I tried mince pies last year, but I didn’t really get into them.

Posted by
134 posts

I am not Italian but to me Christmas is not complete without Baci chocolates and a particular panettone imported from Italy. They have not yet appeared in the shops here so am wondering if the lockdowns in Italy have affected shipments. A local bakery does make panettone so all is not totally lost!

Posted by
17630 posts

I've been spending Christmas out of town with family for about 40 years, so I don't decorate or bake at home. However, I'll pass along a clever idea a work colleague shared with me decades ago: She liked to buy small, locally-made items that weren't Christmas-tree ornaments but could be used in that way. That way, her tree was unique and reminded her of her travels.

Posted by
33 posts

If your looking for foods from Europe the European Deli has quite a lot. I found them a couple of years ago and if I don’t have a trip planned to Germany I order my lebkuchen from them.

Posted by
20833 posts

Our tradition since the first trip in 72 is bring home at least two matching Christmas ornaments and often more that related to when and where we went on that trip. Each ornament is marked and dated. We now have enough ornaments to cover one large tree. One of Marcia's great pleasures at Christmas is to hang the ornaments and reminisce about that trip or where we were when we bought the ornament. Since many trips included the two sons, the ornaments someday will be divided. Now our granddaughters assist and often ask, "Grandma, where did this one come from?" Since we are mostly German and Swedish, visiting Christmas markets and glogg wine is a Christmas must that we have that our parents did not. Oooo --- and we are big on outdoor lights.

Posted by
5709 posts

I’m not a snowman fan so they are relegated to the guest bath.

This is the absolute best.

Like most folks here, I too have treasured ornaments that I have purchased over the years. My favorite Christmas item, though, is a Christmas postcard that I picked up in an antique shop in my Hungarian “hometown” of Kecskemét when I was teaching English there more than 25 years ago. It depicts a Santa and back behind him a house and there is something just so charming about the illustration, I just love it. Then of course it has Merry Christmas as the legend (Kellemes Karacsonyt if you're wondering) . I also love that on the back you can read the person to whom it was addressed, check out the stamp, etc (it's not a pristine card, but one that really went in the mail).

I'm sure it cost me 5 cents or something, but I am so happy that my 23-year-old self saw it and recognized the joy it would bring me.

Posted by
5452 posts

My own tradition is to travel in November and to buy Christmas Cards at Spitafields market, or the British Library and V&A museum gift shops.

I have also looked in the vestibule of St James of Piccadilly where a table has often been set up with boxes of Christmas cards.

Have some left over from my 2019 trip but seems I’ll need to mask up and shop at Wacko here in LA.

Posted by
425 posts

I looked but didn’t find any ornaments but the latest I was in Europe ever has been early October

Posted by
2669 posts

We’ve been fortunate to be in Germany and Austria several times in November and December so we have a lot of carefully chosen ornaments. Some of our favorites are those made by craftspeople in markets where we’ve watched them being made—carvers, forgers, weavers and potters.

A tradition that we’ve adapted from our Christmas visits has been to clip a silver candle holder to our plate charger for our Christmas Eve dinner. Somehow this seemed a lot safer than clipping a burning candle to our live tree. Turn the lights low in the dining room and it transports us back to Germany on Christmas Eve.

EDIT: Finding candles year after year is sometimes a challenge but we’ve lived near year round Christmas shops (Solvang) and places like World Market sometimes stocks the Christmas-pyramid sized candles we need for the silver clip-on holders.

Posted by
201 posts

My parents immigrated here from Germany a couple years before I was born. We always opened gifts on Christmas Eve and I still do that. My mother also baked Stollen every year and even though I've never tried to make it myself, I've found Aldi's carries it and there's also a German bakery near here and she makes it at the holidays.

Posted by
942 posts

My ancestors all came to the US in the late 1800s so we don't really have any traditions anymore.

I've bought Harrods ornaments for the tree on my first London visit and after tasting mince pies over there, now make my own each holiday season-I cheat and by Tiptree filling but still delicious. And every year my family watches the Call the Midwife and Doctor Who holiday specials.

Finally, I don't go to church as an adult but always listen to the Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College on Christmas Eve. For some reason, it gives me an oasis of calm during an otherwise stressful season.

Posted by
425 posts

When I was young we would spend Christmas Eve at my Dads mothers house, have a small dinner then open presents.
Those inclined would then go to church and we would bring my Grandmother to our home for a couple days.
As long as we had large family gatherings we would open one gift (usually a book r something that would keep us busy on Christmas Eve,

Posted by
2660 posts

We always opened one gift after getting home from Christmas Eve Mass. And since it was Mom or Dad handing them out, it was invariably new pajamas, lol. The good stuff had to wait til morning.

