03 December 2013

Holiday Special Review: Rick Steves' European Christmas

For more than one hundred episodes, travel writer Rick Steves has traveled about Europe (and occasionally western Asia) illuminating our view of its historical and social past. In this delightful Christmas edition of his show, Rick shows us how various European countries celebrate Christmas as well as some special days in December and January, such as St. Lucia's day in Norway, St. Nicholas Day, and the visit of La Befana in Italy on January 6. Each of the countries come with its own version of Santa Claus—from Father Christmas in Great Britain to PerĂ© Noel in France to the Juletomten in Norway—and special customs like mince pies for the twelve days of Christmas, rice pudding with an almond in it, living Nativities, and Christmas angels. This is a brightly done, festive confection that features some splendid musical performances and all the trimmings of sensory overload, so vivid that you can smell the treats cooking and the warm waxy scent of candles in church and hot chestnuts from a street vendor, feel the cold and crunch of the snow, hear the snick of the skates and the skis, and immerse yourself in the bright colors of Christmas markets.

Probably the part that will make everyone smile the most is the idyllic Swiss Christmas, in which Steves and his family accompany friends up a mountain to cut a Christmas tree and return at dusk, sliding down the mountain on sleds and lighting their way with torchlights, in Rick's favorite town, Gimmelwald. They also go on a twilight sleigh ride in Austria. It's like a Christmas dream come true.

Carols, sleigh rides, yummy food, colorful markets, a feast for the eyes and ears—just the thing for a cold December night (or a warm one, at that) to get you in the holiday mood!

Countries traveled: England, Norway, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. Smiles generated: an entire hour's worth. Merry Christmas!

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