Saturday 31 March 2018

Turkey Holidays and Festivals

Turkey offers more than just a stunning landscape and fascinating culture. It is home to a wide variety of Turkey holidays and festivals, many of which have been introduced to help the country develop a more modern image like The Istanbul International Music Festival. Folk ceremonies like The Kadirga Festival are some of the more important traditional events in the country.

Ankara International Film Festival

The Ankara Film Festival is a wonderful event held in Turkey's capital. Each year during the month of March, travelers, film-buffs, directors, and acclaimed actors from across the globe come to Ankara for screenings at venues around the city.

Istanbul International Music Festival
The largest event in Turkey's largest city, the Istanbul Music festival lasts about two months, filling June and July with a range of interesting concerts and performances. Tourists will be able to enjoy classical and opera performances, theatrical shows, and traditional tunes from regions around the country.

Gumusluk International Classical Music Festival

One of the most renowned musical events in Turkey's Gumusluk area, the bulk of the festival begins on July 5, although classical performances are held several times in July, August and September. Symphony orchestras offer a relaxing way to rejuvenate after a long day of sightseeing.

Istanbul International Jazz Festival

First established in 1986, the Istanbul Jazz Festival is one of the most popular musical events in the nation. It is held every July, attracting thousands of revelers from all over the country. Even though Jazz is the focus, there are plenty of other genres to enjoy.

Edirne International Kakava Festival

This Roman festival known as Kakava is celebrated by Romani people throughout the Middle East and Turkey. The Edirne Festival is enjoyed on May 5-6 and sees more than 5,000 people attend.

Aspendos International Opera Festival
The beautiful and ancient city of Aspendos is home to a wonderful Roman theater, where the Aspendos International Opera Festival is held each year. More than 10,000 spectators flock to the experience the wonder of live drama in June.

Kadirga Festival

Often regarded as the most famous festival in Turkey, the Kadirga Festival is a stupendous event that showcases some of the most fascinating aspects of Turkish culture. Set a dozen miles from the heart of Tonya township upon the treeless plateaus of the hinterland, the event is celebrated by visitors and the locals of Tonya, Torul, Macka, Gorele, and Eynesil every year in July.

Izmir Fair

The oldest trade show and exhibition in Turkey is the exciting Izmir Fair held at the large show ground of *Kulturepark during the early days of September. There are several other fairs during the event, including a popular musical festival.

*culled from

Swiss Wedding Traditions

A romantic getaway, Switzerland is the land of exotic nature. Weddings rich in culture are traditional weddings in Swiss Style. Wedding Switzerland is an experience with customs intact and provides an atmosphere charges with fun, music and entertainment. A Swiss wedding is a medley of customs, new and old and entertainment, music, dance and songs.

Amid exquisite nature, remarkable mountains, gushing waters and romantic castle, traditional Swiss weddings with all the rich customs intact, is an enthralling experience.
In Switzerland, only a couple, who are man and wife according to the law, can exchange vows in a church. So Swiss brides and grooms marry at a registry office and obtain proper documents and decide over their Swiss marriage ceremony .

Many Swiss brides opt for a civil ceremony followed by a party but church weddings are still popular.
A wedding Switzerland style consists of an afternoon church ceremony. The atmosphere is replete with fun and frolic with amateur performances by the guests like skits, musical plays, instrumental music, poems, songs and gifts. The maid- of- honor and the best man act as the coordinators of these performances.

Though the marriage Switzerland are traditional, the guests tease the newly weds during the Swiss marriage ceremonies .

Some friends plan games like  kidnapping the bride or arrange a surprise wedding for the couple.
The former game is part of the tradition because in some Swiss weddings , in the past, it was necessary to kidnap the bride to fight the hostile relatives on the bride's side.

The latter is done, when the guests decide to surprise the couple after the ceremony. These elements become an inextricable part even in an elegant and exquisite well-planned Swiss wedding, since old traditions die hard.

The Swiss bride in the traditional wedding Switzerland wears a
traditional crown or wreath on her head that represents her maidenhood and youth. The wreath is removed and burned after the couple exchange vows.
The bride is regarded lucky, if it burns fast. The bride's maid leads the guests to the place, where the reception takes place and she gives the guest a colored handkerchief.

The kerchief represents good luck and each guest offers a dollar or coin and puts it into a basket.

This gift is given to the newly weds. In some traditions the godmother hands the kerchiefs to the guests who in turn contribute a coin.

The newly married couple plants a pine tree that symbolizes fertility in their yard. It is often believed that planting the tree brings forth luck and children into the family.

The Swiss marriage traditions are similar to rich the Western European traditions. The engagement ring is a major component in the Swiss marriages like in any other tradition.
The engagement ring is made of gold and it symbolizes the financial sacrifice that the groom makes for his bride-to-be. In the modern times, the gold ring is ornamented with a diamond.

Any Western European wedding will have something old, something new, something blue and something borrowed.

Something old represents the continuity of tradition. This can be a scarf or a piece of jewelry passed on generations after generations.

Something new stands for future and hope and can be anything from wedding band to clothing.

Something borrowed indicates future happiness and is mostly contributed by a close friend of the bride, who is happily married.

Blue symbolizes purity and the couple tries to incorporate the color in their wedding Switzerland outfit. All these Western European marriage traditions form an integral part of the Swiss marriage traditions .

A wedding Switzerland is a medley of customs, new and old and entertainment, music, dance and songs. These elements of fun, against the background of scintillating nature make Swiss weddings , a surreal experience.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Switzerland Holidays and Festivals

With literally hundreds of festivals each year, Switzerland holidays run the gamut of themes, including music, food, sports, and general merriment. The Montreux Jazz Festival and the Lucerne Festival are internationally reknowned and attract visitors from all over the world. Others are very regional and each Canton has its own culture, customs and celebrations, many of which can be interesting and fun.

Ski World Cup Wengen

Switzerland is the premier snow sport destination in the world and every January, the top skiers head to Wengen to compete in the FIS Ski World Cup. Visitors can watch the races (slalom and downhill) before enjoying après ski parties.

Baseler Fastnacht

Similar to the German Fasching (carnival), Baseler Fastnacht is an amazingly fun and colorful event. Three days of festivities include parades, theater, concerts, and more, taking place during February. People from all over Europe flock to experience Switzerland and the streets literally become knee-deep in confetti as the parades go by.

White Turf

Both equestrian lovers and spectators will be amazed by the horse races that take place in St. Moritz every February. Running in snow and ice with the stunning Engadine mountains as the backdrop, visitors will be amazed by the Skikojoering race, where skiers are pulled by the horses at break neck speed!

Art Basel

Art Basel is the premier international art event in Switzerland. Taking place in June every year, the festival showcases select work from all over the world from both superstars and newcomers and includes performances, multimedia installations, videos, and more from international artists.

