Happy New Year from The New Federalist!

, by Aimee Pearcy, Christian Gibbons, Feyza Nur Sahinli, Madelaine Pitt, Rafael Silva

Happy New Year from The New Federalist!
Happy New Year from the team at TNF! Thanks to Rafael Silva for the design Other photo credits: US Air Force (UK and Turkey), Wol Dkiei (Portugal), Christian (Spain) and LenDog64 (France)

Just before we knuckle down to covering European affairs in 2020, it’s time for one last glance back at the festive season which saw off the past year and the past decade. How do celebrations differ between European countries? Five members of our editorial team share what the festivities are like in their home (or temporary home) countries!

Lisbonfeatures spectacular decorations over the festive period. Image Credit: Wol Dkiei. Lisbon features spectacular decorations over the festive period. Image Credit: Wol Dkiei
Lisbon features spectacular decorations over the festive period.
Image Credit: Wol Dkiei

Portugal, Rafael Silva - Social Media Co-ordinator

No one can separate Portugal from its deeply rooted Catholic religion. If we wish to understand the first, we must take into account the latter. Christmas is, therefore, taken very seriously here.

Like in Spain, there is the traditional Christmas meal in Portugal that we call “Consoada”. Traditionally, it would consist of codfish, potatoes, boiled eggs and vegetables. Although, nowadays, codfish is something that not everyone likes. If, like me, you don’t eat meat or if you simply don’t like codfish, you can always be creative!

After that, if your family is religious, you may want to go the “Missa do Galo” —Rooster’s Mass. When the service is over, you may finally go home and do the best thing ever- open your presents! The Pai Natal — Father Christmas — will bring them in, as he works relentlessly all year for this night (or, if you’re like my grandmother, you’ll say that who brought them was actually Baby Jesus).

The Portuguese Christmas Day is just amazing! We normally eat “Roupa Velha” — old clothing — which is basically the leftovers of the Consoada with lots of fried garlic and olive oil! And, of course, don’t forget the King Cake — an amazing sweet cake with caramelized fruits. My family usually puts two beans inside the cake — a white bean and a black bean — if you find the white one you receive a present! If you get the black one, you have to pay for next year’s King Cake.

The rest of the day, we watch Christmas movies and the children play with their new toys, while wishing each other “Feliz Natal e um próspero ano novo!” — a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

The Christmas markets take over the entire city centre of Strasbourg from the end of November to the end of December.
Image credit: LenDog64

France, Madelaine Pitt - Editor-in-Chief

Christmas markets might seem an inherently German tradition, but it is France that is home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Admittedly, there wasn’t much French about the eastern city of Strasbourg when the market was founded. Strasbourg was annexed by the French in 1861 after being part of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, yet the “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Christ child) dates back to 1570. Today, the market rakes in 16 million euros annually for the city — not bad for under a month of mulled wine, tantalising lights, tasty Alsatian treats and Christmassy goodies clustered around the famous cathedral.

Food, unsurprisingly, is key to the French festive season. Many people prepare a “bûche de Noël”, a Yule log, in preparation of the big day, where the main lunchtime feast often includes several meats, foie gras and oysters. New Year’s Eve is another occasion for a lavish dinner with family or friends.

6th January marks the official end of the festive season, celebrated with a “Galette des Rois” or “cake of the kings” — a puff pastry pie with frangipane. As most people are back at work before then, galettes are shared at teatime at offices up and down the country. Beware — if your slice contains the little figure hidden somewhere in the pie, you will be stuck wearing the paper crown that comes with every packet!

Shame I wasn’t in Strasbourg this year for the markets - last year I bumped into, and shook the hand of, French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Winter led crowds through the centre of Barcelona over Christmas. Image credit: Christian Gibbons

Spain, Christian Gibbons - Global Affairs Editor

My introduction to Spain’s Christmas traditions began with 13 different notifications popping up on my phone.

No, really. In Spain, the holidays start on December 22nd with a nationwide lottery draw which claims to be the second longest continuously running lottery in the world. The lottery is also known for its largest prize, el Gordo, which accords its winner €4,000,000. Naturally, the newspapers need to keep people up to date!

But the spectacle of the lottery is accompanied by others. In Barcelona, where I was staying at the time, the city’s Plaça Catalunya was converted into a center of festivities called La Ciutat de Somriures. Abruptly, as I was walking home on the 23rd, I happened across an animatronic, four-metre tall Mr. Winter leading a vast crowd towards a giant storybook in the centre of the plaza.

Not to be outdone, a Spanish friend of mine bombarded me on the 24th with pictures of a lush Christmas feast that her family had clearly been preparing for days. The Spanish holiday season is a curious, wonderful combination of extravagance and intimacy.

Christmas lights “switch ons” are becoming increasingly popular as towns seek out celebrities to come and declare the Christmas season open.
US Air Force

United Kingdom, Aimee Pearcy - History, Culture and Society Editor

Christmas festivities in the UK usually begin around November, when towns and cities throughout the country are decorated with brightly coloured Christmas lights, and a famous figure is often invited to switch them on. The lights in Oxford Street in London are the most popular, and thousands of tourists travel to the area each year to watch the big Christmas light ‘switch on’. This year marked the 60th anniversary of this festive display.

Decorated Christmas trees with dazzling, multi-coloured lights can be seen everywhere — in shops and restaurants, in people’s homes, and in the centre of villages, towns, and cities all across the country. The German tradition of Christmas trees was brought to the UK by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who wanted to introduce his country’s tradition to the English celebration.

Every year, British people hope for a ‘White Christmas’. The ‘official’ British definition for this, which is used by the UK Meteorological Office, is that ‘a single British snowflake is seen falling within the twenty-four hours that make up Christmas day’. But this doesn’t happen very often — just about once every four or five years!

Fireworks have become part and parcel of New Year celebrations in Turkey.
US Air Force

Turkey – Feyza Nur Sahinli, Social Media Co-ordinator

In Turkey, we do not celebrate Christmas as we are a Muslim country. However, New Year has a great significance for Turkish people so we like to celebrate it to the fullest. We believe all the troubles of the previous year end with the new year and give way to new hopes instead.

New Year celebrations were first introduced to the Ottoman society as a diplomatic obligation in 1829 when the British ambassador invited respected statesmen to the ball on a ship in the Golden Horn, an estuary close to Istanbul. After the Tayyare Lottery, which was the first New Year’s lottery in 1926, and following the ball held by the high state officials in 1929, it was clear that the New Year celebrations had become a part of Turkish traditions.

New Year celebrations have been changing. In the past, families used to come together, have a feast, eagerly wait for the results of the lottery draw, play bingo, cook chestnuts and watch entertaining programs. In recent years, we have started to celebrate it more like Europeans. Now, it is very popular to decorate Christmas trees with various Christmas ornaments and colorful lights both in the houses and in the streets. New Year’s Eve entertainment options are available for different lifestyles. In hotels, restaurants or public areas, concerts are performed with various types of artists.

Young people and people who do not want to spend a lot of money prefer open-air concerts. In big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, firework shows are held to entertain people with magnificent colors bursting. People gather around the most important squares of the cities and have fun until midnight. Ten seconds before 00:00, everyone starts counting down from 10 as they share the same enthusiasm with the whole world in greeting the New Year.

A very happy New Year to all our readers and writers of The New Federalist!

The New Year is a great time to start writing for us :D Join our contributors’ group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/TNFWriters/ or email our Editor-in-Chief on madelaine.pitt at jef.eu to pitch an idea!

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