Mid-Winter or the Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. In Europe, this day has been celebrated for centuries with feasts, fire festivals, and mid-winter traditions that are still followed today. Although the holiday has evolved over time, the traditions of mid-winter continue to bring people together in celebration of the winter season. Here are some of our favourite European winter traditions!
The Yule Log
The yule log is a tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times when people would burn a log in their homes to ward off evil spirits. Today, the yule log is a symbol of good luck and is often seen as a decoration in homes and businesses during the winter months. The tradition of burning a yule log originated in Scandinavia but quickly spread to other parts of Europe.
In some parts of Europe, it is customary to burn the yule log on Christmas Eve. The log is often decorated with candles and greenery and placed in the fireplace or on the hearth. As the log burns, families sit around and enjoy each other's company. In other parts of Europe, the yule log is burned on New Year's Eve to bring good luck for the coming year.
No matter when it is burned, the yule log is a beautiful way to celebrate the winter season and bring people together. If you don't have a fireplace, you can also decorate a small log with candles and greenery and place it on your table or windowsill.
Christmas markets are a staple of European wintertime celebrations. These open-air markets originate from Germany but can now be found in cities all over Europe. Christmas markets are usually held in town squares or city centres and are filled with stalls selling food, drink, gifts, and Christmas decorations. Many markets also have live entertainment such as choirs singing Christmas carols or dancers performing traditional dances.
Visiting a Christmas market is a great way to get into the festive spirit and do some holiday shopping all at once! If you're lucky enough to be in Europe during December, be sure to check out some of the best Christmas markets in cities like Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Stockholm.
Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th in many European countries. This holiday commemorates the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem to visit baby Jesus. In Italy, Epiphany is known as "Little Christmas" because it marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas celebrations. In Spain, children leave their shoes out on December 5th (St Nicolas' Day) in hopes that St Nicolas will fill them with candy overnight. On Epiphany morning, Spanish children find their shoes filled with candy or small gifts from St Nicolas. In France, Epiphany marks the beginning of Carnival season which culminates on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). French children also leave their shoes out on December 5th for Père Noël (Father Christmas) to fill with candy overnight.
Mid-Winter or the Winter Solstice may be the shortest day and darkest night of year but it's also a time for celebration! Europeans have been celebrating this holiday for centuries with feasts, fire festivals, and mid-winter traditions that are still followed today. From burning yule logs to visiting Christmas markets, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this festive time of year!