Christmas is traditionally a time for taking advantage of memories gone by and carrying out the same traditions each year, but Christmas traditions vary vastly across Europe.

For example, in Germany, the season of gift-giving starts earlier than most on the night of the 5th December when children leave a shoe outside for St Nikolaus and when they wake up in the morning he would have left some presents for them. Similarly, Christmas is mainly celebrated on Christmas Eve in Germany, and is the main gift-giving day, although it is not actually a public holiday.

Spain and Scandinavia celebrate the start of Christmas on the 13th December (St Lucia Day); and on 28th December Spain celebrate Dia De Los Santos Inocentes, which is very similar to April Fool’s Day in the UK; a time for playing practical jokes and pranks (TransferWise).

Another tradition in France and Spain among other European countries is that often the main celebratory day of Christmas is not actually in December at all. It is celebrated on the 6th January – Epiphany – the day after Twelfth Night, which is when the Three Kings eventually made it to see Jesus.

All of these historical traditions are firmly practised in society, but with the ever commercialisation of Christmas, new traditions have begun, such as Black Friday and changes in consumer shopping habits.  The UK normally spend one of the highest amounts per person each year, at an average of €614 according to Deloitte. Spain tops the ranking at €632 and Italy comes in third at €528. Despite the Spanish spending the most at Christmas, 58% of people receive practical gifts as opposed to luxury items in Spain, as 83% state that it is too commercialised (TransferWise). France and Germany in comparison spend an average of €250 and €200 respectively, although CMO reports that 20% of Germans are planning to increase their Christmas spend this year.

The way customers are shopping in Europe is changing too, with many choosing a digital route. Online is now a key shopping destination for Europe. CMO reports that 47% of British, 45% of Germans and 42% of French people will be using this route to purchase Christmas gifts this year. Foresight Factory states that globally 80% of people check online for the best buys first, with 35% using either a smartphone or tablet to do this.

The beauty of online shopping is that customers are not restricted by what is nearby to them in physical shops – in fact, Paypal and Kantar Millward Brown found that almost half of internet users in Europe planned to make a cross-border digital purchase during the holiday season; and with the holiday season beginning earlier every year, Deloitte reports that 30% of internet users in Europe plan to purchase Christmas items in November or earlier.

However, many Christmas shoppers wait until Black Friday to make larger purchases despite this being a traditionally American shopping event. Emarketer reports that Black Friday is already a hot topic in the UK and in the Nordics, but France is the next place that it is taking off, and will surely only spread further throughout Europe.

Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends but there is no doubt the effect commercialisation has had and still is impacting on Christmas traditions today.

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