The Christian holiday season in Europe is very similar to the United States. Although they celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve just like we do, there are a few differences. Select countries in Europe celebrate Boxing Day, Second Day of Christmas and St. Sylvester’s Day as well.
- Boxing Day (December 26th) originated in the UK during the Middle Ages. Alms boxes kept in churches were opened up and the coins inside were given to poor people. Servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families. Today, Boxing Day is a public holiday that is celebrated primarily in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada in addition to several other countries. Some people in these countries celebrate by playing football or race horses while others hit up the big after Christmas sales.
- Second Day of Christmas (December 26th) is celebrated in the Netherlands and many people have the day off from work. It’s celebrated similar to Christmas by eating a large meal with family and friends. Some people use the day to take walks or bike ride, while others wander the Christmas markets. Many depart for a winter vacation, traveling to countries such as Switzerland, Austria, France or Germany. Christmas was traditionally celebrated for 12 days, starting with Christmas (December 25th) and ending with the Epiphany (January 6th) but now the 25th and 26th are the only two days celebrated.
- Sylvester’s Day (December 31st) originated in the year 325 when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of Rome. At this time in history St. Sylvester was the pope, but it’s unknown in what way the role St. Sylvester played in this proclamation of religion. Today, St. Sylvester’s Day is celebrated by Switzerland. Since the holiday coincides with New Year’s Eve, the Swiss light bonfires and ring church bells to symbolize the end of the year and the beginning of a new year. St. Sylvester’s Eve is celebrated in the countries of Austria, Hungary and Germany. On this day the owners of restaurants and cafes join in on the fun by letting a pig loose. People try to touch this pig on the go because it’s considered to be good luck.
- The lesson learned here today is to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, just take the 26th off from work as well and celebrate however you’d like. If you’re looking for a new way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, try lighting a bonfire or letting a pig loose! Get creative and let us know how it goes!