Tag Archives: holiday

Things We Love: German Christmas Markets

One of the things I miss the most about living in Germany, especially at this time of year, is browsing around the Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmarkte, that are found in big cities and small towns across Germany. You may have even heard of the most famous Christmas markets in Nurnberg or Munich, but my favorite Christmas market is in Cologne.Cologne Christmas Market

Sitting at the base of the huge Gothic Cathedral, the Christmas market fills the large town square with booth-after-twinkling-booth of things to delight your eye!

CologneMarket5

A large Christmas tree stands above the concert stage in the middle of the market, which is always filled with carol singers accompanied by musicians. There are booths filled with sparkling glass Christmas ornaments in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

CologneMarket7

There are booths filled with hand-crafted wooden toys, jolly wooden nutcrackers and smokers, and all sorts of gifts to take home to your family and friends.

Christmas Toys at CologneMarket
There are booths filled with giant cookies that say Ich Liebe Dich! (I love you!) and roasted nuts that smell incredible as you walk by.

CologneMarket Christmas nuts and cookies

Even bundled up in winter coats, scarves and mittens, eventually you begin to feel the cold as you wander through the booths, each more colorful and inviting than the next. It’s time for Gluhwein!

CologneMarket11 Gluhwein

CologneMarket9
Spiced warm wine, or hot chocolate if you prefer, in souvenir mugs is just the thing to warm your hands – and, after a couple of mugs, your toes and nose too!

But my absolute favorite is the booth with the chocolate dipped fruit! Christmas-Market-Chocolate Fruit

Skewers of chocolate-dipped fresh fruit – pieces of bananas, pineapples, grapes, strawberries – dipped in white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate – it is divine!

Although not found at the Christmas markets, my favorite meal at this time of year in Germany is Christmas goose.

ChristmasGooseDinnerIf you’ve never had goose, you’ve missed out. It is mouth-wateringly delicious! It tastes similar to duck and is traditionally served with Klopse (round steamed potato dumplings), rotkohl (pickled red cabbage) and roasted chestnuts – my all-time favorite German meal.

Gluhwein recipe

Although I’ll miss out on the Christmas goose and chocolate-covered fruit this year, I’ll be reminiscing while trying out this Gluhwein recipe I found on Pinterest!

It calls for 1 bottle of dry red wine, 1 cup of brandy, 1 sliced lemon, and 3 sliced oranges. To add the spice, stir in 6 sticks of cinnamon, 8 to 10 cloves, and 3 to 5 whole anis. Mix in 3 tablespoons of sugar then simmer for 45 minutes.

Prost!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

 

A Traditional English Christmas

Downton Abbey fans will already know that the popular English TV show is back for its sixth and final season soon, starting on January 3, 2016 on MASTERPIECE on PBS. The very last show in the series will be a Christmas special! But if you want your Downton Abbey Christmas fix now, I’ve also heard that PBS is re-airing the Christmas special finale from Season 5 on December 27, 2015. Downton Abbey Christmas

There’s something nostalgic about an old-time English Christmas. I guess it must be all those Masterpiece Theatre shows as well as holiday stories like A Christmas Carol. Here are some of the English Christmas traditions that stand out to me.

Christmas crackers children

An English Christmas dinner table is always set with Christmas crackers – NOT a food but the novelties that pull apart with a bang. They’re ‘cracked’ before Christmas dinner and the person who “wins” by keeping hold of the longest piece gets the prizes inside. They put on the paper crown and tell the (usually terrible) joke. Once everybody has a paper crown, the feast can commence! This illustration of two children tugging on a cracker dates back to 1878.

Yorkshire PuddingThe English Christmas meal is very similar to our own, except redcurrant jelly might replace cranberry sauce and roast parsnips are traditional too. Turkey is a favorite although in medieval England a roast peacock or wild boar might have been on the menu! King Henry VIII was the first English King to tuck into turkey for Christmas. Many families add a Yorkshire Pudding to the meal. This is not a dessert but a savory dish between an American biscuit and a savory pancake. If you want to try this tasty treat, here’s a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.

