Did you ever wonder how Christmas is celebrated in other countries and what they wear to do so? Christmas traditions differ among families and countries. For example, hosting an open house is an Alaska Christmas tradition. This post gives a general glimpse on German and Dutch holiday season traditions, and features holiday looks from around the World for various ways of celebration. Read to get inspired. Happy Holidays
- Holidays mean dressing up
- Holiday Looks from the Old World
- Germans Celebrate Christmas Three Days in a Row
- German Holiday Season Traditions
- No Holiday Wear for Adults
- German Visiting the In-Laws Outfit
- The Netherlands
- Great Britain
- Holiday dressing in the New World
- Casual with family and friends holiday look
- Cocktail with friends at a resort
- Office party
- Church outfit
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Holidays mean dressing up
Like Christmas traditions vary from country to country so do the traditions of what to wear for the holiday. The one thing in common around the World is that Christmas celebrations ask for dressing up. No matter whether you spend the day with the wider family, go to church or have brunch at a restaurant. In some countries, even special wear exists for the holiday. Some are tasteless, kitschy like the ugly holiday sweater, some are a long-term wardrobe additions that you wear over and over again. Here I am not talking about Christmas jewelry.
In this post, I show you how dressing for the holiday looks in various countries and even regions.
Holiday Looks from the Old World
In Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary), Christmas Eve (December 24) is the day for the gifting and celebrations. The food is more like that of a fasting day like potato salad with Vienners. Typically, this day is celebrated in the close family, i.e. only the parents and their underage kids. In conservative families, Sunday’s Best does the trick. Otherwise a posh casual skirt look is ok. The 25th is reserved for Church and family visits with the grandparents and in-laws. An elevated version of Sunday’s Best or new clothing (for kids) is common expectation.
Of course, the celebrations all involved overeating. Therefore, it was hard to avoid gaining weight during the holidays.
Germans Celebrate Christmas Three Days in a Row
To accommodate both parts of the family plus the own little family there are two Christmas days plus Christmas Eve in Germany. All three days are off for most employees except some of those who work in public service, retail, gastronomy, etc. You get the idea. Thus, many young couples celebrate one of the three days with their own kids, and visit on one day his and on the other day her family. Doing so, allows for both grandparent couples to see their grand-kids at Christmas. Thus, a German Christmas can be quite stressful when having to spend a lot time on the roads to please everyone. Some feel like whatever they do, they cannot please anyone.
German Holiday Season Traditions
When I was a kid, only St. Nicholas would wear red-white and black. However, not on December 25, but on December 6, the St. Nicholas’ Day. He looks like Santa Claus, however, he was totally disconnected form the holiday. It also wasn’t a day off. Just kids would put their boots outside their room on St. Nicholas’ Day Eve and would wake up to find the boots filled with cookies, a little toy and sometime a piece of clothes. If they had not behaved well, they would find a bunch of twigs. They were supposed to be used by Knecht (knight) Ruprecht to hit the kid for punishment.
Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, the Christmas Child. It was the Child who would bring the gifts.
German Visiting the In-Laws Outfit
Prior to our immigration to Alaska, my husband and I used to visit our families the two days before Christmas. When visiting my in-laws I always went for a respectful, feminine look that still represents my style, for instance, an outfit like the one shown in the photo above. In Germany, it was expected that you would not wear anything overly sexy, i.e. no cleavage or mini skirt. It also was wise to steer away from anything too girly like a cute floral skirt, too body conscious, or sheer except for tights.
In the US, I would always recommend not to wear anything leather! On the contrary, in Germany, leather is fine for visiting the in-laws. Plain leather and suede are considered elegant, and luxury. Here, in the US, leather is more associated with Rock’n Roll and/or Street Style Chic.
No Holiday Wear for Adults
Speaking of cultural differences, most German women over 40 would not wear the typical Christmas sweaters or the beautiful holiday dresses that are so popular in the US and UK. The brightest color would be red as it is conceived as a feminine neutral, sort of. Therefore, red with winter white and black are save color-wise, but also tricky. One has to pay attention not to look like Nikolaus’ wife. A red sheath with white turtleneck underneath, black tights, and boots would be such a fashion faux pas. However, such an outfit would also get three No-Nos here in the United States. 😉
The next photo shows an example for a respectful Euro chic visiting the in-laws outerwear. Why is the outerwear important? First of all because of the road trip; second you need a cover-up for the traditional Christmas walk after lunch.
Half of the family on my paternal side are Dutch. I remember my Dutch great-aunts and great cousins wearing black dresses or black skirts with floral blouses with black background and booties for holidays and celebrations of all kinds. Nancy of Nancy’s Fashion Style presents a typical black Dutch Christmas look, but way more stylish.
Note that in the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is called Sinterklaas. He has the same role like in middle Europe. On the contrary, Santa Claus is called Kristman, and comes from Lappland in Finland to bring gifts.
I don’t know about you, but I always google for the photos of what the Royals wore for going to church on the 25th. It’s understated solid colors and occasionally a plaid coat, simple hats and pantyhose for the women and black. Ok, there also exists the (mandatory?) ugly Xmas sweater outfit family photo from The Observer. I wonder whether it’s photoshopped.
Holiday Dressing in the New World
Here on the other side of the pond, styling Christmas outfits is complicated. It may even need some planning outfits ahead. It all depends on where you go, what the plans are, who is company, and the time of the day. This may mean changing the look several times that day.
You can find much more about wearing the right look in every life situation in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy my book now. It’s a great gift for yourself or any fashionable woman in your life.
Casual with family and friends holiday look
When I was in High School in the early 1980s, one of my friends knitted a sweater in purple and a pink Santa Claus riding his sled with several reindeers. I asked her why she spends so much time on making a sweater that she can only wear in a time slot of 26 days (Recall in Germany, they celebrate on December 25 and 26.).
In other words, I never understood the ugly Xmas-sweater thing until Andy of Pearl and Pantsuits made me revise my pre-justice. Her version of this traditional All American Classic Must-have looks like a graphic T-shirt with long sleeves, and I love graphic tees. Her outfit is perfect for playing with the kids or sitting on the couch, drinking coco and munching cookies while watching the Nutcracker, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Edelweiss, The Shop Around the Corner (known in Europe as You’ve Got Mail) or other holiday movies.
Cocktail with Friends at a Resort
This time of the year means travel for many Americans. Either for family reunions or vacation. Both often are at a resort. There the adults often meet at the bar for cocktails after dinner. Robin LaMonte of Hello I’m 50ish is perfectly dressed for after dinner drinks. This look is easy to pack too. It works because of the pops of red with the statement necklace and pumps.
Like in Europe, black always works. Suzanne the wardrobe stylist of Ask Suzanne Bell went for a black sequin skirt, classic top and feather embellished sleeve cardigan to create a festive outfit.
Cynthia Scurry of Middle Sister Style wears a sequin top with a layered see-thru maxi skirt. Perfect for a fancy Holiday party.
Julie, one of the authors of Fashion, Trends and Friends, shows a great outfit inspiration for a party at the office. Plaid in any color would work as it is the pattern of the season. More on the best looks to wear to the work holiday party.
Nina of Sharing a Journey wears a Southern going-to-church look. She lives in Florida. It looks like she has a White Christmas.
What will you wear on December 25? Have you already made your plans? How is your gift shopping list doing? Just curious.
Photos courtesy to these bloggers
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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