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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
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