Christmas at Home vs Christmas in Europe

Nobody does Christmas quite like Europeans. There’s nothing wrong with spending the holidays at home. But have you ever wondered what Christmas looks like in Europe? During the festive season, there are some not-so-subtle differences between Australia and Europe. These are some of the most obvious we’ve encountered in our travels.


1. The Weather

The weather at home – Australia has the best weather in the world, right? Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to roast a ham during a heatwave. Christmastime at home coincides with the height of summer. Sure, this sounds lovely in theory. But with bushfires and tropical cyclones to contend with, it’s not all fun and games.

Instead of huddling around a fireplace, most of us spend the festive season trying not to get heatstroke. To compensate for the hot weather, Christmas lunch often takes place outdoors, and deciding where to spend the day depends largely on which of your relatives have air conditioning.

The weather in Europe – Snow-covered villages only appear on the front of Christmas cards in Australia. But in Europe, they actually exist! From South France’s balmy weather to the snowy Swiss Alps, Europe’s climate varies from cool to freezing at Christmastime.

We Aussies are used to wearing singlets and shorts regardless of the occasion, whereas Europeans tend to dress up for Christmas events. The chilly weather calls for coats, gloves, scarves and waterproof boots – just in case it snows.

Want to spend Christmas in a winter wonderland? The Austrian White Christmas Tour travels to some of Europe’s most beautiful winter destinations.

Hallstatt, Austria


2. Shopping

Shopping at home – Nothing can crush your Christmas spirit like a busy Australian shopping centre. Between dealing with the crowds and trying to find Christmas presents that won’t send you broke, the whole experience can be rather draining.

One of the only good things about visiting a shopping centre in late December is the air conditioning. But you can’t hide from the heat forever. Getting home means trying to drive a car that’s so hot you can barely touch the steering wheel.

Shopping in Europe – Europeans aren’t immune to getting stressed out during the holidays. But it’s a lot easier to relax when you get to do all your shopping in a charming Christmas market. We hate to sound like the Grinch, but escaping to Europe for Christmas also means you won’t have as many presents to buy.

Our German and Austrian Christmas Markets Tour showcases the best of Europe at Christmas time.

Vienna Christmas Markets, Austria


3. Christmas Trees

Christmas trees at home – Real Christmas trees are a rarity in Australia. They might look more authentic, but fir trees have a habit of shedding needles everywhere in warm weather. Most of us would rather pick up a plastic tree from Kmart than go to the effort of putting up a real one.

Christmas trees in Europe – The Christmas tree tradition actually started in Northern Europe, so putting up a real tree is sort of sacred here. Some people use fake trees, but it’s considered a little unsophisticated (spoken in a posh European accent).

Marvel at Europe’s beautiful Christmas trees, plus an assortment of other wonderful traditions, on the Swiss Christmas in Zermatt tour.

Hotel Wittelsbach, courtesy of Oberammergau Tourism


4. Traditions

Traditions at home – Australia’s Christmas traditions include hanging out at the beach, hosting barbecues and playing cricket. There’s also the somewhat less wholesome tradition of drinking copious amounts of beer.

Traditions in Europe – Christmas traditions in Europe vary across the continent. In the Czech Republic, Christmas dinner isn’t served until the first star appears in the sky. Some Italians don’t open their presents until Epiphany Day, which takes place on January 6. The advent calendar plays an important role in Germany’s Christmas traditions, while British people leave snacks and sherry out for Father Christmas. 

To discover more European Christmas traditions, join us on the Bohemia and Christmas in the Tyrol Tour.

Town Hall in Gengenbach - courtesy of gntbkeute


5. Food

Food at home – Australians have had to come up with our own unique version of Christmas cuisine. Most of us serve up a unique combination of traditional Christmas dishes and seafood. Roast meat and vegetables are delicious, but sometimes the weather’s just too warm. Prawns and oysters are usually included on the Christmas lunch menu, along with mince pies, pudding, and – of course – pavlova.

Food in Europe – Europeans love putting on a feast at Christmas time. British menus are pretty similar to what you’d find in Australia (minus the seafood), but some countries do things a little differently. Germans chow down on red cabbage, Italians prefer pasta and roast veal, and Slovenians can’t get enough of sauerkraut soup.  

Dine on some European delicacies while on the Christmas in an Italian Castle Tour.

Mulled wine

There’s no place like home, but now that you know how magical European Christmases can be, we bet you’re itching to jump on a plane. To begin planning your festive season sojourn, you can find all our Christmas tour itineraries here.