The magical time is coming! Let’s play an imaginarium game. Sit comfortably. Imagine garlands on the Christmas tree. How does it smell? The tree, not the lights! Yes, the scent of pine needles, tangerines, hot chocolate. Then look down, under the tree. Presents! Do you remember this excitement? Now you are a child. And this article is better to read with your inner child. Leave behind the adult. Let’s go outside!
Ljubljana’s Christmas Lights are creative illuminations installed all around the city’s center. They were created by a well-known Slovenian artist, Zmago Modic. Also, they differ from the typical Christmas decorations in shapes and ideas. The lights appear on the street at the end of November and dazzle for the entire advent.
This year, the snow’s appearance coincided with the appearance of the Christmas lights on the streets of Ljubljana. What does it mean? The advent went live together with the most adventurous winter feature: snow. Frankly speaking, last year, it became a rare occasion. Especially in the time when autumn gives back the credentials of power to winter, and the last one inaugurates to be the last season monarch this year.
Slovenians are people of magic. So, they emphasize these changes with the lights. Not usual ones. Every big or small city has typical garlands around the center. And it’s not bad, personally, I like the lights in any shape or kind. Just two meters of this fluorescent engineering miracle can create a festive atmosphere on any street, and therefore, in your soul. However, the Slovenians moved further.
The citizens of Ljubljana asked one of their favorite artists and decorators, Zmago Modic, who was already famous for the summer rain at Prešeren Square, to create something adorable and festive. Should I mention that it was a win/win decision? Moreover, it was such a win that Ljubljana was ranked among the most beautiful European capitals during the period from December to January. Now, the Christmas spirit enhanced up to almost every corner of Ljubljana.
The opening of holiday lights in Ljubljana 2020 will be entirely dedicated to Zmag Modic, who died last year. All of his themes are included. Urban Modic, his son, took care of the installation. The total length of the lights is 50 kilometers this year.
The entire city is lit up with universe-themed shapes and artistic styles. Every year, the historical city center, churches, and bridges are dressing up in shining clothes. Furthermore, Ljubljana Castle becomes a place of fairy-tale culmination, whereas the creations of the most famous architect of Slovenia, Jože Plečnik, are the main characters of this color-dancing overture.
Don’t be surprised to see some strange decorations around the city. As I mentioned before, the Slovenians moved further in this matter. Usually, the typical Christmas decorations are associated with candles, gifts, babies that represent newly born Jesus, angel wings, and so on. However, here they are more abstract and artistic. That’s why Ljubljana Christmas lights became so popular among visitors. You can find here galaxies, planets, DNA structure, numerous geometric shapes, and many more that are worth to be seen but not to be read about.
The Month of Events
Lights are good, but it’s not the one thing that creates a magic atmosphere. December is well-known among Slovenians as full of festive open-air events. It includes the Christmas market, concerts, exhibitions, and other entertainments. Streets are literally vibrant throughout the month.
Ljubljana Christmas lights open the advent season. However, there are a bunch of other occasions, and the first of them is the Christmas market. Actually, it’s common even all around the European countries. Its roots are going deep down into the Christian traditions. Here, the Christmas market is called the Ljubljana Festive Fair.
I know everyone has their own memories from childhood, but personally, for me, the market is associated with festive food, sweets, warm cocoa, handmade products, and pyrotechnics. I would not recommend having the last one because it can be dangerous. However, all other mentioned things are common for most of our cultures. In the Ljubljana Festive Fair, you will find all these and even a lot more.
As I mentioned above, the market, as well as the lights, start at the end of November. However, they last more than a month until the day of the Epiphany or Three Kings. This means that you can visit Ljubljana at any comfortable time in December and still feel the atmosphere of celebration, try local food, and warm yourself with mulled wine. Usually, the fair spreads all around the Old Town.
Of course, the “must” in every to-do list before Christmas is buying presents for yourself, your family, and your friends. The Ljubljana Festive Fair can easily help you. For sure, you will find a lot of interesting things and products for everybody. Also, don’t forget about yourself. Try local sweets, get warm with hot beverages, and listen to live music. There are many art activities at this time. The best ones are concerts, of course. When it’s cold outside, only Slavic folk dances can force your blood to circulate faster and faster in veins until your cheeks become blushing. This means you are warmed for half an hour to walk around the market in search of something cool.
