Invest in ME Research
Christmas Fund Appeal Advent Calendar

Christmas Eve in Europe

The last day of our Advent Calendar 2020.

As our efforts have been oriented to international, and European collaboration to resolve ME so we thought we would just mention our European colleagues and how they may be spending their Christmas Eve.

The rich tapestry that makes up Europe can also create better opportunities to resolve ME and we value the collaboration with our colleagues in the European ME Alliance (EMEA).

So how is Christmas Eve spent in EMEA member countries?
We used the sources mentioned at the end of this article to provide a brief view (no promises of current accuracy though).


The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is an elderly man with white hair and a long beard On the day of Christmas, people wish each other by saying 'Vrolijk Kerstfeest' or 'Djoyeus Noye' in the languages of Flemish and Walloon, respectively. In the Wolloon district Christmas breakfast includes a specially baked sweet bread made in the shape of Baby Jesus. As in many European countries Christmas Eve is considered even more important than Christmas day.


Sretan Božić

On St Lucy's Day (December 14) wheat seeds are planted. By Christmas the seeds have grown and are then tied together with a red, blue and white ribbon and placed on display with a candle. Christmas in Croatia is one of the most important holidays of a year. Preparations begin in early December with Saint Nicholas Day celebrated on 6th December Children put clean shoes in a window and, if they were good, they would find small presents in them the next morning.

On Christmas Eve, Christmas trees are decorated. Food served is fish or seafood. In the evening Christmas presents are placed under the tree and opened either in the evening or on Christmas morning. Christmas Day is considered to be a family day in Croatia.


God jul or Glædelig jul

A recent but now very popular Christmas tradition in Denmark is the television advent calendar. The idea is that a new episode of a show is aired each day climaxing on Christmas Eve.

As a tradition, after their Christmas Eve meal is complete, Danish families gather around the tree and sing festive songs and hymns while holding hands and dancing in circles. If the evening is going particularly well they may even tour the house – still holding hands and singing.


Hyvää joulua

The Christmas peace period in Finland has been announced from the balcony of the Brinkkala building in the city of Turku since 1886.
Christmas Eve is the big day in Finland, with Christmas Day being a quieter affair spent relaxing at home with family.

Traditionally, people will eat special rice porridge on Christmas Eve. There is a tradition to hide almonds in the porridge and whoever finds them will have a lucky year ahead of them (or a broken tooth)!
They may also visit a sauna to relax during the day, before the big celebrations in the evening. The Declaration of Christmas Peace has been a tradition in Finland since the Middle Ages. Many towns and cities hold a declaration but the most famous one in Turku is broadcast nationally on the radio. In recent years this been widened to include forest animals which means hunting is banned during the festive period.
The last thing the Finns do before settling into the Christmas spirit on December 24 is have a sauna. The Christmas sauna it is taken earlier than normal because it is though the spirits of the dead return after dark on Christmas Eve for their turn.


Joyeux Noël

Christmas in France (Noël on the French calendar)[123] is celebrated mainly in a religious manner, though secular ways of celebrating the occasion also exist, such as Christmas decorations and carols. The French do not hang stockings above the fireplace for Père Noël to put presents in, but instead leave shoes out to be filled. In France a long family dinner, called a réveillon, is held on Christmas Eve. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning "waking"), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond. One traditional dish is turkey with chestnuts.


Fröhliche Weihnachten or Frohe Weihnachten

In Germany gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve which is a tradition dating back to the Reformation.

In German Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Frohe Weihnachten'. Celebrations in Germany start earlier in December on St Nicholas Day (6 December). Children leave shoes outside of their front door, which Father Christmas - or Nikolaus, as they call him - will leave presents in if they have been good. If they've been naughty, German children will find twigs have been left for them! A meat-free meal is eaten on Christmas Eve. Children will also open their presents on 24 December.


Gleðileg jól

Children in Iceland have to wait until the Christmas Eve meal is finished before they are allowed to open their presents. Iceland actually has 13 Father Christmases, called Yule Lads – a gang of Father Christmases – visit each night in the fortnight prior to December 25. These mischievous characters are said to live in the mountains and visit towns one by one in the 13 days leading up to Christmas. They leave either gifts or rotting potatoes in children's shoes depending on behaviour. There is a tradition that says everyone must receive a new piece of clothing for Christmas. People in Iceland might enjoy a delicious leg of lamb, called Hangikjot, for their Christmas meal Rice porridge is popular as an early lunch or snack on Christmas Eve. An almond is hidden in the porridge and the person who finds it wins a gift.


Nollaig Shona + Dhuit (singular) or Daoibh (plural)

Christmas in Ireland is – perhaps not surprisingly – mostly about the craic. A relatively recent tradition is the '12 pubs of Christmas' which involves a pub crawl and plenty of frankly dangerous drinking games. Christmas in Ireland lasts from December 24 to January 6, although many view December 8 as being the start of the season. Schools used to close on this day, making it a traditional Christmas shopping time, now replaced by the pandemic. In 2006, the total amount spent in Ireland to celebrate Christmas was €16 billion,[151] which averages at approximately €4,000 for every single person in the country. Santa Claus, often known in Ireland simply as Santy or Daidí na Nollag in Irish, brings presents to children in Ireland, which are opened on Christmas morning.