Christmas puddingAfter the meal comes the ‘real’ pudding: Christmas pudding or plum pudding. Except that it’s not a pudding in the way we understand a pudding either! Instead of being a custardy dish, it’s more like a dense steamed cake, full of dried raisins, cherries and other dried fruit and nuts. It’s traditional to hide a silver coin (in the old days it was a silver sixpence) inside the pudding. It’s good luck for whoever finds it in their bowl. Sometimes the pudding is doused in brandy or rum and then set alight as it is carried to the table. It is served with custard, rum butter, clotted cream, or a brandy sauce of thick cream with a few spoons of brandy stirred in.

Osborne House Festive Guided ToursFor snacks between meals or to accompany a pot of tea, everyone loves mince pies! Even if you don’t have servants to bring you mince pies on a silver tray, they are easy to make if you find a jar of the mincemeat in your local grocery store. Despite the name, there is no meat involved, although when the delicacy first appeared in the 13th century it was indeed real meat, seasoned with dried fruits and spices including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Now the meat has gone and just the sweet stuff remains, although suet is a part of the mix. If you don’t eat meat, look for products with vegetable suet rather than lard suet.

Christmas-decorations-Finally, the English take Boxing Day, December 26, as a national holiday as well as Christmas Day itself. It has nothing to do with the sport of boxing, although there are lots of sporting events on Boxing Day including horse racing. It is actually the day that people traditionally gave gifts (or boxes) to their servants and tradesmen. Nowadays most people don’t have servants but they still celebrate the day as a chance to visit friends or extended family and exchange gifts, or just relax and eat more mince pies!

This looks like a very grand and festive place to entertain visiting friends. It’s a picture of the Christmas tree at Holker Hall in Cumbria, England, the ancestral home of Lord Cavendish. Even the bust of the Greek poet Homer on the mantelpiece over the fireplace is decorated with a mistletoe wreath!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you might also like my post on Old World Christmas Traditions in France and Italy, or the one about Downton Abbey Kitchen Style.

Merry Christmas!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Traditional Christmas Decor Tour Part 2

In my last blog post, I started my tour of Traditional Christmas Decor in Every Room. We made our way from the front door through the foyer and peeked into several inspiring living rooms.  Now we’ll take the second part of our traditional Christmas decor tour.

First, let’s head into the kitchen to prepare the Christmas feast! This traditional kitchen invites everyone to gather round for egg nog while the figgy pudding is cooking. (However you are meant to cook figgy pudding…)

Nobody wants a cluttered kitchen, so the decorations here are cleverly kept to the kitchen island, with another display over the cabinet on the left. A Chef Santa, mini Christmas tree, and red candles in the center of the kitchen island still leave plenty of space for people to gather round for drinks and snacks. The mistletoe berries and silver festooned on the lamps create most of the merry mood – and those decorations don’t take up precious counter space at all.

Into the dining room we go to serve the turkey! Again the chandeliers are decorated with ribbons and bows to create a terrific focal point. The decorations feature an Old Gold color again, like the staircase in my previous holiday decor post. That shade seems to work beautifully with any room color scheme – almost like a rich neutral.

On the other hand, the gentle whites and deep evergreens at this holiday table look traditionally wintery but refreshingly serene. The slight Nordic style is enhanced by the reindeer decorations. The pretty birds on the plates also look festively chirpy! Soft white linens on the natural wood are set off by a trail of ivy down the center of the table, while white church pillar candles, surrounded by twinkling night lights in little holders, evoke the spiritual sense of Christmas.

Don’t forget the bedroom! Kids have their Christmas stockings but adults deserve some holiday spirit in the bedroom too. This bedroom has a few accessories added to bring in seasonal cheer: the two wreaths on the doors, the two bowls of white poinsettias in the en suite bathroom, and the two snowflake Christmas pillows on the bed. The symmetry of the pairs makes the environment feel pleasingly balanced and tranquil. If you are looking for pretty bedroom accessories, we have hand-woven traditional Christmas pillows and stockings in our online gallery.