What to Try from Food and Beverages?
Of course, the festivity is not even complete without traditional food and drinks. As I mentioned above, mulled wine or hot cocoa are necessary there. It would be even better for you to take a thermos and fill it up there. First of all, your beverages won’t get chilled too fast in this case. Secondly, it’s the most eco-friendly option of all the possible ones. You will suit Ljubljana perfectly with it because it was awarded as European Green Capital by the European Commission in 2016 and got several more prizes in this field as well. For food, you can take cherry strudel or some persimmon strudel.
On the other hand, mulled wine and strudels are quite a common thing. It’s better to find something definitely Slovenian. So, the personal recommendation goes to potica and honey schnapps. These two products are strongly connected with the notion of “being a Slovenian”.
Potica is a festive dessert. As a usual pastry, it is made from dough, but you need to have the leavened paper-thin dough for this one. The fillings for this product vary a lot. It can be sweet as well as salty, but the most popular filling is walnuts. The other “true” Slovenian fillings are tarragon, quark, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, and poppy seed. The salted ones can be different, most usual with cracklings or bacon.
Potica is a really festive dish. Thus it is done in the special round shaped baking mold (ceramic, glass, or tin one), called potičnik, with a hole in the center. The dish is an inevitable part of Easter and Christmas tables.
The second recommendation was schnapps. Undoubtedly, this is the favorite alcoholic drink in Slovenia. In local lingo, it is called “zganje”. At least one bottle should be on the table in times of national celebrations. Of course, you can buy the bottled one in any shop, but wait!
The best schnapps is home-brewed, with unique recipes carried inside the Slovenian families from generation to generation. Luckily for you, it is not needed to go search from a garage to a garage, asking people to try a bit. The only thing you need to do is to visit the Ljubljana Festive Fair.
Here, you will find any taste for the most gourmand-ish drinkers. The most popular Slovenian schnapps are slivovka (plum), borovnica (blueberry), medica (honey), and viljamovka (pear). For those ones, who are fans of an herbal Jagermeister-ish flavor, the best choice would be pelinkovac. However, as I mentioned, for the winter, the best choice is honey. It has the best warming effect and suits the taste of potica the best.
Let’s Have a Walk Around Ljubljana
The capital of Slovenia is an extremely beautiful city. It’s artistic not only during the advent season. The feel of the creative approach of Slovenians to their environment is noticeable at any time of the year. It holds dozens of art festivals and events throughout the year. Moreover, local people are also willing to express their inner artists on the streets. For example, the most famous street theater in Slovenia is Ana Monro, the oldest independent alternative theater group that became well-known outside the country as well.
However, if you are already here in winter, I strongly recommend you to check the best landmarks of the city covered in snow and illuminated by Christmas lights. Actually, Ljubljana is full of interesting places. In the very heart of it, there is Prešeren Square, dedicated to one of the most significant national figures of Slovenia. Franc Prešeren is the author of the lyrics of the official hymn of the republic. The highest cultural prize, the Prešeren Award, is named in his honor. In the center is the square, it is located a beautiful monument of him.
Ljubljana Castle is a pearl of the city. It is a place located on Castle Hill, which includes Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural elements. The castle is the former residence of the Dukes of Carniola as well as nowadays residence of the Ljubljana Festival, one of the biggest and oldest festivals in the entire post-Yugoslav territory.
Of course, a must-see is a main watercourse of Ljubljana, the Ljubljanica River, that flows across the city. You can even have a ride on a local boat. Furthermore, as I mentioned above, the city is very green and eco-friendly. Tivoli City Park is the biggest one, also here you can find Tivoli Castle, which looks more like a mansion than a castle.
If there is a river flowing through the city, then there are many bridges. Most of them are adorably decorated. The two most famous are the Dragons Bridge, which is protected by dragons, and the Butchers’ Bridge, where you can observe sculptures from Ancient Greek mythology and Biblical stories.
Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve!
Of course, the advent goes live in Ljubljana throughout the entire December. However, we all know well when it is going to happen, the culmination of the celebration. Of course, those days are Christmas and New Year. Some Slovenian children get their presents on Saint Nicholas Day, which is celebrated on December 6.
However, most of them receive them on New Year’s eve. By a legend, they are brought by Slovenian Santa Claus, who is called Grandpa Frost (Dedek Mraz in the Slovene language). With the big part of the world, Slovenia celebrates Christmas on December 25. Slovenians bake special Christmas bread. According to the tradition, a whole family eats the first loaf of it on Christmas, the second – on New Year’s Eve, and the third one – on the Three Wise Men’ celebration (January 6).
On December 26, the Slovenians have a second celebration. It is their Independence and Unity Day. This day commemorates the official proclamation of the Slovenian independence on December 26, 1990, after the referendum. It should not be confused with Slovenia’s Statehood Day, which is celebrated on the 25th of June. This one commemorates the declaration of Slovenian independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Therefore, the Slovenes have two independence days. The day is celebrated with a national ceremony with speeches, musical programs, and readings of literature or poetry.
If you happen to be in Slovenia on this day, it’s the best opportunity to get acquainted with the Slovenian culture. On the main squares of the city, the Republic Square and Prešeren Square, usually there are concerts with traditional folk music and dances.
However, there is one more unique event happening in Slovenia every year on December 25. This will be a recommendation, which is not afraid to move a little bit out of the city. The name of the event is Sinking of the Bell. It’s a Christmas event as well but located at Lake Bled (only 50 km by car from Ljubljana, that’s approximately 40 minutes of a ride). By the legend, a bell made of Christmas lights starts to sink into the water of Lake Bled on Christmas night. Thus, this scenario was reincarnated into a big performance.
Slovenians love this event. Usually, they get mulled wine or hot chocolate and wait until the only source of light, the big sinking bell, slowly gets under the water. The action is followed by Christmas carols. Romantic a lot!
The icing on the cake of the advent: New Year. It is the day of the ending of the past as well as the beginning of the new time. This holiday does not need its introduction. The biggest celebration is located in the Old Town of Ljubljana. Usually, it is crowded a lot, but it’s worth it because people are waiting for fireworks launched from the Ljubljana Castle Hill. Another unique place is Lake Bled, which is picturesque by itself, but Christmas decorations make it and the town even more atmospheric.
After all, if you love Slovenia so much and cannot leave it, so you decided to stay for a little bit longer, there is one more event. Snow Castle Festival is a snow exhibition taking place in January. Usually, it is held on Plateau Mitnek or Črna na Koroškem. Those places become a little wonderland for sure. People gather in teams, local as well as international ones, and start to create snowy sculptures. They should be connected to King Matjaž. By legends, he is sleeping in one of the caves in this part of Slovenia. When night comes, lights create obscure shadows playing with visitors’ minds. Sometimes spooky, but definitely worth visiting.
Feel Yourself like a Child
Christmas always was a magical time. However, you can believe in magic only if you are a child. Adults don’t believe in magic. They believe in problems, challenges, critical thinking, and reality. It’s not bad, of course. But we cannot think about serious stuff for an entire year. Nevertheless, this year showed the importance of relaxing mentally.
Thus, I propose to forget all the problems and recall how we were children. At least, for a bit. At least, for Christmas time. All the mentioned above things were created for having fun with family, friends, new people, and so on. However, the most important thing is to be at peace with yourself. Because the only person who will stay with you until the end is you.
That’s why I propose to become a child again, for a bit. To smell the pine tree and tangerines. To be adored by lights. To taste cocoa and sweets. All this is available on the Christmas market under the illumination of Ljubljana’s Christmas Lights. The advert is the perfect time to visit Slovenia. You can discover not only the country and its culture but the way Slovenians celebrate winter holidays as well. Moreover, it lasts for an entire December. So, you won’t be stuck with the limited dates as other markets have.
On the other side, the best time to visit Slovenia in the advert is Christmas and New Year. This time is magical, and the magic reveals our inner children.