Lucerne Festival

This annual music event is split into three parts held throughout the year: Lucerne Festival (summer), Lucerne Festival at Easter and Lucerne Festival at the piano (November). Part of the festival dates back to 1938 and attracts top classical musicians from around the world. Very popular in Switzerland, tickets usually sell out very quickly and performances vary from year to year.

Montreux Jazz Festival

One of the premier jazz festivals in the world takes place in Montreux in July every year. The venue along the shores of Lake Geneva is simply stunning and was founded in 1967. Jazz lovers will be able to see and meet leading musicians from around the globe.

Locarno Film Festival (Festival del Film Locarno)

Considered one of the best film festivals in the world, movie stars, press and fans flock to Locarno in August to experience this Swiss event. The event is known for showcasing cutting-edge filmography and blockbusters and is a great place to rub elbows with the rich and famous.


Taking place in December every year, this historic festival celebrates the 1602 defeat of the Savoyards, who were trying to attack Switzerland. Visitors will see military troops dressed in historic garb parading through the streets of Geneva's old town.

*culled from


I have had the privilege to attend a
Swedish wedding when my good friends Anna and Jörgen got married in 2012. With the royal wedding that just happened, and with my own wedding planning starting for 2016, I have weddings on the brain!

I knew some Swedish wedding traditions from my own experiences, and I decided to look up what other traditions I may have missed. Here is what I found.


I think this is so very, very, cool. The bride and groom usually walk down the aisle together. In fact, when Crown Princess Victoria got married and wanted her father, King Carl, to walk her down the aisle, there was a bit of an uproar (if you think about it, it is kinda sexist).

While my American fiancé isn't down with all the traditions, I am going to steal this one a bit. I plan on walking down the aisle by myself (or I may have my bonus kids give me away).


Sometimes it is best to keep it simple. In Sweden, there is not the tradition of having a huge wedding party. Instead, if there is any wedding party, it is one for each the bride and the groom.
Sweden. Simple and elegant. Love it.

She has a silver coin in her left shoe and a gold coin in her right shoe (or perhaps vise versa), given by her parents. The tradition is, that with this, she will never be without.


I remember that I was very impressed with at Anna and Jörgen's wedding. When it was time to serve cake, we didn't have anybody serving it for us. We all went up and grabbed a piece, cutting our own slices. I remember being worried, as I watched the line and the cake dwindle. Of course, in perfect Swedish fashion, everyone took just enough and not too much. There was probably only one or two pieces of cake left after everyone had taken a slice. I was very impressed!


I absolutely love this tradition. When I received the invitation to this wedding, instead of gifts they were requesting that I paid for my food for the wedding. Anna and Jörgen already lived together, they didn't need any housewarming gifts. Why not help them save money for their celebration?


I thought this was a fun tradition as well, which I didn't know about. In Sweden, instead of getting two rings, women get three. One for the engagement, one for the marriage, and then one for when the couple becomes parents. Who wouldn't want another ring?


It's not only the groom that gets to kiss the bride in Sweden. Apparently, if the groom ever leaves the room, then the bride is open to receive kisses (usually on the cheek) from anybody who is willing. Same goes for the groom as well when the bride leaves.


Now I had no idea this was a tradition of sorts, but this is exactly how Anna and Jörgen's wedding was. Instead of having one long table, the wedding seating is usually in a u-shape. Not only that, but Swedes tend to mix things up with the seatings so strangers have the chance to get to know each other.


Well, I know this is common in America too. (or maybe less because rice is supposed to be bad for birds. Apparently, that isn't true though .) Throwing rice at a couple when they leave the church is a tradition in Sweden. Apparently, it goes way back to the Roman times, and was either done to help the couple be fertile or to banish evil spirits. In any case, it is a fun tradition.


Wow, I was lucky I didn't pick out a red dress for the Swedish wedding, cause I didn't know about this. It seems that if a woman wears red to a wedding in Sweden, it means she slept with the groom. Is it normal to be that obvious though?
What is your favorite wedding traditions? Is there anything I'm missing?

*culled from

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Sweden Holidays and Festivals

Sweden is home to a number of fascinating festivals. However, to say the calendar is unbalanced would be an understatement. August is the best time to visit, not only for the warm weather and sunny skies, but because of its many events. Kulturkalaset is one of the largest Sweden holidays and celebrates the unique and intriguing culture in Gothenburg, the second largest city. Outside of summer, the most significant would have to be the Stockholm International Film Festival in November. It lures the best of the movie world to Sweden with its global popularity.


Celebrated throughout Sweden, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe, the Valborg festival has become one of the most anticipated events of the year. Also called Walpurgis Night, it celebrates St Walpurgis and the coming of All Hallows Eve six months before Halloween on April 30. Much of south and central Sweden come out for massive bonfires, feasts and socializing.
Gothenburg Aero Show

The largest air show in Sweden and Scandinavia, there are literally tens of thousands of people that flock to Gothenburg in May for this magnificent aeronautical event, making it the largest non-cultural festival of the year. The country's most famous civilian and military aircraft are on display performing mesmerizing maneuvers in the sky.

Stockholm Pride

An inclusive event for any gender or sexual preference, the Stockholm Pride festival is a celebration of Sweden's gay and lesbian community. It began in 1988, and hosted the Europride Festival in both 1998 and 2008. Most of the events take place in Pride Park, which includes plenty of music, food, and performances. Thousands of people come to Stockholm for the event at the end of July every year, which usually runs into the beginning of August.
Uppsala Reggae Festival
Commonly called the Reggae Mecca of Scandinavia, the Uppsala Reggae Festival is a thriving music event that has been held annually since 2001. What began as a one day event has grown in popularity and expanded to three days in August. The city of Uppsala is only 55 miles from the heart of Stockholm, so visitors to the capital can easily reach the festival.

Malmo Festival

Known locally as the Malmofestivalen, Malmo's most important event is held over the course of eight days in August. Plenty of interesting performances and feasts are found throughout the region, but be sure to book your accommodations early as they fill up fast.


Another of Sweden's August festivals, the Kulturkalaset is a fascinating event featuring the best of Gothenburg culture. Head to downtown for a festive party atmosphere that gets quite rowdy or the local parks for a more lax day for family travelers.

Stockholm International Film Festival
Now in its 21st year, the famous Stockholm International Film Festival lures thousands of film buffs and critics to the capital ever year. Held the last two weeks of November, dozens of films from around the globe are screened at venues throughout Stockholm, with some of the most acclaimed directors taking part in the festivities.


Christmas is a very energetic time in Sweden, and no place celebrates it better than Gothenburg. Delicately designed lighting displays make for treasured attractions and travelers can find feasts, performances and other fun during the celebration lasting several weeks.

*culled from

Wedding Customs in Spain

Spain is a nation of many regions, most of which were once independent countries, so wedding customs sometimes vary from area to area.

