Every year we carry out traditions that have always been performed during the festive period in our families. But as we decorate the Christmas tree, pull crackers with each other and hang up a stocking ready for Santa Claus, we probably don’t think about where these practices came from. Many of them originated in popular holiday destinations, so read on to find out which of these wonderful countries we can be grateful to for those carol singers on the doorstep.

Christmas – Roman origins

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We all know the story of Christmas – based on the birth of Christ – and are reminded of it each year with nativity plays and scenes in friends’ and family’s houses. Despite this, the date of Jesus’ birth is not actually known and December 25th was chosen as a major celebration already took place then. It was called Saturnalia and honoured the god of agriculture, Saturn and the Romans gave much emphasis to light during this time. Since Jesus is known as the light of the world, the two occasions were a good fit.

Book flights to Rome this festive season

Stockings – a gift from Scandinavia

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The stockings we leave out for Santa Claus are of course related to the tradition of St Nicholas, but it can be traced back earlier than this. In pagan times, children in Scandinavia would leave straw and carrots in their shoes for Sleipner – the horse belonging to Odin in common myth – and after they were eaten, Odin would put sweets in their place. Think about that when you are hanging out your stocking and leaving a carrot for Rudolph.

Monarch will start running its flights to Stockholm from Manchester, Birmingham and Luton on April 28th 2017.

Decorated Christmas trees – a German innovation

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Many communities have brought evergreens into their homes for centuries to ward off the devil and provide shelter for birds in the winter months. While fruit and nuts were sometimes added, it was the Germans who started the tradition of a well-decorated tree. During the renaissance, craftsman guilds showed off their wares on the branches of fir trees in houses and public buildings. After the protestant reformation, they became even more popular and marked them apart from catholic households, which would display a nativity scene.

Fly to Friedrichshafen, the gateway to ski adventures in the region.

Carols – songs from France

Although we predominantly associate carols with Christmas, this was not always the case. Songs sung in the local languages of 13th-century France developed from Latin songs that had gone before. They were performed at community occasions and festivals, putting them right at the heart of happy gatherings. It is therefore not surprising that they became a part of Christmas traditions, as this is the time when many people gather together and celebrate.

The top ski resorts of Val d’Isere and Tignes are easily accessible by flying to Lyon.

Crackers – a British original

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It wouldn’t be Christmas without a paper hat and bad jokes to read across the dinner table. This tradition, however, is homegrown, having been started by London sweet shop owner Tom Smith in 1847. His inspiration came from seeing French bonbons wrapped in paper and twisted at the ends. After adding a love motto, a trinket and a bang he gave them the wonderfully evocative name of Bangs of Expectation and by 1900, was selling 13 million of them annually. Thus the love affair with crackers was born.

Depart from London Luton to destinations all over Europe.

Having started her travelling career at the age of five on a trip to Africa with her family, Emma has gone on to visit more than 45 countries across the globe. Highlights have included taking part in a tango lesson in Argentina, seeing Victoria Falls from both sides and getting lost among the streets of the Albaicin in Granada.


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