Even the bathroom deserves a touch of festivity! The traditional Christmas decor in this classic bathroom includes mistletoe and greenery over the mirror. Red flowers and a red towel also add the ho-ho-holiday spirit. Decorative tricks like the fir cones tied with red ribbon from the wall sconces and a glass jar filled with red and silver Christmas ball ornaments are simple to do, but they pack a visual punch!

If you are looking for more Christmas decor ideas, check out my post on Christmas Table Decorations.

We’d love to hear your own traditional Christmas decor ideas and tips… tell us here or on our Facebook page.

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Traditional Christmas Decor in Every Room

Don’t just deck the halls with boughs of holly… add the Christmas touch to every room!
I hope that my mini tour of different homes with their holiday decor will provide you with inspiration for traditional Christmas decor in every room.

Let’s start our tour with the front door. This handsome front door in Atlanta, GA, is decorated with traditional greenery and red ribbons. But the black and white check ribbon adds a crisp touch and makes a great accent for the black door. It all looks charmingly vintage.

Moving into the foyer, the Christmas decorations on this splendid staircase in a home in Houston, TX, could be overwhelming as the scene is so ornate. But the single color tone – a lovely Old Gold – unifies the design and makes it look rich and harmonious rather than fussy.

If you don’t have such a huge and sweeping staircase in your foyer, then you can still make a small section of the stairway look wonderful. The key here is: Don’t hold back on the swags and flourishes! And speaking of don’t hold back…

The flamboyant “more is more” approach of this Grand Colonial style living room is so festive that it is like a Christmas movie. Where are the carol singers and the trays of hot buttered rum? How could any child (or adult) fail to feel the joy of the season if they spent one minute  in this celebratory living room? The decorations framing the armoire are amazing. Of course, we love the antique armoires in our gallery so we are biased.

Do you prefer living room decorations that are a little simpler, while still keeping a sense of tradition? Perhaps this fireplace in Seattle, WA, will inspire you. The fireplace is decorated with traditional elements, for sure. You have the red and green holiday colors, plus Christmas ornaments, logs and a wreath, and old-fashioned lamps with candles. But the styling is streamlined, which creates an updated and sleek mood. The symmetry of the design adds to the feel too.

Or you can take a completely different approach and stick with traditional design elements – the bauble-lavished tree, the garland draped across the fireplace – but give it a fresh twist with non-traditional colors. The ultra-feminine pink and turquoise color palette in this living room creates a fantasy land mood. White deer statues add more magic to the fantasy.

In Part 2 of our Traditional Christmas Decor Tour we look at the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom, all decorated with festive spirit!

These photos are from Houzz. You can find EuroLux Home on Houzz.com too.

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Elegant Halloween Decor: Black and White Thrills

As I said last year in my Vintage Halloween post, Greg and I don’t make a big celebration of Halloween, although we usually watch a creepy movie. But even those of us who don’t want to festoon our homes with plastic spiders can still get ‘into the spirit’ of Halloween with these elegant Halloween decor ideas.

An easy way to create grown-up and elegant Halloween decor is to strip out the orange plastic, the red blood, and the green Zombie brain slime! Go for monochrome with black, white, or black and white.

black and white table setting

elegant halloween table setting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black is Gothic, white is eerie and ethereal, and the two together always look stunning, providing a dash of vintage glamour. The table on the right is very simple, with just empty bottles for candlesticks. To create the look, use as many bottles as you can find of different heights.

Eclectic Living Room by St. John’s Interior Designers & Decorators Seaside Interiors
Here’s another example of how a simple black and white arrangement keeps all the Halloween elements (spider, pumpkin, bat, and boo!) but still looks chic. You probably already have some black and white decor items around the home… just pull them all together in one display.

