Unusual Christmas Decorations In Europe

December 18, 2019

Have you put your Christmas tree up yet? Do you always have a wreath on your front door? There are various Christmas traditions that happen every year but have you ever wondered how our European counterparts decorate their homes and what traditions they keep over the festive period? Read on to discover some unusual Christmas decorations and traditions from across the continent or hop on a ferry to Holland to see some of these European festivities for yourself.


In Finland they are fans of traditional festive decoration, including jätkänkynttilä – a log which is stood up vertically, split down the middle and set alight to create a chunky candle. Also, many Finnish people get their Christmas trees directly from the local forests surrounding their homes, creating a real sense of a homemade Christmas. Another Finnish tradition is when ‘Christmas Peace’ is declared in Turku, the oldest city in the country at noon on Christmas Eve. The tradition dates back to the 13th century and signify the start of the festivities which continue until 26 December.



In Spain, intricate, wooden nativity scenes called Belén are displayed in many homes and public spaces. An unusual Catalonian Christmas decoration is called el caganer, which is a small figurine often found squatting and pooping and is meant to represent fertilisation of the land for the year to come. As well as the traditional caganer, you can also find lots of figurines of celebrities popping too – definitely a stocking filler to get the conversation started! Another toilet based Spanish Christmas decoration is Tió de Nadal, which is a log with a face drawn on, a hat and legs. Children feed it bits of nougat during advent and on Christmas Eve they will hit it with a stick and sing the Caga Tió song, asking the log to poo out sweets for them.


In Poland, some people put a pile of hay beneath their tablecloth at Christmas time to symbolise the manger in the stable where Jesus was born. Over dinner, a wafer or Oplatek is shared while exchanging Christmas greetings and well wishes. There’s also the tradition of leaving an extra setting at your table for ‘an unexpected guest’ which is a symbolic gesture of letting Christ into your home at Christmas and also opening up your home to those less fortunate.

1900x500_Christmas in Poland


In Sweden, people fill their window-sills and homes with traditionally carved, painted wooden horses known as Dalahästar over the festive period. Christmas is also a time of remembrance for Swedes, shown through their hanging of photos of family members who have passed away on their tree so they can spend Christmas with the whole family. Traditional, handmade ornaments are popular and many make their own crackers each year which are filled with sweets. Gingerbread decorations are baked specially for the tree and on the 1 December a large paper star lit from the inside is placed inside a window to mark the beginning of advent.


In Germany, the iconic nutcracker dolls are a popular Christmas decoration. The story goes that a German farmer was having trouble cracking nuts so offered a reward to whoever in the village could come up with a solution. The unlikely solution came not from a carpenter or blacksmith but from a puppet maker who built the lever-mouthed doll which could effectively crack nuts. Seen as a symbol of good luck nutcracker dolls are now synonymous with Christmas in Germany.

1900x500_Nutcracker Doll

Another tradition happens on the eve of St Nicholas’ Day, 5th December. Children polish their shoes and leave them out for St Nicholas to leave small gifts including sweets and poems for them to enjoy. Other European countries including The Netherlands also follow this tradition.

The Netherlands

A common Christmas decoration in the Netherlands is the advent wreath with four candles. The first candle is lit on 1 December, the beginning of advent, and another candle is lit each Sunday thereafter until Christmas Day. Many people also display hand carved nativity scenes and of course Christmas trees in their homes.

1900x500_Advent wreath

The tradition of Sinterklaas means Christmas and gift giving is often celebrated on 6th December, St Nicholas’s Day, and Christmas Day is more a day to spend with your family. Trees aren’t put up until after Sinterklaas, when the Christmas spirit truly kicks in. The Christmas tree in Dam Square in Amsterdam towers over 20 metres into the sky and the surrounding canals look truly stunning bedecked with sparkling festive lights too.

DFDS sail daily from Newcastle to Amsterdam. Travel by ferry to Europe discover more Christmas traditions across the continent.

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