The Nativity Fast begins 40 days before Christmas Day and has two aspects: spiritual and physical. The spiritual aspect of fasting is the abstention from evil thoughts and deeds. The physical aspect entails the complete avoidance of fatty foods, which includes all animal-sourced food products (meat, milk, dairy products and eggs). Fish may be eaten on certain days.
On Christmas Eve, the owner of the house goes out early in the morning to collect an oak branch (badnjak) which is brought into the house at sunset that evening. Christmas Eve dinner is strictly in accordance with church rules on fasting and bread is not cut by knife, but broken by hand. Apart from yeast-free round-bread, fish, honey, wine and bean stew are consumed, as well as walnuts, apples, pears, prunes, dates, other dried fruit, almonds and hazelnuts.The Nativity Fast ends on Christmas Day which Serbs celebrate according to the old Julian calendar, meaning that it falls on 7th January by the modern calendar. The položajnik is the first person to enter the house on Christmas morning and it is believed that he brings well-being to the home. He greets the household members by saying, “Christ is born!” (Hristos se rodi!) to which the household replies, “He is born indeed!” (Vaistinu se rodi!)
Christmas dinner is formal and consists of certain ceremonial foods which are only prepared on this day: Christmas pečenica (roasted whole pig) and česnica – a cake of wheat flour in which a coin is hidden and which is only broken by hand. Whoever finds the coin in their portion of bread will have good fortune for the next year.
Koninginnedag, also known as Queens Day, is an annual celebration in Holland that all Dutch citizens, as well as many foreigners, clubs, bars, and beer vendors, look forward to. Celebrated on the 30th of April (besides the one off 29th, which happens when the 30th is on a Sunday), everyone dresses in their bright orange attire and heads out onto the streets.
The tradition first was first celebrated on the 31st of August 1885, as Princess’s Day. This was to celebrate the popular Princess Wilhelmina’s 5th birthday. When she inherited the throne in 1980 it was named Queen’s Day. When her daughter, Queen Juliana, took the throne, the day was moved to the 30th of April, her birthday. The next generation of the royal family, Queen Beatrix, kept the current Queens Day as a tribute to her mother. This year, 2013, will be the last Queens Day for a while, as Queen Beatrix will be abdicating from her throne and passing it on to her son, the first king of The Netherlands in over 100 years, King Willem-Alexander. Therefore, from now on Kings Day shall be celebrated on the 27th of April, his birthday.
The celebrations start off with Koninginnenacht, or Queen’s Night. This is basically a pre-party to Queens Day where many nightclubs and bars have special events going on. After a long night of partying, many head out and try to sell, or buy, junk on the free market. This is the only day where people are allowed to sell on the street without a permit and having to pay the extremely high tax rates. Others go to one of the many concerts organised throughout the country. In the capital, it is also common to find the canals filled with long queues of boats trying to get into the city centre. Miraculously, despite all the terrible weather forecasts, Queens Day always seems to turn out like a sunny and warm summer’s day; but maybe it’s just because everyone is dressed in the bright national colour: orange.
By many, Queen’s Day is no longer seen as a celebration of the Dutch monarchy, but more a day to unite, drink, have fun, be loud, and just have one massive national party.
– Michelle, Amsterdam
Hi! My name is Paulina Czarnecki, and I’m a teenager from Poland living in the United States. I blog at www.paulinaczarnecki.wordpress.com and I’m honored to be guest posting on the Europhiles today!
I was asked to write a blog post about Polish traditions around this time of year. I’m going to talk about St. Dominic’s Fair that takes place in the last couple of weeks of July in my favorite Polish city of Gdańsk.
My father is from Gdańsk, which is a large city in the north of Poland, on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Every year in July, the streets of the Old Town (Stare Miasto) are lined with stands. The vendors sell food, drinks, jewelry, antiques, clothes, art, and other specialized crafts. Best of all, everything is fairly inexpensive: I bought many a pair of beautiful earrings for as little as 5 złoty (less than $2) when I went this summer.
Gdańsk has a wonderful atmosphere even when nothing special is happening. The Old Town is a complex of old-fashioned townhouses, beautifully restored after World War II. No cars are allowed on the cobbled streets, only pedestrians. If you think this is a tourist trap, think again! Walking is much more common in Europe and the cities than in America (where I live), and tourists and the people that make their home in the city alike are found in the crowds during the Dominican Fair.
When you go to the fair, you never run out of things to look at. Each kiosk has unique, original artwork and jewelry to look at. I spent over $100 dollars during the festival, mostly on earrings and bracelets! You can also buy lots of delicious food: ice cream, bread, cold cuts, hot dishes, etc. etc.
If you ever get the chance to be in Poland over the summer, take it! We had a lot of tourists thanks to the Euro (European soccer cup), and Poland got nothing but good reviews. St. Dominic’s Fair is an amazing festival for anyone interested in any type of art or shopping.
I hope you found my blog post interesting! Thanks again for having me on the Europhiles, and be sure to check out my personal blog at www.paulinaczarnecki.wordpress.com.