Elegant halloween batmobileHow about this for a different type of bat-mobile? It’s very easy to make with a branch and card, using the bat templates and instructions by clever Martha Stewart. Hanging in a window, it adds a traditional but still elegant Halloween touch to your home.

I love the nostalgic vintage appeal of this spooky wreath! Make it with some twisted vines draped with white net fabric and old-fashioned Halloween ornaments and sepia photographs. Paint Boo! onto a piece of scrap wood for the finishing touch.

You can even add black and white to the traditional orange pumpkin to make it a bit different. Paint a pumpkin with a circle of chalkboard paint and then let your inner Picasso out! For a Halloween party, it would be fun to have the pumpkins painted with the black, and then give your guests a piece of chalk to create their own fantasy face.

blackberry-mr-hyde-cocktail-elegant-halloweenFor an elegant Halloween cocktail, this blackberry infused Mr. Hyde Potion is perfect for dark and mysterious strangers. It’s not exactly black and white, but it’s near enough. The Mr. Hyde Potion cocktail mixes vodka with parfait amour liqueur, blackberry liqueur, and tarragon and lavender syrups. Wow. You can get the recipe from HGTV. Serve the cocktail (or any cocktail) in an apothecary style jar to add to the Halloween atmosphere.

Or, for a bit more color, you could play Dracula and mix up a Bloody Mary to sink your fangs into. My Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary recipe is always a monster hit!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these elegant black and white Halloween decor ideas I scared up for you! If you have any more to share, let us know. You can post your photos on our Facebook page too.

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Things We Love: Homemade Christmas Fragrance

We’ve already shared some of our favorite recipes for Christmas cookies. Now we’ll make the house smell delicious with our homemade Christmas fragrance!

SnowmanGreg’s mom Kathy loves having all of the family come home for Christmas. Greg’s sister, Laura, and her family moved to Ohio several years ago, so it is great to have everyone back in South Carolina for the week surrounding Christmas. They enjoy coming south to get out of the snow! This is my brother-in-law, Mike, and my nephew, Matthew, with the snowman they made last week. We all love Kathy’s baking and she loves to bake – so it works out great!

Christmas Haystacks CookiesIn addition to Kathy’s recipes for Christmas cookies that I blogged about before, Kathy also makes Haystacks with chow mein noodles and peanuts in melted butterscotch bits. They look so festive on her lovely platter.

I readily admit – I am not much of a baker. I once made a “No Bake Strawberry Pie” for Greg. He took one bite and chokingly asked, “You didn’t bake the crust?” Nowhere in the stupid recipe did it say to bake the pie crust and the name of the recipe is “No Bake Strawberry Pie” – I rest my case! I haven’t attempted baking since.

As there isn’t much chance of any cookies baking at my house, I do like to add our special homemade Christmas fragrance at this time of the year. I learned this treat from Kathy – it is a wonderful way to make the house smell Christmas-y.

Talbot’s Homemade Christmas Fragrance

1 box whole cloves
1 box cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
Rind of 1 lemon – sliced
Rind of 1 orange – sliced

Throw all the ingredients in a small pot and cover them with water. Simmer the blend gently on a back burner during the holidays to make the house smell good. Top up the water as needed!

The homemade Christmas fragrance creates a festive holiday mood very quickly. The scent takes me back to some fond memories of Christmas past!

Kitten ChristmasHere’s a photo of me with Ozzie, affectionately known as Mr. Kittles, when he was a baby kitten a few years ago. We’re in front of the Christmas tree at Kathy’s house and I do love the way Kathy displays her red and green candles in vintage candlestick holders on the mantle.

Aimee First Christmas and Dad Going even further back to when I was a baby, here I am with my dad on my very first Christmas in 1971. Yep, I really wanted to get my hands on that stacking rings toy. But I’ll smile nicely at the camera if it means I can get to the goodies quicker!

