With age-old traditions, rich history and magical scenery that reflects wondrous illustrations found within the pages of a storybook, travellers can uncover the magnificence of Europe during the enchanting seasons of autumn, winter and spring…
Stroll through cobbled streets among mediaeval buildings while shimmering lights from festive decorations reflect upon snow-dusted grounds.
Meander through Christmas markets while the smell of gingerbread fills the air and marvel at authentic crafts created by talented artisans. Feel the true essence of Europe’s spirited celebrations.
Autumn, winter and spring in Europe are truly magical and Theresa Szejwallo of Trafalgar has delved into the European festive season traditions in which you can immerse yourself.
“Did you know that the Christmas tradition of displaying a Nativity Scene originated in Italy?” asks Theresa.
The nativity scene with figurines of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, wise men, farm animals and crib are put up on 8 December with the addition of baby Jesus only on the eve of 25 December.
The dominant religion in Russia is Russian Orthodox and, as they use the old Julian calendar, Christmas in Russia is normally celebrated on 7 January. Before glasnost under the strict Soviet era, Christmas was barely celebrated at all but the Advent has always been observed.
So if you would like to enjoy a really long festive season, Russia is the place to be as it starts on 28 November and continues all the way through to January.
The United Kingdom is responsible for making the decorating of trees a universally Christmassy thing to do. “Christmas trees originate from Germany and the tradition was brought to the UK by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert,” says Theresa.
In Spain on Christmas Eve it is the ‘done thing’ to attend Midnight Mass. This is followed by large groups of people walking through the streets carrying torches, playing musical instruments and keeping everyone awake.
Christmas Eve is considered the ‘good night’ and not meant for sleeping.
New Year’s Eve is one of the most important nights of the year in Iceland and there are several magical traditions that are supposed to happen on it. Icelanders say that cows are meant to be able to talk, seals take on human form, the dead rise from their graves, and the elves move house. Interesting…
Advent calendars feature extensively in Germany’s Christmas celebrations with several different types brought into use. Apart from the well-known cards with little flaps to open, this country also likes to make advent calendars out of a wreath of fir branches decorated with 24 boxes or bags.
If travelling to Europe to experience the fairytale Christmas Markets is something you would enjoy (and it should be) then Trafalgar has a selection of magical markets in which to revel.
Enjoy the German Christmas Markets where a healthy dose of candles and carols, snowflakes and stollen await you. Wander through central Europe’s cosy Christmas markets sipping toasty glühwein as you admire the handmade wooden toys, delectable Christmas fare and intricate decorations drawing crowds every year to enjoy its enchanting festive cheer.
Priced from R20 200 per person twin share, spend eight days exploring the markets of Frankfurt, Nuremberg, the UNESCO World Heritage Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin.
Brand new for 2017 is the Festive St. Petersburg and Moscow Christmas spectacular
What is good news for South African travellers is that they no longer require a visa to visit Russia so this trip should be on any self-respecting traveller’s wish list. Priced from R22 800 per person twin share, travellers can walk in the footsteps of Peter the Great along the winter-white carpets of the imperial cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.