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Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00

A Merry Norwegian TV Christmas

Norwegian jumper
Photo: Gunnar Bothner-By (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0
 

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.

Published in Postcards from Europe

 

Christmas Ukraine tree
Photo: Ivan Bandura; Licence: CC BY 2.0
 
This Christmas tree was going to be put up on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence square) during the wave of 
demonstrations in Kyiv back in December 2013
 

 

This round, E&M author Ana Maria Ducuta, a Romanian student, takes up the challenge and enriches our little series on Christmas traditions by looking at what happens in Poland and Ukraine. Between animals that may speak with human voices if they eat a traditional dish and weather forecasts that influence people's future, the two countries definitely have interesting traditions to read about.  

Ukraine

 

In Ukraine Christmas is celebrated on the 7 of January. The country, in fact, follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian one. Although during the Soviet Union Christmas was not officially celebrated there, after gaining independence in 1991 Ukraine started to celebrate it once again. Now the period between 7 and 14 January is a festive week and many Ukrainian Christmas traditions, which are actually based on pre-Christian pagan customs, take place within that period. But Ukrainian Christmas rituals are also dedicated to God, to the welfare of the family and to the remembrance of ancestors.

 

Published in Under Eastern Eyes

 

hungary christmas.jpg
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. 

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.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Friday, 12 December 2014 00:00

A merry, wacky European Christmas

befana
Photo: Bas Ernst; Licence:  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 
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.

Published in Beyond Europe

Junyuan Chen comes from China, but dreams of living long-term in Europe, where he is currently studying. 22 years old, he takes pictures in his free time, immortalising the landscapes of our beautiful continent. Two of his shots won first and second place in our Europe Through a Lens competition last month. E&M's Veronica Pozzi caught up with this young and motivated photographer, whose works so impressed our judges, to hear more.

 

Junyuan Chen

Junyuan's passion for photography was born in an unusual way. "Originally my hobby was actually making plastic models", he tells our magazine. "I bought a camera to take nice photos of my models. That's how I learnt some basic knowledge about photography: I haven't taken any lessons, I learn all the concepts and techniques through the internet (e.g. YouTube, forums) and books".

 

Originally from China, he is now pursuing a Master's degree in Accounting at the University of Glasgow, in the UK. It is not anything related to photography, that's for sure, but it was right after studying abroad for the first time that he picked up photography as his major hobby. In Glasgow, he is also a member of the University Photo Society, where he likes to "share ideas with fellows and take photos together with them". Thanks to a post on the society's Facebook page he first heard about the E&M photo competition. He then decided to enter two of his works for the November's edition of the contest, the theme of which was "Europe at night". "I wanted to test myself", he explains. And it went well. Let's find out a little more about his prize-winning pictures...

 

Published in Europe Through a Lens
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 00:00

Europe Through a Lens – December 2014

ETAL logosmall

They say a picture paints a thousand words, so we've set out to discover what photography might be able to tell us about today's Europe.

Here at E&M, we don't just want to know what young Europeans think about Europe, we also want to find out how they see and feel the continent. Sixth Sense plays host to a photo competition called Europe Through a Lens and we publish a selection of our readers' photographic work on a regular basis. All you have to do is submit images that you think best represent our European theme of the month.

With the festive season upon us, we've settled on the theme of "Illuminated Europe". Entries could be anything from Christmas trees decked out with fairy lights to fireworks in night sky or candle-lit suppers. It's all down to you and your powers of imagination: feel free to interpret the theme however you see fit!

Published in Europe Through a Lens
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