Life abroad can open doors to many cultural experiences you might not have even thought about whilst living in the UK. Being brought up in Britain, we know all about Christmas traditions in England.
From singing carols in our local neighbourhood to tuning in to hear the Queen’s speech, we’ve done it all! But we wanted to know more about what the rest of Europe gets up to during the colder months…
1. France’s Fête du Citron®
This one translates as the Lemon Festival. It’s a celebration of all things citrus that lasts over 15 days, from mid February to early March.
It involves daytime and night-time parades, light shows, a crafts fair and a marvellous orchid display. It’s located in Menton, right on the Italian boarder.
The official website highlights that the festival receives 200,000 annual visitors and includes 150 tonnes of fruit!
3. Italy’s Saturnalia
This one is actually a part of Italy’s history, rather than a tradition that is still practiced (although there’s every chance that some still do!).
It is an ancient Rome pagan festival that honours the agricultural god Saturn during the wintertime. Schools and businesses closed and gifts were given, much like Christmas as we know it!
Slaves were also given time off and some were provided the opportunity to switch roles with the head of the household, to act as King or Queen of Saturnalia for the festival.
2. Ireland’s Imbolc
On 1st February the Irish celebrate Imbolc (or Imbolg), also known as Brigid’s Day. This festival marks winter coming to an end and celebrates the beginning of spring.
It honours Brigid, who was known as a pagan Goddess and as the Christian St Bridget. She represents healing, poetry and crafting.
There are many ways to take part in this celebration. Many create ‘Brigid Crosses’ out of reeds, straw or other similar materials, plant seeds and bake cakes to commemorate the day.
4. Belgium’s Snow and Sculpture Festival
Although this festival has been cancelled indefinitely, we still believe it’s worth looking up online to view the stunning photos from past events.
It has occurred annually in Bruges for about the last 25 years and showcased the creations of artists from around the world carved out of blocks of ice. An ice skating rink was also made available to the public.
When the decision was made not to authorise the ice sculpture festival for 2019, Mayor Dirk De Fauw released the following statement:
“We feel it’s no longer responsible to waste so much energy freezing the ice and we are looking for a more sustainable alternative…
“We’ve already faced criticism in the past. The winters are becoming warmer and it takes an enormous amount of energy to prevent the ice from melting. That’s no longer responsible in our time. We can also wonder at the added value for the public. In winter, all cities have skating rinks.”
We completely understand why the decision has been made, and agree that it was the responsible choice, with climate change being such an important issue to bear in mind with every action, no matter how big or small.