Our holiday traditions
Local secrets from the home countries of Eurail colleagues
You'll often see Christmas trees, Santa Claus and fireworks in Europe during December. But many countries and regions also have their own, specific holiday season traditions, such as food, drinks, symbols and activities. We asked our Eurail colleagues, who represent 34 nationalities from Europe and beyond, to share their "secret" local traditions. Which ones will you be trying at home this December?
Ferran | Spain
Ever visited Barcelona at Christmas time? You may have spotted my parents there! My family have a stall at the Christmas market in the Sagrada Familia, selling handmade 'Caganer' figures. These unusual figures are added to the Nativity scene for some reason or another! Caganers of famous people are particularly sought after. You can search for pictures of these figures yourself...
Chrisy | Greece
In Greece every year we go crazy for these incredible Christmas treats known as "melomakarona". The smell of honey, cinnamon, clove and orange makes them irresistible, like little pieces of heaven!
While Christmas trees are very popular in Greece, the original custom was to decorate ships for the Christmas holidays. This tradition has been promoted again in recent years as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to the Christmas tree tradition. But it was originally done by kids who were longing to see their relatives return from their long sea trips. The decorated ships then welcomed the seafarers as they returned home.
Zsófia | Hungary
On Christmas Eve (24 December) we always eat traditional fish soup. When in Hungary, add some paprika powder, which gives the soup a striking red colour. It's very thick and filling, delicious with fresh white bread.
We always decorate the Christmas tree on that same day. A mandatory part of the decoration is "szaloncukor", a candy wrapped in shiny tin foil, which is hung on the tree among other ornaments. You can get it in many different flavors nowadays, but it always includes a chocolate coating. When you eat one, you don't actually remove it from the tree but leave it hanging and close the wrapper nicely as though there was still something in it. This way no-one will know how many treats you had!
Marcin & Nadine | Poland
In Poland the Christmas Eve dinner, known as Wigilia, is traditionally a meatless meal with a lot of fish. Before you start eating everyone shares opłatek (a thin wafer cracker) and shares their best wishes with one another. Dinner always starts with barszcz with uszka, otherwise known as borscht with mushroom ravioli, and ends with makowiec, a poppy seed cake.
Kavita | Australia
"Down under" in Australia (not covered by our Pass, but represented in our office :p), a seafood BBQ is a Christmas must. Putting "shrimps on the barbie" is a particular favorite. A game of backyard or street cricket with family and neighbors is standard on Boxing Day.
When working from the Eurail office, local treats and stories are often shared during lunch, allowing us to take a trip around the world as we take our break. We look forward to getting a taste of one another's traditions again and would love to hear about yours too!