Although the same exact holidays are celebrated in Europe, some of them are celebrated a little differently than in the USA. So how do we celebrate the year-end holidays overseas? Allow me to give you a tour through the Holiday season in Europe.
In Europe December is the month of Christmas Markets
Most countries in Europe hold Christmas markets in December in several of their cities. Everyone does their markets a little bit differently; in Germany, for example, the Christmas markets close on December 23rd, but in Belgium they go on through December 30th! Extra point for Belgium! We will definitely visit the Bruges Winter Glow, it sounds amazing! Since Bruges is a city with waterways going through it, it has that extra magical flair!
There are MANY reasons to go to a Christmas market, but if we’re being honest: FOOD is the reason. Besides the many hats, scarves and toys, they have many booths selling all kinds of foods to keep you warm on the cold December days. My favorites are the potato pancakes with applesauce or the fried up potatoes with onions and bacon, And of course a sweet dessert afterwards: churros, crepes, waffles, beignets, whatever your heart desires. And if the food will not keep you warm, the booth selling flavored gins will most definitely get you warmed up. You can buy those gin shots 6 at a time if you want, in any flavor you can think of.
How Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated in Belgium
You know how Christmas is the bigger holiday in the States? Well, in Belgium for example Christmas is not celebrated as much as New Year’s Eve.
Since some countries celebrate Saint Nicholas’ birthday on December 6th, they do not celebrate Santa on the 25th. Saint Nicholas is a saint that brings kids small toys and candy on the night of December 5th, for the kids to find on his birthday. All the kids have to do is leave their shoe by the door with a carrot and a sugar cube in it for Saint Nicholas’ white horse.
Christmas Eve is usually celebrated in small family circles, this means literally your household. What my family and I did is have a wonderful meal together like Gourmet or Fondue, those are probably the most popular Christmas Eve meals:
Gourmet is where you cook your meat on a hot stone (or a non stick griddle plate if you prefer). You’ll have little frying pans to heat up au gratin potatoes or vegetables underneath the stone as well. I prefer this meal over fondue because it is a little less messy.
The other popular Christmas Eve meal is Fondue. Not the cheese or chocolate kind, but the hot grapeseed oil kind. You stick your little cubes of meat on a long fork and deep-fry them in the hot oil. Hey, nobody said Christmas dinner should be healthy.
Where Christmas Eve is celebrated with your household (meaning basically whomever lives in your house) Christmas Day is celebrated with the extended family. This could be sibling’s families, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles… whomever is the closest to you besides your household.
This could be a big dinner out or a big meal cooked at home. Still, usually no gifts are being exchanged on either of these days.
New Year’s Eve in Europe is THE BIGGEST PARTY Night!
Now New Year’s Eve is the BIG BANG to end the holiday season! There are different ways NY Eve is celebrated and it all depends on your age. In your early twenties you cannot wait to be done with New Year’s dinner to head out to the clubs till all hours of the morning, while the older generations looks forward to the multi-course dinner and ice cream cake or Christmas log cake for dessert! A typical NY Eve dinner will start around 7 or 8PM and ideally doesn’t end too much before the fireworks at midnight. At midnight you’ll have a Champagne toast and you wish all guests the best for the New Year to come.
After midnight (or before midnight if they are too young to stay up) we have the kids read their New Year’s resolution letters to their God-parents and parents. They will do this up to the age of 12. This letter full of promises of good behavior, doing your chores at home and getting excellent grades in school will get them a present from parents and God-parents. I will have my God-son read me my last resolution letter this year as he turns 12 next year.
For the ones that head to the bars or clubs to meet up with friends, the night is still young at midnight! Some clubs will go to 7, 9, even 11AM and will even serves a continental breakfast to sober up their guests!
By January 1st the Christmas markets come to an end in Belgium, and only the ice skating rinks stick around for a bit longer. Back to the grind, guys! The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to eating healthy and get to work on that summer bod 😉