Traditionally, the groom gives a watch to the bride's father when his proposal is accepted.

Though some brides still uphold custom by embroidering their groom's wedding shirt, today's Spanish brides generally choose white wedding dresses for themselves rather than the black lace or silk gowns that were once popular. No matter what color the dress, lacey mantillas secured with combs often complete the ensemble. In Andalucia (Andalusia), a few brides wear a frilled, flamenco style dress in homage to the distinctive regional dance.

Flower selections vary from region to region. In Seville (Sevilla), where richly-scented orange trees abound, brides wear orange blossom wreaths or carry generous bouquets to represent the promise and fulfillment of the orange tree. Brides in Andalusia prefer pink and white rose garlands, while Castillian brides wear white flowers.
Because dining late is a Mediterranean custom, wedding ceremonies often aren't scheduled until evening. 

According to tradition, the bride's father escorts his daughter to the church after having ensured that the groom has not seen her the night before the ceremony. The groom's mother walks down the aisle with her son.
Spanish wedding ceremonies are marked by an exchange of 13 gold coins in a special purse or box. Details of this custom vary from source to source, but even today it is readily possible to buy reproduction coins to honor the tradition. Whether gold or imitation, these coins are blessed by the officiating priest. They are said to represent Jesus Christ and his apostles, so they not only have a religious connotation but also a practical one since they represent a dowry, a pledge of the new groom's willingness to support his wife.

The bride and bridegroom exchange wedding rings as well. These are worn on the ring fingers of their right hands.
As they emerge from the church, the newlyweds are often greeted with firecrackers. Once the reception begins, the festivities continue into the night with dining and dancing. The wedding dance is called "sequidillas manchegas." Guests who dance with the bride, traditionally give her money, but pieces of the groom's tie and/or the bride's garter may also be auctioned off for good luck.

Though the Spanish bride throws her bouquet to whomever will be next to marry, she also hands out pins with a flower motif to unmarried ladies who attach them to their clothing upside down. The hope is the pins will be lost during the dancing, and therefore indicate the lady will soon marry. Other favors for wedding guests are cigars for the gentlemen and something nicely scented for the ladies.

Area delicacies are always on the reception menu. Paella, a delicious seafood and rice stew, is popular along the coast while sangria, a red wine punch, is found at most Spanish gatherings. The wedding sponge cake is rich with fruit and almonds.

Whatever your heritage, consider adopting a custom or two from the rich culture of Spanish weddings.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Spain Holidays and Festivals

Spain holidays and fiestas are characterized as chaotic, noisy, traditional, vibrant and colorful, the very essence of the country and its people. Their origins lie in religion, but the Spanish way of turning a saint's day into an exuberant, city-wide party is unrivalled in Europe. Whatever time of year you visit Spain, there will be something going on, with all-time favorites being the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona and Bunai's La Tomantina.

San Sebastian Drum Festival

Without a doubt, this is the loudest festival in Spain for its Tamborrada, costumed drummers who wind through San Sebastian. Held every January in the historic town, it's a two-part event beginning at midnight with an all-night and all-day parade, coupled with unofficial public drumming supplemented by street parties, food and drink, ensuring no-one gets any sleep.

San Cecelio Fiesta

This lively fiesta kicks off in Granada every February with an hour-long pilgrimage to a monastery at the crown of the hill. Thousands of people climb the slopes and give thanks, and the fun begins after mass with food, drinks, traditional music, dancing, horses and stunning flamenco performances among blossoming trees. Huge vats of paella feed the masses and a great time is had by all.

Las Fallas Festival, Valencia

March in Valencia sees the Las Fallas Festival, centered around huge paper mache sculptures called ninots crafted to mock popular politicians and celebrities. It's a five-day fiesta of light, fire and color, ending in huge nighttime bonfires when all the Fallas figures are burned except one voted by the people to be the best of the bunch. Fireworks, bands, flamenco and gunpowder explosions are all part of this unmissable celebration. The winning ninot is preserved in the Fallero Museum.

Semana Santa (Easter) and April's Fair in Seville

The country's biggest festival, April's Semana Santa is celebrated all over Spain, with Seville, Málaga and Zamora (Castile and León) hosting the biggest events. Beginning on Palm Sunday and lasting through Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección), processions of religious images depart from local churches to Seville's cathedral, with a second wave starting at midnight on Good Friday. Saturday is quieter, and joyous Easter Sunday is a blur of celebration, Catholic mass and street parties. A few days or weeks later, "Feria de Abril" takes place in Seville, which celebrates the Andalusian tradition of Flamenco through song, dance and horse parades.

Jerez Horse Fair

Jerez in Andalusia is as famous for its annual Feria de Caballo horse fair as it is for its sherry. Thousands of visitors arrive every May for the diverse spectacle in the town's huge park. From riding contests, classical cowboy attire, polo, carriage rides, flamenco displays, and a bullfight to over 200 marquees crammed with food and sherry stalls, this feast of horsemanship is a unique glimpse of traditional Spain.

Pamplona Bull Running

Famous the world over, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona takes place every July as part of the St Fermin Festival, and sees hundreds of thousands of spectators and participants. The festivities begin at midday, as they have since the 13th century, although the bull-running is a more recent addition that takes place every day for a week. Traditional music, flamenco dancing and fireworks are all part of the fun.

Elche Mystery Play

Mystery plays have been part of Europe's religious history for centuries, mostly in the more northerly countries. The Elche Mystery Play is Spain's oldest and most glorious cultural event, held every August at the town's basilica. It's a complex, powerful production involving modern stagecraft for its effects, and its final minutes see the Virgin and her angels raised to the heavens against a background of breathtaking choral music. The performance is the culmination of a week of partying, parades of Moors and Christians, candle-lit processionals and fireworks, and the legend of the libretto and music tells the story of it being washed up on a nearby beach in the 13th century along with an image of the Virgin Mary.

La Tomatina, Buñol

One of Spain's most famous festivals for its sheer craziness, La Tomatina is held every August in Buñol in Valencia, which culminates in a huge tomato fight involving 30,000 people and 40 tons of ripe fruit. The battle of the tomatoes is the climax of a week of festivities including street parades, fireworks and parties, that begins with adventurers trying to scale a slippery soap-covered pole to reach a dangling ham as they get pelted with water and tomatoes from rowdy onlookers. Don't dress up for this one, and remember to wear goggles and gloves!

Festes de la Merce, Barcelona

The Festes de la Merce is Barcelona's major event, held in September to celebrate the birthday of the Vergin de la Merce, the city's patron saint. Highlights include the Parade of the Giants, huge wooden figures and the Human Tower contest. Locals in traditional costume climb onto each others' shoulders, with eight levels the norm before collapsing. Musical performances, sports, fabulous fireworks displays, endless glasses of cava (Catalonia's champagne-style wine), and parties make this a fiesta not to miss.