Greg at ChristmasHere’s Greg at about 16 months old, opening presents in the middle of Christmas chaos. Any boy with a puppy, a ball, and a cowboy outfit has to be in seventh heaven, right?

If you try our family’s homemade Christmas fragrance, I’d love to hear if you enjoy it! Tell us in the comments box below, or share your own favorite holiday scents.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Christmas Cookies and Franklin Nut Cake

We are so lucky at this time of year! Kathy makes tray after tray after tray of Christmas cookies – she likes to give out gifts of cookies to the neighbors. Kathy is Greg’s mom and also our Mrs Fixit who handles all our restorations. Of course, she can’t stand the idea of her family not being able to eat as many cookies as humanly possible.

Kathy makes sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter blossoms, magic cookie bars, gingerbread, the Christmas cookies list goes on and on. However, Greg’s dad John and I agree on our favorite cookie – the white chocolate peanut butter sandwiches. In case you have never tried this scrumptious treat, here is Kathy’s recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Christmas Cookies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Decide how many cookies you want to make – you’ll need twice that number of Ritz crackers. Spread peanut butter on half the Ritz crackers and use the other half as sandwich tops. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler. Carefully dip each peanut butter sandwich into the melted chocolate until it is coated, then set on wax paper and top with a pecan. Allow to dry. (Hide them from the family until you want to serve them as they tend to disappear quickly.)

Magic Christmas Cookie BarsGreg’s favorite Christmas cookies are Magic Cookie Bars. These are also pretty darn good, especially if you like coconut.

Kathy’s Magic Cookie Bars

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for a glass dish). Melt the margarine in the oven in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle Graham crumbs over the margarine. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the crumbs and then top evenly with remaining ingredients. Press down firmly and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store the cookie bars loosely covered at room temperature.

Franklin Nut Cake

However, Kathy doesn’t stop at just Christmas cookies. She also makes fruit cakes and my favorite, Franklin Nut Cake. Greg’s sister Laura and I agree that Franklin Nut Cake is fantastic for breakfast with a steaming cup of coffee – especially if you want to curl up with a good book while you nibble and sip. Franklin Nut Cake is actually a very old family recipe, handed down from Kathy’s mother, Margaret.

Margaret’s Franklin Nut Cake

1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb. chopped candied cherries (red and green)
1/2 lb. chopped candied pineapple
1 lb. chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla
NOTE: Save a few whole cherries and pecan halves to decorate the top of the cake.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the beaten eggs. Add 3 cups of the flour sifted with the baking powder and salt. Mix remaining cup of flour with chopped cherries, pineapple, and nuts. Stir into batter and then add vanilla. Pour into a tube pan that has been heavily greased and floured. Decorate with saved cherries and nuts. Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degrees for 3 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan.

This cake is really rich, moist, and tasty! Even people who don’t like fruit cake love this. John is a case in point.

If you try these Christmas cookies and cake recipes, we’d love to know if you enjoy them! Tell us in the comments box below… or share your own Christmas cookies recipes.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Christmas Table Decorations

I always love making the house festive for the holidays. Dreaming up new ideas for our Christmas table decorations is especially fun, and a great way to get into the holiday mood. I enjoyed browsing these creative Christmas table decorations, and I hope they will inspire your ho-ho-ho-holiday spirit too!

Red and White Christmas table decorationsThe rich burst of red is a seasonal tradition, but this Christmas table decoration design also packs an updated and elegant punch. The purity of red and white is made even more stunning with no other color to dilute its impact. But the stars hanging from the ceiling really make this arrangement stand out from the crowd. The stars are such a simple detail and easy to do, but they create a powerful impression and evoke images of the Nativity.

 This chic dining table setting has a hint of French flair about it! The silver, white, and navy color combination rings the changes from the more usual Christmas scheme of red and green. And the love birds theme is very sweet!