Buon Natale

Christmas begins in Italy with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December. Decorations and the tree are usually put up on this day. Christmas is celebrated in Italy with a strong emphasis given to the Christian meaning of the holiday and its celebration by the Catholic Church, also reinforced by the widespread tradition of setting up the presepe, a tradition initiated by Saint Francis of Assisi. On Christmas Eve, in many towns of eastern Sicily, a big bonfire, U Zuccu, is lit to warm the Baby Jesus. Like with many families in the UK, lunch on Christmas Day is the most important meal. Traditions regarding the exchanging of gifts vary from region to region, as this might take place either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Presents for children are left underneath the Christmas tree either by Santa Claus (called Babbo Natale). In some regions children receive gifts earlier (at St. Lucy's Day) or later (on Epiphany).


Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Christmas celebrations start early in the Netherlands with Sinterklaas - that is St Nicholas - arriving by boat on the last Saturday in November. Sinterklaas does not live at the North Pole like Father Christmas though - in the Netherlands, he comes from Spain! There is a rumour that if children have been naughty, they will be taken back to Spain on the boat! He travels across the Netherlands dressed in red bishops robes. He has no sleigh either like Father Christmas. Instead, he travels on a white horse called Amerigo. Children usually get their presents on the evening of 5 December, which is known as Sinterklaas Eve. The Dutch recognize two days of Christmas as public holidays in the Netherlands, calling December 25 Eerste Kerstdag ("first Christmas day") and December 26 Tweede Kerstdag ("second Christmas day"). In families, it is customary to spend these days with either side of the family. On Christmas Day, throughout both Flanders and the Netherlands elaborated meals are prepared by the host or together as a family. Also meals of which every participant / guest is preparing one dish are very common.


God jul

Christmas Eve is the main day at Christmas. Norwegian children look out for two creatures at Christmas. One is a goat-like creature called Julebukk, who is a present-carrying gnome. Then there is Jul Nisse, who guards farm animals and plays tricks on children if they don't leave porridge out for him. In some parts of Norway it is common to place porridge outside for Jul Nisse. The Norwegians have a name for the limbo week between Christmas and New Year – romjul. But instead of lazing around the youngsters use it as an opportunity for more treats by dressing up and singing door-to-door.


Feliz Navidad

Christmas begins on 8 December in Spain with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. There is a big lottery held on 22 December called El Gordo, which is covered on the television and on radio, where lots of people win money. Children can be given some presents on Christmas Day, but traditionally they are opened on 6 January - Epiphany, when the Three Kings are said to have visited the baby Jesus and given him their gifts. Food is an important part of Christmas celebration in Spain. Some typical food that could be found on a Christmas table is soup, steamed shrimps, pork or turkey, ensaladilla (a dish made with mashed potato, tuna and mayo), cheese and sausages platter, bread, boquerones (kind of an anchovy) and also anchovies. Of course, there’s also a desert, and it could go from ice cream to very elaborated tarts full of chocolate.

Spain has good clinicians involved in EMECC.


God jul

The Swedish version of father Christmas – known as Tomten – is more practical than his UK counterpart and chooses not to use chimney pots. he simply knocks on the door and asks: 'Are there any nice children here?' In Sweden, there is a special celebration on St Lucia Day, which is 13th December where a girl wars a crown of candles and walks in a procession. Swedish children will open their presents on 24 December The night before, they are expected to leave a bowl of porridge out for Tomten - their name for Father Christmas - so that he will leave presents for them. Swedish people also have their main meal on Christmas Eve.


There are four official languages in Switzerland, Merry Christmas in Swiss German is 'Schöni Wiehnachte', in French it is 'Joyeux Noël', in Italian it is 'Buon Natale' and in Romansh it is 'Bellas festas da Nadal'.

Advent marks the beginning of Christmas preparations. Advent calendars and crowns are both popular. In some villages, there are 'real' advent calendars with different houses decorating an 'Advent Window'. There's food, mulled wine (called Glühwein) and music. Christmas markets are very popular in towns and cities where you can buy all kinds of Christmas foods and decorations. There are big light displays and you can enjoy some more hot Glühwein! There are many local traditions of parades and carol singing in Switzerland. 'Star Singing' is also very popular among children. In Switzerland St Nicholas is known as 'Samichlaus' and he might visit on 6th December. The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve and popular foods include a Christmas ham and scalloped potatoes with melted cheese and milk baked into it. Dessert is often a walnut cake and Christmas cookies. Another popular food, especially for parties, is fondue (a pot of melted cheese which you dip bread in - and you might have to kiss the person on your left!).


And in UK?

Well, as if Brexit was not enough of an ordeal to consider on Christmas Eve (even if a trade agreement was botched together in time) the UK now has seen much of it being locked down to very stringent levels due to the pandemic.

Luckily, the government (obviously led by science) believes that the COVID-1 virus also celebrates Christmas Day and has allowed everyone to meet on Christmas Day.

Most British families exchange gifts on the morning of 25th December but the country's "most famous" one does not. The Royal family, observing German tradition, open theirs on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to all.


Our acknowledgement to the following sources -


Contact us

Send us an email. Use the form below