*culled from

Sunday 25 March 2018

Let's Feel Slovenia (Understanding Slovenia)

Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Old, Something New – by Joy Corkery

Traditional wedding customs are in decline. People are less inclined to use more traditional customs; instead putting a more unique and personal touch on their big day. Nowadays people do not feel obliged to marry in a religious building or a registry office, and may instead choose to marry on beaches, in castles, in football stadiums and at any other type of uncustomary venue. The shift away from tradition goes much deeper than neglecting traditional venues, with many rituals being abandoned completely as they are seen as time consuming. Many have applauded this shift away from tradition. Nevertheless, there are many who fear that if their country's customs will die out completely, their culture and sense of identity will be affected. They argue that the continuation of customs and traditions are a testimony to how far the country has come and its survival through time.

Yet there are still places which uphold strong traditions in their marriage ceremonies. Slovenia is one such place and perhaps one which may surprise people. Anyone familiar with Slovenian legislation will know that there are steps being taken to legalize same-sex marriage, even though this attempt is taking a one-step forward two-steps-back approach. Customs associated with Slovenian weddings have adapted over time due to cultural influences which have affected the country. This is perhaps due to the steady influx of people coming from abroad to get married in Slovenia. The costs of getting married in Slovenia are much less in comparison to say Barbadosor the Bahamas. Yet the country can offer natural beauty, historical sights, intimate castles and everything one could want to exchange vows in style, which are in par with everything the more popular tourist wedding resorts have to offer. In fact, the Slovenians have now begun to advertise the country as an idyllic venue, therefore prompting them to become more open to less traditional wedding traditions. Nevertheless, it is a country which strives to uphold tradition.

To start with, there are certain restrictions with regards to wedding venues. InSloveniaweddings can take place outside of traditional wedding venues; however authorities favour traditional wedding institutions and historical places of significance. So, in order to marry in a place which is not already pre-authorised, a personal explanation for your choice of a non-standard wedding destination must be provided. Additionally, the ceremony officially requires Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' to be played, flowers and suitable lighting.

Many of Slovenia's traditional wedding customs revolve around the bride. The bride dresses customarily in white and is aided by her maid of honour throughout the day. A red carnation is pinned in the bride's hair by the maid of honour, who also unveils the bride at the ceremony. The wedding commences with the arrival of the guests at the brides house early in the morning. 

Beginning here, and continuing throughout the day, both the bridal party and the guests, play a number of traditional Slovenian wedding games. The most famous of these games is 'Kidnap the Bride'. This consists of the kidnapping of the bride by the groomsmen, who bring the bride to various taverns across the village, leaving a trail behind in order for the groom to trace their steps where he then pays a ransom for the return of his beloved.

Overall in Slovenia, the wedding ceremony and the reception afterwards are lavish affairs. The Slovenian people have a zest for life and love and their weddings truly exemplify this. Their weddings also have a unique way of adapting to modernisation while also keeping tradition alive. Weddings can say a lot about people, and certainly in Slovenia, weddings provide a large window into cultural traditions.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Slovenia Holidays and Festivals

Music, food, and crafts are all common themes in Slovenia holidays and most celebrations take place during the boisterous summer months.

Ljubljana Festival

The Ljubljana Festival is Slovenia's biggest cultural event, with performers from all over the world providing 10 weeks of dance, opera, and musical performances. First held in the summer of 1953, the production runs annually from June until September, encompassing 50 to 70 individual shows.

Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe)

The annual November film festival aims to bring the best of international cinema to Slovenia. First held in 1990, the event is hosted by Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom (Cankar Hall, named after Slovenian playwright Ivan Cankar), which is Slovenia's largest cultural center. It has expert and audience awards to encourage movie-goer participation.

National Costumes and Clothing Heritage Days

First held in 1966, Heritage Days take place in the medieval old town of Kamnik and celebrates the importance of national dress as part of Slovenia's heritage. Highlights include processions of folk costumes from various Slovenian regions and around the world.

Maribor Festival

Running for over 50 years, the Maribor Festival is one of Slovenia's premier music events. Every September, Maribor city hosts soloists and members of the Festival Maribor Orchestra, along with prominent overseas performers.

Indrija Lace Festival

The Indrija Lace Festival is an annual event in Indrija in June to celebrate the town's lace-making traditions. Festival-goers can enjoy workshops, exhibits and competitions, and taste local dishes or relax to live music late in the evening.

Bohinj Annual Hiking Festival

The annual hiking festival at beautiful Bohinj celebrates the first ever climb to the top of Slovenia's highest mountain, Mount Triglav, in 1776. The week-long event usually takes place in late September or early October and includes daily guided walking tours of the area.

*culled from

Wedding Traditions in Slovakia

Slovakia boasts with numerous wounderful traditions, where the wedding ones definately stand out from the rest of Europe!

Before the ceremony

The old tradition was that the bride was getting ready at her parent's home and the groom at his parent's home.
The groom then had a speaker, usually his godfather, or an uncle, who came with the groom and his side of the family to the bride's home to ask her parents for her hand officially.

Bride's family was already waiting at her house for the arrival of the groom's party. Everybody met in the garden of the house and had some drinks and some sweet and savory canapes.

At this point, the groom's speaker officially asked for the bride's hand and the engaged couple received blessing from their parents. After this the guests moved to a church.

Slovak wedding ceremonies

Slovak ceremonies are not hugely different to any other wedding ceremonies. However, probably the only difference is that after the ceremony, the wedding guests line up to congratulate the wedding couple and personally give their best wishes as well as some flowers to the bride (which bridesmaids can hold for her) and a card with some money to the groom (which he can pop into his jacket pocket to keep safe).

If you choose to go with this tradition, I would recomend you have a videographer (if you have one) to film your guests' wishes and emotions so you can recollect them later on your video.

Before the party

After the congratulations from the
newlyweds' guests, the wedding party moved to the party venue. The wedding guests groupped around the entrance, with the bride and the groom at the front, where everyone was greeted by the official of the venue.
The tradition at this stage is that a plate is broken, which the newlyweds have to sweep up. This symbolises their cooperation and working together as a couple.

The bride has to be extra careful as she has to get all the broken pieces, which represent children that the groom will have outside of the marriage.

Also the tradition is that the male members of both families try to kick the pieces around since they want the groom to have fun (not really funny, is it?). After this the bride is carried into the party hall by her husband.

Midnight ceremony

An old Slovak tradition is that during the wedding ceremony and the feast afterwards the bride was wearing delicate green wreath on her head as a symbol of her purity and virginity. Becoming a new wife, just after the midnight, she had to take the wreath off and replace it with a beautiful hand-made handkerchief-like hat, which symbolised the bride becoming a woman.

There is a great ceremony where women sing songs while taking the wreath off the bride's head and men are drinking or just watching.