In a similar vein, this white and silver Christmas table decoration looks pristine and pretty. The setting stands out so elegantly because it is placed on a black or very dark brown table. This makes the white table runner, flatware, candles, and napkins really pop! The setting itself is actually quite simple, but the silver-sprayed pine cones and tall white buds pull the whole look together. The flowers’ green stems add a lively note and prevent the table looking too stark.

Many small and thoughtful details add up to this rather eclectic holiday table by Edmonton Interior Designers & Decorators. The red ribbon tied around the “gift-wrapped” chairs creates a festive atmosphere. (If you like the look of these chairs, we have some similar sets of linen-covered chairs in the gallery – minus the ribbon! – and more on the way. Email me and I’ll send you links.) The table is strewn with strings of red beads and flowers hang from the chandelier. If you look closely, you’ll see that the framed letters on the mantle spell out “Merry Christmas.”

Mason Jar Christmas Table DecorationFinally, the homely mason jar is cleverly made into an attractive Christmas table decoration by the addition of some winter greenery layered with cranberries. The jar is filled with water and a floating tea light. It would make a striking centerpiece, and look great on a mantle too. Or place a row down the middle of your holiday table and your decor job is complete!

Also check out my previous post on how to fold a napkin into an orchid fold, which would look especially lovely on a Victorian Christmas table.

If you have a favorite trick to make your holiday table sparkle, or any links to photos of Christmas table decorations that you love, tell us in the comment box below!

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Old World Christmas Traditions

Greg and I aren’t taking an antiques buying trip to Europe during this holiday season because we’re too busy filling customer orders for gifts. But I love thinking about interesting Old World Christmas traditions – especially the food! It’s fascinating to see the different ways people in France, England, and Italy celebrate the holidays. While some of these Old World Christmas traditions are familiar to us too, at least in certain regions of the USA or Canada, others are less well-known.

Old World Christmas Traditions in France

Old World Christmas Traditions: FranceDid you know that instead of hanging up a stocking for Santa Claus, children in France often leave shoes out by the fireplace for le Père Noël to fill? Around the holidays, French bakeries are busy making Galette des Rois or King’s Cake. The puff pastry cake is filled with frangipane or almond paste to be enjoyed around Epiphany on January 6. That date is also known as Twelfth Night, to close the twelve days of Christmas. The Galette des Rois traditionally had a lucky bean hidden inside it. Over the centuries that changed to a little charm. If you are served the slice with the charm in it, then you are crowned King for the Day!

Old World Christmas Traditions in England

Mince pies: Old World Christmas traditions

It isn’t an English Christmas without a plate of mince pies! The pies are filled with mincemeat — despite the savory-sounding name the tarts are actually a dessert treat. The mincemeat is a sweet blend of dried fruits, spices, and usually a hearty dash of brandy or rum.

Robin and mince pieThe photo of the robin taking a nibble of a mince pie is just so cute, but also the robin is symbolic of Christmas in England. You often see robins on Christmas cards there. European robins are much smaller than our American ones, and they have a deep red breast. Some say the robin’s red breast is associated with the blood of Christ. Others tell the nativity tale, where the night of the holy birth was so cold in the Bethlehem stable that Mother Mary asked the animals to help warm baby Jesus as the fire near the manger started to die out. Then Mary heard the flapping of wings and looked down to see a tiny plain brown bird fanning his wings at the fading embers, till the fire burst up brightly again to warm the Christ child. In the process, a flame burned the robin’s breast a vivid red, the color it has been ever since.

Old World Christmas traditions: Christmas crackersChristmas crackers are also essential to English celebrations. They are ‘cracked’ before Christmas dinner begins, by one person pulling on each end. The cracker splits apart with a bang, and a trinket, a joke, and a paper hat fall out. You often see Christmas crackers in American stores now too. It’s important to realize that you don’t expect the joke to be very good. It’s usually some kind of groaner!

