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Published: June 29th 2022
4. Prague - The unexpected move to close Christmas markets just as they were about to open was a great surprise. The Czech government announced that markets that had already opened would have to close and the planned opening of the Old Town Square market and others would not take place.
Drinking alcohol in public, such as mulled wine has also been banned.
Christmas trees and fresh carp can still be sold on the street & markets that stay open all year, such as farmers markets, can remain.
So resourceful as the Czech people are a few stalls were open selling a variety of items but sadly the kiosks & stalls of the main Christmas Market in the Old Town Square were all boarded up.
Mischa was still able to give us a festive experience in Prague with the Christmas lights and the beautiful national Christmas Tree taking pride of place in the square.
5.Barcelona - This was a tour full of surprises and lots of laughter, Heygo Amsterdam guide joined up with the Barcelona guide Pepus as we learnt about Catalonia traditions at Christmas time.
On December 8th each year — the Feast of the Immaculate Conception — families bring out the happy log. Every night until December 24, children are tasked with “feeding” the log by offering him nuts, dried fruit, and water. Kids must also cover Tió de Nadal with a blanket to ensure he stays warm and comfortable.
On Christmas Eve this is when, usually after the main meal, the children start to hit the log with sticks, all the while singing a special song in the hope that he will excrete gifts and sweets for them. As the blanket is finally removed, after days and weeks of anticipation, a treasure trove of small toys and Christmas goodies are revealed as presents for the children. And, in a tradition dating back to a time when rural families would gather around the fire, Caga Tió is then thrown amongst the flames to provide the whole household with much needed warmth.
Like in many other countries in the world, the Nativity Scene is central to the decoration of Catalan homes during the Christmas period and it is common to find not only the traditional stable scene, but an entire
reconstruction of the town of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth – complete with moss for the grass and cork for the hills.
The counterpoint to the ornamental traditionalism of the Nativity Scene is the outrageous figure of the Caganer – a man in traditional Catalan dress, squatting with his trousers around his ankles, defecating in the stable.
The tradition of placing this character within the customary Nativity Scene dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was allegedly added as a symbol of good luck. This however is not considered profane in Catalonia, rather it recalls pagan rituals of fertilising the soil and is considered good luck!
Catalans today commonly use the figurine as an excuse for satire and as a means to bring the mighty back down to earth. We saw on sale models carrying the faces of celebrities, politicians and other public figures.
At these Christmas Markets in Barcelona there are no food or drink stalls unlike the Christmas Markets in other parts of Europe.
At the end of the tour we saw the most amazing nativity scene with so much
intricate detail we could have spent hours just admiring all of the craftsmanship.
7. Budapest - The first of my tours today with Zsuzsi in Budapest discovering places that she recommends visiting at this time of the year.
Just a few steps from the Vörösmarty Square, in the heart of the Váci Street, hides the wonderland themed PHILANTHIA flower and interior shop & at this time of the year it is transferred into a
Magical Christmas scene.
The Christmas market here sell traditional Hungarian handicrafts, also plenty of stalls selling all types if food and drink.
At St.Stephan’s Basilica we were taken up to the highest lookout point in Pest, providing a 360 degree
Another iconic establishment is the beautiful Ghraqui chocolate premises.
Our final destination was St. Andrea Wine & Skybar with views of the city and the Christmas market below.
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