After the veil is off, the groom's buttonhole is taken off and the bride has to stand on it, which symbolises that the groom will not find another woman in the future.

The bridal dance follows after which the bride and groom go freshen up and get changed. The bride usually gets changed into something red, which means that she is a new wife from now on. And the party carries on till early morning.

Nowadays, the ceremony of taking off the veil varies across Slovakia . What is similar, is a group of women singing traditional songs while taking the veil off.

In some regions, the tradition is that with the women a guy is also encouraging the bride to take her veil off (with an axe, it's fun really). Sometimes the veil is put on another girl's head which means that she is going to get married next year.

Every guest is honoured with a dance with the newlyweds, the so called bridal dance . Dancers encircle the newlyweds. The tradition is that guests pay for this dance.

It is not an enormous amount of money; everybody pays how much they want (a paper note is most common). This money is usually collected by the eldest aunt or uncle into a covered bowl, also using a wooden spoon to navigate the dancers, make sure everyone has a go or just to wave it in the air.

*culled from

Thursday 22 March 2018

Slovakia Holidays and Festivals

This typically reserved nation lets down its hair several times per year during the Slovak Republic's numerous folk festivals and national holidays. The good times begin on New Year's Eve, one of the busiest Slovakia holiday seasons, and last until the month-long Christmas markets close on city streets. The picturesque Krivao mountain village of Východná hosts the largest of all the Slovak Republi'sc folk festivals, while the ancient Bojnice Castle supplies the stunning backdrop for the International Festival of Ghosts and Monsters.

Sled Dog World Championships Sprint
Each February, the Slovak Republic mountain village of Donovaly hosts one of Europe's most competitive dogsled races. While some of the world's best dog-sledders mush across the Starohorské Vrchy, the Low Tatras, and the Veľká Fatra mountains, attendees can enjoy attractions, refreshments, and live country music nearly 3,150 feet above sea level.

International Festival of Ghosts and Monsters

The 12th century Romantic Bojnice Castle provides the perfect setting for this annual ghosts and monsters festival which attracts over 50,000 visitors between April and May each year. Audience participation is strongly encouraged during this monster-filled festival which is centered around a different story, characters, and ideas every year. Visitors can also encounter alien invasions, witches, vampires, tragic romances, and stalls loaded with food and refreshments.

Košice Music Spring Festival

The biggest music festival in the Slovak Republic's second biggest city also happens to be among the country's oldest music festival. Both the Czech and Slovak philharmonic orchestras make beautiful music during this week-long May classical music festival which was first held in 1956. The festival also attracts chamber orchestras, opera performers, and other talented classical musicians.


The constant flow of suds may be the biggest attraction for many people at this 10-day long Bratislava beer festival, but drinking is not the only enjoyable attraction offered here. More than 300 musical performances are on this June festival's bill each year alongside games, food, and raffle ticket draws for wonderful prizes.

Východná Folklore Festival

Dozens of traditional folk festivals are held in the Slovak Republic each year, but none can rival the size of this lively celebration in the picturesque village of Východná beneath the Krivao Mountains. This festival, held over three days during the first weekend of July every year since 1953, now attracts up to 1,500 performers and 70,000 spectators on an annual basis. Folk dancing, singing, and crafts are the festival's main attractions. Many Východná residents even welcome festival attendees into their own homes during the festival.

Coronation Ceremonies

These elaborate three-day long ceremonies are a throwback to Bratislava's more than three centuries as Greater Hungary's capital, when 11 Hapsburg monarchs received their crowns within the city's Dome of St Martin. Although the Hapsburgs no longer rule the land, their majestic era lives on during this September coronation re-enactment complete with horseback riding processions, shooting demonstrations, folk festivities, and actors taking the king's oath on the very spot where the monarchs first ascended their thrones.

Salamander Days

This early September weekend festival is the biggest event in the Slovak Republic's most attractive mining town, Banská Štiavnica. Both the festival and its closing Salamander Procession are named after the wooden lizard the chief shepherd holds in his hand while telling stories about the origin of the mines. Mine-dwelling dwarfs called bergmans follow the chief shepherd while bearing mining flags to the sounds of mining music. This festival is a tribute to the Slovak Republic's many miners, oilmen, and ironworkers.

Apple Festival

The humble apple is the major star of this October festival held within a medieval castle yard in the orchard community of Modra, just a 30-minute drive away from Bratislava. Several different kinds of freshly picked apples, apple seeds, and apple products are ready to be sampled and purchased each fall. The festival also contains children's games and apple preparation competitions between teams of between two and four people.

*culled from

Traditional Serbian Wedding

Trumpeters, Buklia, Folklore dancing and singing, ikebana flowers, rosemary for wedding guests, apple shooting, sieve throwing, "buy the bride"…. Just a few words that can describe the atmosphere of Serbian wedding. Oh, sure – plentiful menu, we should not skip such important characteristic of Serbian wedding! A lot of Serbs get married while respecting national and religious traditions. They don't let these wonderful customs sink into oblivion.

A couple of weeks earlier: Preparation for Serbian Big Day

Buklia is a nice decorated bottle filled with homemade Wine or Rakija (traditional fruit brandy). Buklia is used to invite guests to the wedding, like a formal invitation. Young man, usually the groom's cousin, carries around this Buklia, by visiting the homes of those who are invited to the wedding.

Decoration is an indispensable entertainment, enjoyed by both old and young. Both the bride and the groom's house are decorated with flowers, balloons, ribbons, etc. The door or gate of the house is especially well decorated.

The folk costume came back into fashion in a big way. In the old days, a bride and groom are dressed in national costumes (folklore garments) for their Big Day. The Serbian folk costume, whether it is male or female, includes several parts. Here are a few components: Opanci (handcrafted traditional peasant footwear), hand embroidered shirts, Tkanica (men's belt), Jelek (a short women's vest), Sajkaca (Serbian national men's hat) and so on. Nowadays, a large number of the newlyweds opt for a nice old-fashioned Folk Costume instead of trendy Wedding dresses and Groom Tuxedos and Suits.

According to tradition: Wedding Guests and Wedding Ceremony

Kum is the best man at a wedding. To be the best man is a great honor, this offer should not be refused. The most important guests at any wedding in Serbia are the Best Man and the Bridesman. This tradition is kept today, in slightly altered form. The "old godfather" custom (which is transmitted from generation to generation) is strictly respected by the Serbian people. Although today, the groom sometimes can choose a new best man. It is usually his best friend.

Svatovi are the wedding guests. The wedding ceremony begins early in the morning. Firstly, wedding guests come to the groom's house. Then, they all go together to the bride's house.

