Alice Baruffato on the theme of Charlie Hebdo  


E&M's contributor Alice Baruffato continues her series of thought-provoking cartoons on current, major European topics. This time round Alice has focused her attention on the Parisian attack and, more broadly, on freedom of speech and expression.  

Published in Beyond Europe


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. 



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

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

My trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina has taught me so far, that I have come to a country where people are strictly separated by religion and ethnicity – so much so that a small river can mark a frontier so powerful that even 17 years after the end of the war the citizens of Mostar wouldn't dare to overcome it. But I also had to learn that things can change if people are willing to give up prejudices. I want to find more of those people and therefore travel on to the capital - Sarajevo.

Part 2: Fighting Division – Franciscan monks in Sarajevo

Photo: Julia Schulte
Train station in Mostar / Mocтap.

I leave Mostar the next day by train. The station's sign reads "MOSTAR" - and "MOCTAP". The scripture is divided, too, as are schools and universities. "Three different truths are taught in our history classes" is a statement I frequently hear. Even the former Serbo-Croatian language is split into three: Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian. Though the differences are marginal, compared for example to regional dialects in Germany, each group insists on its own language. At this point it seems hard to imagine the country being part of the EU where currently 27 nations try to live together.


"The problem is this," says Mile Babić: "We have Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks here - but no human beings!" The Franciscan monk and professor at the theological faculty in Sarajevo welcomes me in plaid shirt and jeans. Having studied in Innsbruck he speaks fluent German. His voice is loud and he uses his hands all the time to underline what he says. He is as much here and now as he would like his church to be.

Published in Imagine Europe
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