Rick Steves Christmas in Europe
Austria, Italian Riviera, Portugal, West Ireland, and the Swiss Alps
Join Rick as he chats with his friends about traditional Christmas celebrations in five of his favorite corners of Europe. Rick talks with Gabi in the Tirol (who actually sings a Christmas Yodel), Matteo in the Cinque Terre (whose childhood memories include the Christmas witch La Befana), Claudia in Lisbon (who heads for grandma's to drink coffee and chat with all the villagers around a bonfire into the wee hours after the midnight Mass), Tim in Dingle (where Wren's Day makes the day after Christmas also a big deal), and Olle in Gimmelwald (who explains how the red and black gift-giving duo, Samichlaus and Schmutzli, get the little kids singing songs for goodies high in the Alps).
Listen to the entire program:
Website Extras: Extended interviews from"Christmas in Europe."
Olle Eggimann: Gimmewald, Switzerland (14:05)
Olle Eggimann is the teacher in the tiny town of Gimmewald in the Swiss Alps, and explains the Swiss German advent traditions that encompass his village during Christmas. Some of the region's unique characteristics include the figure of Samichlaus and his sidekick Schmutzli. We'll also learn how the Swiss manage to use real candles on an indoor Christmas tree, and the appropriate consumption of fondue.
Tim Collins: Dingle, Ireland (10:56)
Although Ireland has recently grown in sophistication, the more-traditionally focused areas of the Western part of the country continue to retain their unique festivities. Tim Collins of Dingle explains how it's still common to eat ling cod with potatoes on Christmas Eve, and the children have a uniquely Irish treat for Santa Claus in place of the milk and cookies he'll get in America. Also, St. Stephen's Day on December 26 has been observed there for centuries as "Wren's Day," and provides an opportunity for the entire community to raise money for charities and to collectively let their hair down.
Gabi Koch: Reutte, Austria (13:02)
German Catholics maintain a traditional observance of the Christmas season, and Gabi Koch explains how that downplays commercial concerns and emphasizes the use of natural decorations in the Tirol region of Austria. Listeners learn how the typical family observes the holiday season, including the role of St. Nicholas and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht) in Austria, and the tradition of lighting candles in the cemetery on Christmas Eve. Gabi will then share a sacred Austrian Christmas yodel.
Matteo Pasini: Monterosso, (Cinque Terre), Italy (13 :36)
Hotelier Matteo Pasini tells Rick that the effusive Italian sprit makes sure everyone has special foods to celebrate the holiday and explains how some families add so many contemporary characters to the manger scene that the kids can pose them all in a soccer play! And while Babbo Natali is starting to resemble the Americanized Santa Claus, Italians also have the character of La Befana to help conclude their observances on Epiphany Day.
Claudia DaCosta: Lisbon, Portugal (9:50)
Even if it's the only time you attend church all year, family traditions in Portugal expect you to gather with family and attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. From her home in Lisbon, tour guide Claudia DaCosta explains how her family traditions include leaving the commercialism of the big city behind to spend the holiday in her grandmother's small town, staying up late to visit with friends in the town square, and setting a place at the table in honor of relatives who have passed away, as well as friends who might drop by for a visit.