Like the past: Buying the bride, Apple Shooting, Wedding bouquet throwing

The custom known as "buying the bride" is used today for fun. This means that the groom „buys" the bride from the groom's brother. Once upon a time, the bride was really purchased with large amounts of money or gold. In 1846., Serbian Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic issued an order: asking for and giving money and gold for the girl is abolished, as a custom that is contrary to the human dignity. Nowadays, it's just a joke, a way to calm the jitters.

There is one more custom that is still practiced in rural areas, known as " Apple Shooting ". An apple is hanged, in the courtyard of the bride's house, on the top of the tree. The groom has to shoot the apple. Only when he takes off the apple from the tree, he is allowed to enter the bride's house.

After that, the wedding procession goes to the wedding ceremony. Whether they go to church or the municipal building, wedding guests form an entertaining column of cars. Decorated Wedding car leads a column of cars, and you can hear the car horns which announce big ceremony.

After the wedding ceremony, the bride indiscriminately throws the bouquet over her shoulder, and single girls are supposed to catch it. The girl who catches the bouquet is the lucky one – she is going to be the next bride!

In addition, godparents throw metal coins around, in front of the church, which is supposed to symbolize prosperity for newlyweds, in their future married life.

Autumn is the best time for Serbian Weddings

After the wedding ceremony, the celebration goes on, with Folklore dancing and singing, a lot of food and drink. At the celebration, there are many customs. Cutting the wedding cake symbolizes the union of the young couple. Stealing the bride's shoes by a child is a funny and cute custom.

At the end of the celebration, when newlyweds go home, the groom must carry the bride over the doorstep. It's a Pagan custom of the ancient Slavs. According to the belief, the spirits of ancestors are living in the doorstep of each house, protecting the household and family members. Groom carries her over the threshold by respecting their ancestors.

Traditionally, weddings in Serbia are mainly organized in the autumn period. The custom was established at the time when life was subordinated to rural activities. Field works are finished in the fall, after the harvest. Then, people are able to celebrate.

This is a brief overview of Serbian weddings. To create the real impression, you need to see, to smell, you need to experience it for yourself. If you get an invitation to the Serbian wedding, don't miss it!

*culled from

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Serbia Holidays and Festivals

The individual patron saint days, which each Serbian Orthodox Christian family celebrates, have been handed down for generations and are the main Serbia holidays. Most of Serbia's public festivals are celebrations of film, music, food, or combinations of all three. The Belgrade Music Festival focuses on classical music, while Novi Sad's Petrovaradin Fortress is the stunning backdrop of the city's lively EXIT festival. However, no Serbian music festival is more unusual than the Guča Trumpet Festival, an annual competition between some of the world's greatest trumpet bands.

Cinema City Film Festival

Despite its name, Cinema City is more than merely a film festival. This Novi Sad event features more than 150 film screenings and workshops during its eight days in June, but its opening event is a lively concert at the city's historic Petrovaradin Fortress. Film screenings and premieres take place at four outdoor, and five indoor, cinemas throughout Novi Sad.

EXIT Festival

Few of the world's rock concert venues boast as much history as Novi Sad's Petrovaradin Fortress, where many of the world's hottest musicians perform each July at the EXIT Festival. All six of the festival's main arenas are situated within the fortress. This festival, among Eastern Europe's biggest, also features an outdoor cinema, technology zone, and extreme sports arena.

Guča Trumpet Festival

Each August, more than 600,000 trumpet fans from around the world make the three-hour bus journey from Belgrade to Guča, a small Serbian town with a population of 2,000. This annual brass band festival is also sometimes called the Dragačevo Assembly. A few dozen of the world's best brass bands battle it out during the main Sunday competition, but the festival also boasts a Friday opening concert, featuring previous winners who perform for brightly dressed folk dancers.

Belgrade Beer Festival

Visitors attending Belgrade's annual beer showcase in August only have to shell out for the price of drinks. Between 2004 and 2010, the festival's attendance numbers skyrocketed from 75,000 to 900,000. Many of these people arrive from other countries to sample more than 30 domestic and foreign brews that are available for tasting. Each of the festival's four nights is filled with live music and fun.

Leskovac Grill Festival

In September 2009, a 106-lb Serbian pljeskavica - grilled during this annual Leskovac tribute to meat - was declared the world's biggest burger. That same year, the people who attended Serbia's answer to Munich's Oktoberfest also set an attendance record of 500,000. Each September, Leskovac's main thoroughfare is closed to motorized traffic during this five-day festival filled with carnivals, fashion shows, concerts, and plenty meat!

Festival of Street Musicians

More than 150 of the world's most talented street musicians performed during the latest incarnation of this festival, held in central Novi Sad over four early September days. In addition to musicians playing a variety of instruments, the street performances also include dancers, actors, and even acrobats.

Belgrade Music Festival

None of Serbia's classical music festivals date further back than the event held in the nation's capital each October. Although the festival's focus is on traditional Balkan music, orchestras and performers from throughout the world may take part in the many concerts held at Belgrades's Kolarac Hall, Yugoslav Drama Theater, and many other elegant venues. Musicians also have the opportunity to learn from some of Serbia's finest artists during the creative master workshops.

•Culled from

Monday 19 March 2018

A Traditional Scottish Wedding

Long before the rings are exchanged at a traditional Scottish wedding, some of the old customs have been followed with the utmost precision. Hopefully, all goes well.


After all the wedding arrangements have been painstakingly made and the big day is fast approaching, it's time for the stag party and the show of presents or hen party.

Within a few weeks of the wedding day, the groom-to-be will have a stag party with his friends. In keeping with an old custom, this is a way of saying goodbye, but also to give reassurance that friendships are lasting, and won't end when marriage takes place.

At the end of the stag party, the poor guy will probably find himself tied to a street light somewhere, and, if he's lucky he'll maybe get to keep some of his clothes on.

The bride-to-be will have a "show of presents", usually at her mum's house. She will invite friends round to view the gifts she has received, and this will probably be followed by a night on the town, or maybe in an exotic location, for her hen party.

And make no mistake, you know a hen party when you see one!

The bride-to-be will likely be in fancy dress, and the whole entourage will converge on the town, singing, dancing, doing a conga through the pubs, banging on pots & pans along the way and having a great time. Mind you, these days Stag & Hen Parties are more likely to be fun-filled adventure weekends in far flung places, in keeping with the fact that they are celebrating their last few days of freedom before getting married.


On the wedding day the bride will look resplendent in her white gown, shoes, veil and tiara, carrying her flower bouquet and possibly a lucky horseshoe. To make her traditional Scottish wedding complete the bride will be wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

The "something old" will most probably be something handed down from her mother to symbolise the passing down of wisdom. The "something new" will be a gift, the "something borrowed" will be from a married couple, for good luck, and "something blue" is usually a blue garter, as a sign of love and modesty.

The groom will cut a dash in his full Highland dress, consisting of the kilt (with clan tartan if applicable) & kilt pin, sporran with chain strap, tartan or white hose, jacket, shirt, bow tie, sgian dhubh (black knife) tucked in the hose, and gillie brogue shoes.

