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Traditional Norwegian jumpers for the festive season
Continuing our mini-series on festive traditions in Europe, we get the low-down from Katarina Poensgen about how to celebrate Christmas Norwegian style. The key is apparently always watching the same old films on TV, including Czechoslovak fairy tale from the 1970s...
It is a cold and snowy 24 December in Norway, a.k.a. Christmas time. People are gathered inside their cosy homes with their families. The gingerbread, Christmas soda (a brown-hued fizzy drink) and marzipan is laid out on the living room table; everyone is ready and waiting for 11 am.
This is the time when the Norwegians’ beloved Czechoslovak movie Three Wishes for Cinderella from 1973 begins. It is a traditional Cinderella story with a twist: Cinderella has three nuts containing three wishes (or rather outfits, including her pink ballroom gown), instead of a fairy Godmother. The story itself is in fact based on a 19th century fairy tale by Božena Němcová, a great Czech writer. Although technically a joint Czechoslovak and East German production, with actors from both of those countries too, the movie as a whole is viewed as Czechoslovak to us Norwegians. The main reason for this might be because the lead role is played by beautiful Czech actress Libuše Šafránková (who also appeared in many other fairy tale movies such as The Third Prince, The Little Mermaid, and The Prince and the Evening Star in her home country). All the voices are dubbed, however, by Norwegian actor Knut Risan. Risan’s most famous voice impression is that of the royal tutor, who nags the prince and his friends all the time about their studies – but of course his high-pitched girly voices for the women are also a big bonus. This is not only hilarious every single year, but reminds every Norwegian family that it really is Christmas time.
|Photo: Danielle Harms; Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Old ladies singing carols at Budapest's Christmas market
In the run-up to the winter holidays, E&M's little series about Christmas traditions in Europe continues. This time around, Ana Maria Ducuta takes us inside traditions in Hungary and her mother country Romania, where the Christmas period actually starts in mid-November.
Christmas. The magical word that brings so much profit to merchandisers and supermarkets, making people so eager to buy and spend their money on useless things who somehow compensate for all the bad things that happened throughout the year. The new consumerist dimension of Christmas has basically drowned out its magical meaning and emotional attachment, making it a celebration of irrational spending. But for centuries, Christmas traditions were not only a way of carrying and conveying a message through generations, but also a moment of introspection and the chance to step into an alternative universe, where we find our identity in the customs and traditions of our ancestors. After all, it's all about understanding people's souls. And that is what traditions do: they carry a little piece of soul and identity across time. Christmas traditions are different across Eastern Europe, but they all carry a very important meaning that should remind us that each Christmas could be a re-birth and a new beginning, if only we’d take the chance to search for and find ourselves. In the former Eastern bloc, Christmas was not celebrated during the communist period which lasted until early 1990s (1989-1992) but after democracy was restored restored, Christmas traditions regained their place and importance. Let's take a look at what happens in Romania and Hungary.
Christmas is a magical time everywhere in the world and Hungary is no exception. Hungarian Christmas starts with the celebration of Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. Meanwhile, front yards and tables are decorated with advent wreaths with four candles. Every Sunday before Christmas, one more candle is lit until the last one, which is lit on Christmas Eve, the most important evening in Hungarian Christmas traditions.
Renaming streets following the collapse of communism in Hungary
In the next edition of our mini-series marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in many parts of Central and Southeastern Europe, we hear from Dora Vuk about growing up in post-socialist Hungary and memories of the socialist era.
The moment I was asked to write about my impressions of the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism, I was forced to realise that my feelings, memories related to this occasion, and the stories I had heard from my parents and grandparents about communism were more complex and ambivalent than I had thought before. So I decided not only to highlight the significance of the subsequent transition in our lives, but also to use scraps of thoughts to present my impressions of the so-called "socialist era" and the last 25 years.
As I originally come from a small Croatian community settled at the Hungarian border with Croatia, most of the scenes appearing now before my eyes are in a particular way related to this minority population and its life in a period characterised by totalitarian policy, and in another, a more free one after that came later. I remember my grandmother and one of her memories from her childhood after the Second World War – when, during the realisation of the state ownership programme, the Hungarian Secret Police (ÁVO, after 1956 ÁVH) took all of her family's agricultural land, animals, and cereals. Once, when the police came, she had to hide in the attic with a basket of corn to ensure that they would have the necessary amount of food to survive the winter.
Every January in Italy, an old woman, very similar to a witch, delivers gifts to children (or coal, depending on whether they have behaved well or not during the previous year)
With the Christmas celebrations coming up soon, it's the right time to learn more about traditions that sometimes overlap but can also differ from country to country. Taking advantage of the fact that she's lived in different European cities, Nicoletta Enria uncovers the origins and current life of lesser-known European Christmas traditions featuring, among others, a witch and tasty desserts. Stay tuned on E&M to read more about Christmas traditions in Europe.
Advent has begun and with it the countdown to the most awaited holiday of the year. Christmas decorations appear as if from thin air, the temperature halves and overall the atmosphere seems to be one of blissful joy, no matter what. There is nothing like wondering through a Christmas market or merely observing Christmas decorations and feeling that inexplicable explosion of excitement. Originally, Christmas was solely the celebration of the birth of Christ but, interesting enough, in Arabic the word for birthday and Christmas are the same. Due to its origin, Christmas is mainly celebrated in Christian countries, however it has seeped its way into the atheist homes with each European country, region and household developing its own unique traditions.
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