How France’s Christmas compares to other European countries

Curfews in Italy and Spain, bubbles and tiers in the UK and just one festive guest allowed in Belgium

15 December 2020
By Connexion journalist

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that Christmas this year will be unlike the others due to the ongoing global pandemic caused by Covid-19.

Just like France, countries all around Europe have put in place a variety of different restrictions over the festive period. 

We compare and contrast the rules.

France

France’s lockdown ended on December 15 and was replaced with a 20:00 to 06:00 curfew, that can only be broken for a few essential reasons.

This curfew will be lifted for one night only on December 24, to allow families and friends to celebrate Christmas together. 

The government is advising no more than six adults get together for a meal at Christmas. 

Inter-regional travel is permitted in France and trains and planes should be running normally. 

All shops have been open in France since November 28.

Restaurants and cafés will remain closed until at least January 20. As for bars and clubs, no date has yet been set for them to reopen.

France has closed ski lifts over Christmas with the government to review this decision on January 7.

The daily Covid-19 cases have dropped dramatically since the end of October, when lockdown was introduced, going from an average of over 50,000 to around 10,000 today. 

Easy-look graph: The evolution of Covid-19 cases in France

Germany

Germany, facing increasing Covid cases, is tightening its lockdown restrictions over Christmas.

The country is now reporting over 30,000 daily cases, despite the fact that restaurants and bars have been closed for the past six weeks. 

The government has now made the decision to also close schools and non-essential shops. 

The school holiday will also be extended by one week until January 10. 

The government is advising against travel within the country and out of the country. 

However, unlike in France where there was a system of exemption forms (attestations de déplacement), people will not need to carry any proof when leaving their homes. 

Gatherings from December 24 to 26 are to remain restricted and should be between very close family members only. 

The UK

Restrictions in the UK vary depending on the area, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales setting their own rules. 

For the Christmas period, the rules are similar.

Currently, the UK government has set a five-day window (six-day in Northern Ireland) that will allow three households to mix (maximum of eight adults in Scotland only) between December 23 to December 27. These are known as temporary “Christmas bubbles”. 

There will be no travel restrictions during this five-day window. People are still allowed to meet outdoors with members of households not in their bubble, as long as they follow other covid-related rules. These rules vary depending on which “tier” a city is in. 

Pubs and restaurants are open in some parts of the UK where the virus is circulating less actively. 

The UK government is now re-considering these plans due to increasing Covid cases and may reduce the Christmas window to three days and reduce the number of households permitted to mix from three to two. 

Italy

Italy has recorded the most number of deaths from Covid-19 of all the European countries, at more than 64,000. 

Inter-regional travel will be prohibited from December 21 until January 6. This includes travel to second homes. 

It will also be forbidden to travel from one town to another on December 25 and 26 and on January 1. 

A 22:00 to 05:00 curfew will remain in place. This will be extended to 07:00 on the morning of January 1. 

The number of people attending Christmas lunches should be limited as much as possible but there is no fixed rule. 

Ski lifts will remain closed until January 7.

Switzerland 

Like Germany, Switzerland’s Covid-19 situation is getting worse, with more than 5,000 cases per day now being recorded, compared to a few hundred in the Spring.

From December 22, all shops, bars and restaurants must close from 19:00. In regions where the virus is more under control, this can be extended to 23:00.

An exception will apply to all regions on December 24 and 31 when establishments will be allowed to stay open until 01:00. 

Groups of five people from two households are currently allowed to meet. This will be extended to 10 people for December 24 to 26 and on December 31.

Ski lifts and stations are open. 

Spain

Between December 23 and January 6 inter-regional travel is forbidden, except for essential needs or to visit family to celebrate festivities. 

No more than 10 people, including children, should get together on December 24, 25 and 31 and January 1. 

A curfew is in place throughout Spain with the time different depending on each region. For Christmas and New Year this curfew will be extended to 01:30. Bars and restaurants are open. 

Ski stations and lifts in Catalonia are open, although only people living in this area should have access to them as the region remains partially closed. 

Belgium

Restrictions in Belgium are tight. 

The government has asked each household to host only one person for Christmas, or two for people living alone. 

A curfew is in place between 00:00 and 05:00. 

Belgium has been in partial lockdown for the past six weeks, although schools have remained open. 

On December 1, shops were reopened.

Read more:

Christmas in France: The Basque tradition of 'Olentzero'

Noël 2020: Which festive tipples will you choose?

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