The bridesmaid dresses will have been chosen by the bride, in colours that she feels will compliment her dress, and the best man and the father of the bride will usually be in full Highland dress, making it altogether a pretty colourful affair.

After the happy couple have exchanged vows and said "I do", the wedding is well underway and ready to move up a gear. It's time for photographs to be taken and then the bride follows the tradition of tossing her bouquet over her shoulder. If the bouquet is caught by a single woman, she will be the next to marry, according to folklore.

At many of our Scottish weddings there will be a piper at the church door, to lead the bride and groom to their waiting car, and no doubt they will be showered with confetti or flower petals as they make their way.

They go to a location they have chosen for more photographs for the wedding album, and the guests will gather in the reception venue, to await the happy couples' arrival.


At the reception the bride and groom will cut the wedding cake, and the guests will receive a piece later in the night.

After the wedding meal the usual customary speeches will be made, with toasts beng made to all and sundry, and then it's down to the serious business of partying well into the wee hours of the morning. The bride and groom will lead off the dancing, and they're soon joined by the best man dancing with the chief bridesmaid, closely followed by the parents of both the bride and groom, who will swap partners.

The rest of the wedding guests soon join in, and the party is well and truly underway.

Later, the couple change from their wedding wear into something more comfortable, and mingle with their guests. At some point in the evening they will try to make their "getaway" in secret, to begin their honeymoon. At the reception, the party continues long into the night, and many a glass is raised, toasting the bride and groom.

The traditional Scottish wedding reception will likely finish with all present singing "Auld Lang Syne", but the party? Who knows? It could go on, and on, and on ….

Traditional Scottish Festivals

Hogmanay, the celebration of bringing in the New Year, is not the only traditional festival in Scotland. Many national and local celebrations took place in the past and some survive to this day. Here is a selection, with links to other sites, where available, for more detailed information. We start on 1 January and finish on the major celebration on the Scottish calendar - Hogmanay on 31 December.

First footing - 1st January

Visiting friends and relatives immediately after New Year's Eve, in the early hours of the morning of January 1st. First footing after the bells have rung in the New Year is still common - the "first foot" in the house after midnight should be male, dark, and handsome and should carry symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun ( a spiced cake) and, of course, whisky.

In Kirkwall, Orkney, there is a New Year Ba' Game held in the streets of the town which can last most of January 1st, between the Uppies and the Doonies, or more correctly, "Up-the-Gates" and "Doon-the-Gates" from Old Norse "gata" (path or road).

Near the Forth Rail Bridge at South Quuensferry on the morning of 1 January, around a 1,000 brave souls plunge into the icy waters of the river Forth in the Loony Dook . Many thousands of pounds have been raised for a variety of charities asa a result of this event which has been running now since 1986.

Handsel Monday - first Monday of the New Year

Traditionally this was the day on which handsel (presents) were given by employers to their staff, rather than on Christmas Day. Alternatively, in some areas, this was done on January 12th.
Burning of the Clavie - 11th January
In Burghead, Morayshire, a tar barrel filled with tar-soaked wood shavings is carried around the harbour and then to the Doorie Hill where the Celtic Druids used to light their fires.

Up-Helly-aa - Last Tuesday of January

Held in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, a full sized Viking Galley, complete with shields and oars is pulled by a torch-bearing procession dressed as Viking warriors to the beach. Guizer Jarl calls for three cheers for the builders of the longship and after a bugle call, the galley is set alight by 800 blazing torches.

Burns Night - 25 January
The anniversary of the birth of the poet Robert Burns, in 1759 at which many a "Burns Supper" is consumed and the "Immortal Memory", a speech in praise of the Bard, will be given.

Candlemas Day - 2 February

Candlemas began as a Roman festival to celebrate the return of spring. It is now a Scottish legal "quarter day" when rents and other payments fall due. There is an old traditional poem which said that -:

"If Candlemas Day be bright and fair
Half the winter is to come and mair (more)
If Candlemas Day be dark and foul
Half the winter was over at Yowl (Christmas)

St Valentine's Day - 14th February

This used to be an excuse for youngsters to go round begging for sweets, money or fruit, while older brothers and sisters tried to find a sweetheart. "Name-papers" were sometimes used where names were written and placed in a bonnet and and each person drew out a paper. If the same name was drawn three times, it meant a marriage would take place!

Whuppity Scoorie - 1st March

A rumbustious celebration by the young lads of Lanark. It is a relic of the days when making a lot of noise was believed to frighten away the evil spirits. Pennies supplied by money from the Common Good Fund were thrown and the children scrambled to pick it up. Balls of paper (or bonnets - a lot softer!) tied with string were used by the participants to strike one another.

Original New Year - 25th March

The Celtic New Year was celebrated on Samhain (November 1st). Then, until 1600, the Gregorian Calendar which was used in Scotland, placed New Year on 25th March.

Fastern's E'en - Last Tuesday Before Lent

This was a carnival and feast held on the last Tuesday before the sacrifices of Lent, during which meat, butter and fat were used up. Around Scotland the day had different names such as Bannock Night, Beef Brose and Shriften E'en. In some places there was a rowdy game of football or handball, for example in Jedburgh, a rowdy game of handball called the Callant's Ba' was held between the "uppies" and the "downies".

Easter - Variable Dates

There was a festival for "Eastre", a Saxon goddess of fertility, in pre-Christian times which was integrated into the Christian calendar. The date is moveable, because the calculation is based on phases of the moon. In Scotland, to this day, "hot cross buns" are baked, containing spices and fruit and with a white pastry cross. On Good Friday, no ploughing was done and no seed was sown. The custom of rolling painted, hard-boiled eggs down a hill took place on Easter Monday.

Hunt the Gowk - 1st April

On this day people would play tricks and tell lies to catch each other out. But the jokes had to stop at mid-day. Now called April Fool's Day, hunting the gowk was originally sending someone on a foolish errand.

"Dinna laugh, an' dinna smile
But hunt the gowk another mile"

Preen-tail Day or Tailie Day - 2nd April

The day following All Fool's Day when paper tails were attached to the backs of unsuspecting people as a joke.

Glen Saturday - the first or third Saturday in April

The day when the children of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire went to Crawfurdland Castle to pick daffodils.

Whitsunday - the seventh Sunday after Easter

Another Scottish legal quarter day when rents fell due.

Beltane's Day - 1st May

A pagan fire festival which goes back to pre-Christian times - originating with Baal in Phoenicia. It was supposed to encourage the crops to grow. There has been a holiday at the start of May in many parts of Scotland for centuries. Young girls would also rise early to wash their faces in the May dew. The custom of lighting fires at this time has come through in place names such as Tarbolton in Ayrshire ("tor" meaning hill and "bolton" from "Beltane"). The ancient Druidic Fire Festival has been revived by "New Age" followers who gather on the historic Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

Empire Day/Victoria Day - 24th May
Flags were flown from public buildings and schools decorated classrooms with flags of the British Empire. The name was changed to Commonwealth Day. The nearest Monday to 24th May was a local trades holiday in many parts of Scotland to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday and the tradition has continued long after Queen Victoria's reign.

