All across Europe (and the world) you’ll find Christmas celebrations kicking off as we move into the winter months. Of course, you can find the traditional symbols of the season—from Christmas trees and stockings to candy canes and reindeers—pretty much everywhere, but some places have specific celebrations worth sharing.
Head to Norway, where the Christmas season actually begins in the first week of December. There, communities decorate shops and storefronts, people congregate in bars to celebrate the festivities, and dinners—or juleborder—are held for guests to indulge in Christmas staples and plenty of alcohol.
Farther south, in the Netherlands, celebrants welcome Sinterklaas (Dutch for "Santa Claus") in mid-November. Expect to see Christmas parades throughout the country, as Sinterklaas brings his troop of friends from the North Pole to greet eager onlookers. Then, on Christmas Day, kids often wake up to an assortment of cookies and chocolate letters—typically the first letter of their name—as a symbol of good fortune for the year ahead.
Over in Austria, things get weird. The notorious Krampus beast is a scary counterpart to Santa Claus who punishes naughty children. If this sounds downright terrifying to you, you’re not alone—December 5 is known as Krampusnacht (Krampus Night), a time when the horned devil goes around Austrian towns to find those on the naughty list. But it’s not all doom and gloom—the next day is called Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day) and Santa Claus comes to spread some much needed joy after Krampus’ fright night.