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A Very Global Christmas – Part 1: Europe

This Holiday Season, you might rely on those tried and true classics that are popular with the whole family or maybe you are in for something new. Whether you are celebrating Christmas or New Year’s at home or on vacation, long lasting memories with your loved ones are in the making.

All of us at Global Discovery Vacations take pride in sending you on wonderful trips around the world, but what you may not have realized, is that we are pretty international ourselves. Let’s go to Europe and see what a “Very Global Christmas” looks like.

A Very Global Christmas – Part 1: Europe

Germany – Bridget S., Travel Agency

Wooden Carousel at a Christmas market in Munich.

In a country with rich holiday traditions, such as Germany, you don’t have to search long for an exciting Christmas Market. Town squares fill up with vendors selling their holiday wares to the public. But how do German families spend their time together? Bridget S. shares with us:

“We have an advent wreath with four candles on our dining table. Every Sunday we light one candle to celebrate the four before Christmas. The Germans celebrate Christmas on December 24. A real tree with burning candles and decorations are put up on Christmas Eve. We celebrate with Schnitzel, Spätzle (a German noodle), Sauerkraut, Lebkuchen (spice bars), and Stollen, (a bread stuffed with nuts, raisins, and dried fruit). The Christ Kind (Christ child) delivers the gifts, not Santa.”

Croatia – Liz S., Condominium Reservations

Christmas lights in a Croatian town park.

Liz S. fills us in on the holiday traditions of Croatia:


“In my dad’s country, Croatia, people would put their shoes on the windowsills, rather than a stocking, to be filled with treats from Djed Božićnjak (Santa). The treats in the stocking were usually fruit and nuts because there wasn’t a lot of money for gifts. Those types of things were a treat to have, because it wasn’t always available to them.

“In Croatia, the Christmas season ends on January 6, which is Bogojavljenje. This is when Croats celebrate the Epiphany (the feast day of the three kings visiting Jesus).”

England – Lesley W., Condominium Reservations

Christmas scene in London, England.

Her Majesty The Queen was not available this time, but we did hear back from our very own Lesley W.:


“Back in my day, we got a real Christmas tree, but we did not put it up until Christmas Eve. We had pillow cases at the bottom of our beds for Father Christmas to fill by Christmas morning.  That morning, we would go to early church and then most of the men would go to the pub to get away from us women in the kitchen cooking turkey with roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and Yorkshire Pudding. For dessert, we would have Christmas pudding, which was brought to the table on fire as it was poured with brandy. The kids would love looking for the coins that were inside the pudding.

“The table was decorated with Christmas crackers (cardboard tubes made to look like sweet bonbons with a prize inside) that we pulled before dinner. At 3 p.m., we turned on the television to listen to the Queen’s speech to the nation. No sports for us on Christmas Day, but the next day is also a holiday, called Boxing Day, and all soccer (football for us) teams play, and fairs with rides come to town.

“Starting before Christmas and up until January, there are pantomime performances in all towns. Of course the big ones are in London, where many pop stars and actors perform for the holiday season.”

Netherlands – Jermaine B., Graphic Design; Ray de V., Creative/Condominium Reservations

Oliebollen with powdered sugar. These Dutch Fried Fritters are a popular treat for New Year’s Eve.

Lastly, Jermaine B. and I can give you the Dutch take on the holidays:

“The December month in Holland is a busy one, filled with three main events: Sinterklaas (Saint Nick), Kerstmis (Christmas) and Oud en Nieuw (New Year’s Eve).

“Santa Claus, who is based on Sinterklaas, does not usually visit the people in the Netherlands, as we get our visit from the Sint between the end of November to early December. Children would put their shoe out near the chimney or radiator (many modern houses do not have a fireplace anymore). The shoe would be filled with hay or carrots for Sinterklaas’ horse and then in the morning the children would return to a shoe filled with candy and small gifts. The big celebration would be on December 5, when kids are eagerly anticipating the Zak van Sinterklaas (Sinterklaas bag), that would be filled with presents and left at the door by a helper who would bang on the door loudly and then scurry into the night.

“Like the Brits, for example, we celebrate two days of Christmas. The convenient thing about having two days for Christmas is that you have more time for family. It’s very popular to use a table grill for the big dinner, consisting of various meats. This makes for a very social (and smoky) event. Cheese fondue is also popular for one of the nights.

“One thing you don’t need while you are in the Netherlands over Oud en Nieuw, which literally means old and new, is a clock to tell you that the new year has started. The intensity and noise of the fireworks that people set off in the streets will tell you exactly when that time has come. To start off the new year in a ‘fresh’ way, many brave souls will take part in a Polar Bear Plunge.”

What is your favorite holiday memory from home or abroad? We’d like to hear from you in the comments below!

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