Guid Nychburris - mid June

This is a Dumfries festival which has its origins in a court which resolved disputes between neighbours to make them "Guid Nychburris" or good neighbours. The Queen of the South is crowned during the week-long festivities.

Lanimer Day - 17th June

Held in Lanark, Lanimer Day (a corruption of "landemark" or boundary) is when the houses are decorated with greenery and there is a Lanimer Fair.

Selkirk Common Riding - 18th June
A ceremony of Riding the Marches or boundaries is traditional in a number of locations around Scotland, and the tradition has still survived particularly in the Scottish Borders. Selkirk's is particularly well known, remembering as it does the Battle of Flodden in June 1488, but there are similar festivities (on differing dates) in Langholm, Lauder, Peebles, Annan, Linlithgow and Sanquhar.

Glasgow Fair - last two weeks in July
Originally a real fair established by a charter from William the Lion in 1190, but latterly the last two weeks in July when factories and offices closed for summer holidays and Maw, Paw and the Weans went "Doon the Watter" (River Clyde) to the holiday resorts there.

Lammas - 1st August

There was a Celtic feast of "Lugnasaid" and this may have been the origins of this festival. Others believe it was a corruption of "Loafmas" when a loaf was baked with the first grain frm the harvest. It is now a Scottish legal "Quarter Day" when rents and contracts fall due.

Marymas - 15th August

A bannock (cake) was toasted on a fire in honour of the Virgin Mary.

Braemar Gathering - First Saturday in September

The origin of this major Highland Games is said to go back to the 11th century when King Malcolm III "Canmore" gave a prize to the winner of a race to the top of Craig Choinnich. Queen Victoria ensured the success of the games into modern times by attending them in 1848 and the Royal family has been associated with them ever since.

Michaelmas Day - 29th September

St Michael was the patron saint of the sea and sailors and his saint's day was celebrated in the West of Scotland in particular. In the island if Barra, a bannock was baked from the first grain of the year and eaten on St Michael's day. Everyone was given a piece to eat.

St Luke's Day, 18th October

Known also as "Sour Cakes Day", there were particular celebrations in the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, with the baking of cakes eaten with sour cream.

Halloween - 31 October

The evening of All Hallows (Saints) Day and the last day of the year in the old Celtic calendar. It was celebrated by the Druids as "Samhain" from "Sain" meaning summer and "fuin" meaning "ending". It was associated with witches and celebrated with bonfires and "guising" as children dressed up and went round neighbouring houses with "tattie bogles" or "neep lanterns" (candles inside turnips). The pumpkin serves the same purpose in the USA. There is a (long) poem by Robert Burns on Hallowe'en which gives a good description of the traditions which were followed in his day.

All Souls Day - 2nd November

Prayers were said for the souls of the dead and alms given to the poor.

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night - 5 November

Recalling the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament with 20 barrels of gunpowder in 1605. Bonfires, fireworks and "penny for the guy" (an effigy of Guy Fawkes, providing an excuse for children to plead for money from passers-by). This is not a specifically Scottish festivity - it is UK wide but it took place shortly after the Union of the Crowns when King James VI of Scotland became king of England and Wales also.

Martinmas - 11 November

The last Scottish legal "Quarter Day" when rents and contracts fell due. Since fodder was becoming scarce by this time of the tear, cattle were often killed at this time. As a by-product of this the offal was mixed with oatmeal to make haggis and the blood used to make black puddings.

St Andrew's Day - 30 November

Although St Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland since a Pictish victory in a battle in 747AD, for many years 30 November was not a recognised public holiday in Scotland. Indeed, St Andrew's night is celebrated more by expatriate Scots around the world. However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. Even so, it was left to individual businesses to negotiate whether to give up another holiday in favour of St Andrew's Day. As the end of November is not a time when good weather might be expected, few companies have adopted it.

Sowans Nicht - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve in some parts of Scotland is called "Sowans Nicht" from "sowans" - a dish made from oat husks and fine meal steeped in water. And branches of a rowan tree were burnt on Christmas Eve to signify that any bad feeling between friends or relatives had been put aside for Yuletide.

Christmas - 25th December

Like many ancient races, particularly those located in the northern latitudes, where winter days were short and the nights long, the pagan Celts had celebrations around the time of the winter solstice, in part to brighten the darkest days, in part to propitiate the gods to allow the sun to return. In Norse mythology, Odin the gift-bringer, swept across the night sky in a chariot drawn by horses. The Christian Church took over the festival but some of the traditions harked back to the pagan roots. The Yule log was burned in the fireplace, there was kissing under the mistletoe (related to a Druidic fertility rite) and the house was decorated with holly (evergreen trees were regarded with reverence).

But during the Church Reformation in the 16th century these traditions were frowned on by the Kirk which regarded Christmas as a popish festival. Bear in mind that "Christmas" is "Christ's Mass" and mass was banned in Scotland at that time. There are records of charges being brought against people for keeping "Yule" as it was called in Scotland. Amazingly, this dour, joy-crushing attitude lasted for 400 years. Until the 1960s, Christmas Day was a normal working day for most people in Scotland. So if there is a specifically "Scottish" aspect to Christmas it is that it was not celebrated!

The "traditional" Christmas celebrations (other than the religious festival) originated in the 19th century (Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, had a lot to do with it!) and England and Scotland developed the same traditions from around that time - Christmas trees, decorations, Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, presents, stockings at the end of the bed, Christmas carols Christmas cards etc. Christmas cards are said to have been invented in Edinburgh in the mid-nineteenth century.

Boxing Day - 26th December

Yet another day on which gifts (in boxes) were exchanged.

Hogmanay - New Year's Eve, 31 December

The origins of the word "Hogmanay" are lost in the past. Some say it is from the Norse "Hoggunott" or night of slaughter when animals were killed for a midwinter feast. Also that it is from "Huh-me-naay" or kiss me now when even strangers embraced. Another theory is that it comes from the French "Hoguinane" sung by children on "Cake Day".

To this day, Hogmanay is still a more important festival in Scotland than Christmas. Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north than ourselves, paid even more attention to the passing of the shortest day. While clearly celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event, when the whole country celebrates in the build up to "the bells" chiming midnight - and Burns' song "Auld Lang Syne" is murdered once again!

There are traditions such as cleaning the house (known as "redding") on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). And Scotland is the only part of the UK that has a statutory holiday on 2nd January as well as 1st January - so we can recover from the excesses of 31 December!

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