Posted by
11450 posts

Well not brought home from travel - but because my dad and I are French ( he lived there till he married my Canadian mom snd I was born there but only lived there as an infant )
Raw oysters and escargot are holiday treats ( love both )
My dad is 85 and still makes 12-18 dozen snails that he gives to family or friends for Christmas dinner .
Two years ago I had two nephews and my two sons just sitting at table guzzling them down since my dad brought over extra just for the boys to pig out on lol

Personally I’ve already found my oyster shucker snd glove and am looking forward to the oysters !

Posted by
3342 posts

We had family traditions, but my Mother also liked to shift things up. She would try to introduce some Swedish food as that was my father's heritage. Back in the early 70's, she bought a book about Christmas around the world. I was the last child at home, and we read and talked about that book a lot. It meant we also added primarily European tasty treats to our Christmases. For a good number of years, she would make a Scandinavian or German stollen or sweet bread.
When I married, she would often give me Christmas ornaments she had bought on her travels and I kept up that tradition. Preferably they were hand made.
One thing I loved as a child, and has become lost over time are the Swedish Chimes music box. The non music box variety is still around. It is a the metal angel tabletop piece that uses the heat of candles to make a paddle wheel turn and hanging angels with little metal sticks hanging from then then knock a chime to sound. The family version was better heavier metal with Silent Night as the music box tune. I have a cheap version but very unsatisfactory. Looking for alternatives, they all look light and cheap. Maybe I can find something with the music box on my Baltic cruise next year. https://www.retrofestive.ca/swedish-angel-christmas-chimes-brass-silver/
Food doesn't play the same part in 'tradition', as we have several food allergies (particularly wheat), and now a vegan daughter, so it's more about the time we can spend together rather than exactly what is on the table.

Posted by
5709 posts

Back in the early 70's, she bought a book about Christmas around the world. I was the last child at home, and we read and talked about that book a lot.

We had that book ! Or we had a series of books, rather . . . so maybe not exactly the same, but the same idea. For me these were fun to dig back into once I married an Italian, to share with my family . . .

Posted by
9 posts

The one tradition that we always have is to eat Gansebraten with the whole family. Maybe in the US people do it on thanksgiving but since we dont have any, we eat it on christmas :D one of my favorite tradition is also on the Nikolaustag where the parent just put a small present in their kids shoes my mum still put some candy in our shoes on that day.

Posted by
4287 posts

Something else we brought home from our stay in Poland was Christmas music! Well, lots of folk music, but my husband just loves Polish Christmas carols. We have records by folks groups Mazowsze and Śląsk and play them often during the holiday season.

Posted by
3342 posts

Kim, I think any Christmas books are wonderful. Lovely that yours were an entire series.
Because this has become a bit of a walk through personal Christmas history, our city also had global cultural 'weeks'. Mostly through the summer, but for a while this included Christmas time as well so global awareness about Christmas celebrations elsewhere. For a good number of years, Zwarte Piet and St. Nicholas would arrive by boat in the Inner Harbour December 5th. Not sure what the current politically correct name may be.

Posted by
3785 posts

Panettone every year now, since our Sicily trip 8 years ago.

Posted by
1450 posts

Since we are mostly German and Swedish, visiting Christmas markets and
glogg wine is a Christmas must that we have that our parents did not.

Nice to hear that glögg has a part in the Christmas traditions! Is it available in stores or do you make it yourself?

Posted by
107 posts

I don’t have any though I’m dreaming of spending a Christmas in Europe one day. This year, I’m doing an activities advent for my kids. One of the activities will be for them to pick a country and research how they spend Christmas there. Maybe we’ll try a couple of the traditions they find.

Posted by
4496 posts

We lived in Germany for four years when we worked for the US Army during the Cold War.

Loved the Christmas markets, gluwine and all the tradition.

My wife purchased a box of beautiful glass Christmas tree ornaments, but we can't put them on the tree, since we have cats. If we did they would not survive the season (the ornaments that is).

Posted by
1157 posts

We try to get a Christmas ornament from every country we visit. We've got at least a dozen now.

My favourite is the one issued by the Friends of St Paul's Cathedral, from our first ever trip in 2000.

In 2010 I bought an ornament at Notre Dame in Paris. I never really liked it... until the fire. Now it is treasured.

Posted by
20833 posts

..... glögg has a part in the Christmas traditions! Is it available in stores or do you make it yourself? .... Both -- we have a good recipe but it takes time and is a large batch. Do it when we entertain. It is better but are lazy at time and use a pre-mix from our local liqueur store. It is good but easy and a minute in the microwave. However, both are not the same as stomping around a Christmas market when it is about 20F. Just cannot replicate a hot mug among the Christmas market stalls.

