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European Christmas 39:44

Created by Rick Steves' Europe Staff

Published by: Gabe (Rick Steves' Europe)

To learn more about European Christmas celebrations and how many contemporary Christmas traditions came to be, please join Rick in an exploration of Christmas in Europe by following along with this playlist.

Refer to the "Notes to Viewers" below for a list of comprehension questions, discussion prompts, and project ideas to guide you through the playlist and further your learning.

Watch the European Christmas special along with Rick's behind-the-scenes commentary HERE.

Notes to Viewers

1. As you watch, make a list of every Christmas figure presented throughout the playlist. How are these figures similar, and how are they different? Why do you think that is?

2. As you watch, make a list of every Christmas decoration described throughout the playlist. What is the origin or purpose of each decoration?

3. How is music incorporated into Christmas celebrations in England? Why do you think Christmas music became so popular throughout history?

4. Who is Santa Lucia? Why is she especially important in Norway, and how is she symbolized?

5. What are typical Christmas foods in France? How are these similar to or different from the foods eaten in your community around the winter holidays?

6. What is a "presepio" in Italy? What is the cultural purpose of a presepio, and how is it tailored to its intended audience?

7. What are traditional German Christmas toys like? Would you want to receive one of these toys? Why or why not?

8. Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th rather than on the day of Saint Nicholas, December 6th?

9. Throughout Europe, how are the traditions in large cities different from the traditions in the countryside? Why do you think these differences exist?

10. Which European nation's Christmas traditions seem most similar to the Christmas traditions in your community? Why do you think these similarities exist?


11. How are modern European Christian celebrations a mix of religious and pagan traditions? Make a list of religious traditions and symbols and a list of pagan traditions and symbols presented during the playlist. How do you think these symbols and traditions became so incorporated? Finally, if the United States maintains the separation of church and state, should Christmas be a federal holiday? Why, or why not?

12. Why do you think Christmas is such a popular holiday in Europe and North America? Why might Christmas be more or less popular in South America, Africa, or Asia? What accounts for this from a historical perspective?

13. Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? How did Christmas figures, foods, and decorations develop based on this time or year? How might Christmas traditions have developed differently if Christmas occurred during the northern hemisphere's summer?

14. What foods and goods were the Europeans in this playlist purchasing? What foods and goods are purchased around the Christmas holiday in your community? Do you think that Europeans are more or less consumeristic that Americans during the Christmas season? How would the economy respond if Americans started shopping more like Europeans?

15. How has modern technology changed Christmas traditions? Did you see any European Christmas traditions in the playlist that have evolved due to new technologies? Which Christmas traditions do you think will change the most in the next fifty years, and how will they change? What will society gain from these changes, and what will it lose?


16. Plan your own perfect European Christmas celebration, selecting your favorite traditions from each European country. Consider who you will invite, what food you will serve, what music you will play, what gifts you will give, and how you will decorate. Then, create an invitation for your guests briefly describing what traditions they will partake in at the party and why you chose them.

17. Imagine you're a Muslim Syrian refugee that was relocated to Germany during the 2015 refugee crisis. Write a journal entry describing your thoughts after visiting a German Christmas market and about the Christmas season in general. What interests you? What confuses you? Do you feel included in or excluded from the celebrations?

18. Recreate either a food or a decoration from the playlist. Present your food or decoration, explaining why you chose it, what its origin or purpose is, and how you made it.


19. Watch Rick’s "European Festivals" television special. Analyze how Europe's other festivals and traditions are similar to its Christmas traditions and how they are different. How are European celebrations in general similar to and different from American celebrations? Which European festival would you most want to experience? Why?

WA SOCIAL STUDIES LEARNING STANDARDS: SSS3.9-12.1, E1.9-10.1, G2.9-10.1, H2.9-10.3