Old World Christmas Traditions in Italy

Old World Christmas traditions: PanettonePanettone is one of the most delicious Italian Christmas treats. The light and fluffy sweetened fruit bread is shaped like a tall puffy chimney. It originated in Milan and some say its long history stretches back as far as Ancient Rome. Panettone appeared in a 16th century Bruegel painting, and was baked for emporers and popes!

Panettone is tasty on its own, usually served with sweet wine or liqueur. You can also make a quick and sophisticated dessert dish by toasting slices of Panettone, and topping them with a fruit compote. Make a compote with frozen or fresh fruit cooked with a little sugar and water, plus some cornstarch to thicken the syrup if needed. Any fruit will work, but frozen mixed summer berries add a festive splash of color and the tart flavor complements the sweet bread. Pears poached in wine would be wonderful too! Then sprinkle some snowy confectioners sugar on top and add a dollop of whipped cream.

Children shepherdsAnother sweet Old World Christmas tradition: Italian children dress up head-to-toe as shepherds when they go carol-singing. Bless them! Then on Christmas Eve, Italian households bring out the Urn of Fate. The Urn of Fate is a large bowl that holds lots of small presents.  Family members take it in turn to take their chance in a kind of lucky dip.

Do you have any favorite Old World Christmas traditions that you enjoy in your family? Tell us about it in the comments box below.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her husband and best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Best of November 2013: Holiday Gifts, Folk Art & French Inspirations

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! Don’t forget that our 20% discount on everything in our EuroLuxAntiques.com inventory continues until December 3, and we include free shipping too – just as we always do. Now there’s a holiday gift to make Santa smile! Simply enter the coupon code at checkout: HappyHolidays

This month on the blog I’ve enjoyed getting my fix of French inspirations, writing about Beaujolais Nouveau Day for starters! At this time of year Greg and I are far too busy to take one of our antiques buying trips to France. We’re a regular Santa’s workshop here, packing up all the orders for holiday gifts. I’m also on the phone a lot, talking with our customers about their selections, especially with the fine antique furniture. They want to be sure they’ve found the perfect match for their home and I want the same thing.

Maybe we should wear Santa hats!  I’ll try to talk Greg into that. Meanwhile, let’s revisit some of our most popular November posts.

Château de Bagnols fireplaceChâteau de Bagnols in France was built in the 13th century, but now it’s a castle hotel where anyone can stay. After a $16 million restoration it is kitted out with stunning interiors, including tons of original antiques. The grounds are as gorgeous as the inside of the castle, with medieval towers, formal French gardens and a 100-year old lime tree terrace. See a panoramic view of the castle and more inspiring rooms in my Château de Bagnols post.

Antique chinese screen over the mantel
Our client Chris is retiring with her husband to a new house. Chris wanted a large and unique piece to decorate the mantel in the new living room. She chose a 1900 Late Qing Dynasty Chinese window screen. The folk art screen is ornately hand-carved with symbols of good fortune and prosperity. We hope those good fortune symbols are lucky charms for Chris and her husband as they enjoy their retirement! See more photos and what all the carved symbols mean in our client spotlight on the antique Chinese folk art screen.
holiday gift ideas: antique French clockCheck out my holiday gifts suggestions post if you’re looking for unique gift ideas for your loved ones. Or even if you are just taking advantage of our 20% discount for new additions to your own home. You’ll find even more ideas in our recent EuroLux Antiques newsletter. While we’re best known for our “fine antiques for regular folks” we also carry some unusual and exquisite home decor accents in the gallery, as well as newly-made, antique-inspired furnishings.
Oysters and Bloody MaryWe can’t wait to enjoy my Uncle Dick’s Famous Bloody Mary as part of our family Thanksgiving feast! It’s usually served with our appetizer of oysters on the half shell. Next day we relish yet more oysters when my grandmother Elsie dishes up her traditional delicacy: Elsie’s Oyster Stew. If your mouth is watering as much as mine is, I shared the family’s culinary secrets in my Bloody Mary and Oyster Stew recipes post!
Happy Thanksgiving!

 Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.