Posted by
4 posts

My mother is Ukrainian, and every year we celebrate Christmas with Ukrainian traditions, and I think that's good.
Ukraine has quite a unique Christmas tradition in Europe because both December 25th (Western Christianity Christmas Day) and January 7th (Eastern Orthodox Church Christmas Day) are national holidays. Majority of Ukrainian people celebrate Christmas on January 7th. On this day they usually visit relatives and friends, eat delicious food, and give presents to each other.

Posted by
1450 posts

Both -- we have a good recipe but it takes time and is a large batch.
Do it when we entertain. It is better but are lazy at time and use a
pre-mix from our local liqueur store. It is good but easy and a minute
in the microwave.

Happy to hear that glögg is can be found in other parts of the world! But pre-mix sounds a bit strange, and if it takes time you might need another recipe. It is not that hard. So if you, or anyone else, is interested; here is the glögg recipe I use. It it very easy to make, but you need to start the day before you plan to serve it.

Day 1:
Add the spices to a jar. 5 pieces of cinnamon, broken into smaller pieces, 20 whole cloves, 1 teaspoon of lightly crushed cardamom seeds, a piece of dried ginger (2 cm or so) and a piece of dried bitter orange peel. Pour 100 ml of unflavoured alcohol over the spices. If you want to be authentic, use brännvin, but vodka will do fine. I don't think anyone will be able to tell the difference. Let the spices and alcohol rest at least overnight, but they will be fine for up to 2 weeks if you want to prepare it in advance.

Day 2.
In a saucepan, add one bottle of red wine (750 ml) and the alcohol (without the spices). Turn on the heat and and add 300 ml sugar while stirring to make sure it dissolves. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, heat the glögg to the prefered temperature and serve. Preferably with a couple of almonds and raisins in each mug.

If you want you can use a funnel and pour the glögg back in the wine bottle. Now you have ready made glögg for those times when you just want to pour a mug and put in the microwave.

God jul!

Posted by
1158 posts

Interesting to hear that to open presents on Christmas eve might be more prevalent in families with some German heritage.

I collect nativities and have been able to buy several while traveling. I bought a hand carved one in Poland i hope from the artist. I bought one in the Czech republic that has numbers 1 -25 on the bases, so also functions as an Advent calendar. It requires enough real estate that it only gets out at Christmas. The polish one and some of the other best ones stay out year round.

Posted by
20833 posts

That recipe look so good. I will try it within the week and report back. The additional alcohol and soaking over night is new to me but should be a good addition. Thanks

Posted by
95 posts

I'm Polish and my husband is Italian, and, in both cultures, there is no meat served on Christmas Eve. I personally prefer the Italian seafood feast compared to my Polish Christmas Eve dinner fare. For the Polish Christmas Eve dinner, we would usually have zurek (Polish Rye soup), and, although we would usually have bits of kielbasa in the soup, on Christmas Eve, it was served without the kielbasa. We would also always have pierogi, although we would not have my favorite pierogi, which was pierogi filled with sauerkraut and potatoes and bits of bacon. Before Christmas Eve dinner was served, everyone would partake in sharing oplatek, which is a a Polish Christmas wafer. Each person would break off a piece of the oplatek and extend good wishes to the person with whom they were sharing the oplatek. Usually relatives from Poland send us a Christmas card with oplatek inside. My mother would always say that there had to be an extra place setting for the wanderer who might drop in and be in need of a good meal. When we lived in NY, we would attend midnight mass. Our local church here doesn't offer midnight mass and, to be honest, if it did, we wouldn't attend as we are at the age that we can't stay up that late!

Jane, I distinctly remember my parents playing Polish koledy sung by Mazowsze and Slask during the holidays . I still play these Polish Christmas carols for my mother who loves to sing along!

Posted by
1211 posts

No real European traditions even though we are of UK descent: but since becoming an Italophile a few years ago, we always have panettone.
It makes really good French toast and/or bread pudding if it gets stale.
Our local drugstore always stocks lots of British foods at Christmas, such as chocolates and British biscuits; so I always buy a few of those.
We've just acquired a new two year old cat, so don't want to risk having a tree this year!
We have my deceased mother-in-law's decorations from the fifties, so it would be a shame to have those get broken.
Lots of lights outdoors, and evergreens and berries in pots outside the front entrance.
I also got some old skates at the thrift store a few years ago, and hang them up outside the door with evergreens and ribbons on them.
I would love to spend Christmas in Austria or Germany one year.
I've been to Europe in winter many times before Christmas, in December, and love all the lights and markets
Now....one of you send us some snow please.
Have only had one white Christmas here on the West Coast in 35 years!
Happy decorating and eating, everyone.

Posted by
3785 posts

S J, how often have you had enough panettone left in order to be able to make French toast or bread pudding? Either option sounds delicious, but ours have always been finished long before getting stale. Buon Natalie!

Posted by
1211 posts

Cyn: not very often!
The trouble is , I like it more than my husband, so it ends up on my hips, not his...