From Budapest and Prague: Singing in the New Year

To celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year with song, Mr. TWS wanted to share a few videos from Budapest and Prague during our 2013 European Christmas markets tour. Enjoy!

By Mr. TWS

There were so many things that made our 2013 Christmas markets tour memorable – visiting 3 cities in 3 countries in Europe (Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) just before Christmas, sharing the spirit of the season with friends and family in Wisconsin and Chicago, and visiting a snowy, Christmas-decorated Milwaukee, where Sweeney and I first met.

"Singers at Vorosmarty Christmas market in Budapest"

Singers at Vorosmarty Christmas market in Budapest

Songs from Budapest and Prague

The Christmas markets in Europe have become an annual tradition for TWS. My favorite thing about them is catching live performances by local groups, especially children, putting on performances on the small stages. There may be plays and skits but it is the singing of carols I enjoy the most, particularly if they are traditional carols of the region sung in the native language. We had such experiences at Christmas markets in Budapest and Prague this year. I’ll start with the Budapest one because it was an especially touching moment.

We were attending the larger of the two main Christmas markets on the Pest side of the Danube in Budapest. As we approached the small stage we could see that there were performers singing and a small audience gathered. It appeared to be a mother and her 3 children aged about 7, 10 and 14. The mother was very exuberant and happy and all of their voices were delightful. When they finished the song I turned to a gentleman near us and asked if he spoke English. Then I asked if it was a Hungarian Christmas carol they were singing. He replied that it was Hungarian but not a carol, but rather a folk song. He continued to say, “But it is very special because it is Romanian, Romanian Hungarian; they are Hungarians from Romania and it is very special; very important.” The crowd was very enthusiastic in response to the performance.

This was one of my favorite Christmas moments of 2013. We were able to appreciate a native carol in the native language. It was even better because it involved a family singing together and better yet because of the significance of the singers being Romanian Hungarians and the fact that it was so important to the local Hungarians exemplified by the gentleman’s comments and the enthusiasm of the audience. It was also fun to make a connection with the man next to me and special because of the kind way with which he interacted with me and his pride and excitement in talking about the singers.

One of the things we enjoy about travel is the relationship to history. To some extent history can spur the interest in traveling to a certain location, and certainly to see certain sites at a destination. But more travel introduces one to historical aspects associated with locations spurring deeper investigation. Such was the case here. I learned afterward that there is a significant history to the area of Romania, mostly Transylvania, where most of the Hungarians of Romania reside. But the key incident was at the end of World War 1, when the region of Transylvania, formerly part of Hungary, became part of Romania, due to border changes that were part of the treaties including the Versailles Treaty.

After another song, the mother of the group made a short announcement in Hungarian. The nice gentleman next to us informed us that they were going to do several Hungarian carols and it is one of those that I captured in the video below. The children weren’t included in this one,  but it was very lively and got the audience involved. I think you’ll enjoy the enthusiastic singing, especially towards the end.

In Prague, we were also able to enjoy Czech caroling. Though we were at the main Christmas market in Old Town three times partly because of the great location of our hotel, the Four Seasons Prague, it wasn’t until the last night that we were there at the right time to catch the caroling. Usually it is performed by singers that come from other communities (some traveling far to perform) and they often sing wearing costumes or traditional attire of their area. What also made this market special was the stunning location. In all four directions there are Old Town’s beautiful buildings. With the red-roofed market booths and diverse decorations Old Town Square is a perfect Christmas market setting. Hope you enjoy these videos as well.

Holiday greetings and all the best for a very happy new year from Sweeney and me!

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30 thoughts on “From Budapest and Prague: Singing in the New Year

  1. Mike

    Wonderful post,Cathy, and Happy New Year to you and Mr TWS! I checked out each video and the kids singing was absolutely adorable. My favorite though was Prague Town Square #1. It’s interesting how the man described the kids singing as a folk song not actually a carol, huh? The part I liked the best was you sharing how you enjoy the relationship to history the most. I absolutely love that kind of information and will always absorb it up like a sponge! We hope all is well with you two and your families! 🙂

  2. Jeff Titelius

    You know me, I am a sucker for all things Christmas markets!! Looks like you had a fabulous time in December and it really was shame that we couldn’t meet in Budapest! That would have been amazing!! I wish I could have enjoyed little concerts like these..must have been magical!! Happy New Year to you and Mr. TWS too!!!

  3. Maria

    Happy New Year Cathy – one of the aspects of this blog that drew me in and has me coming back is as you said, travel and the relationship to history. I always learn from your posts and today is no different. Thanks for broadening my horizon.

  4. budget jan

    Wishing you a happy new year with lots of exciting twists and turns. Thanks to Mr. TWS for this post. Children singing Christmas Carols has been known to bring a tear to my eye. 🙂

  5. Leigh

    We had some unexpected carolers show up at our door with musical instruments to boot. But I would have loved the whole European experience.
    I’m curious where you’ll end up next winter before Christmas.

    I’ve lost track of how many times you’ve been to Europe now – but what a year you have had.

    May 2014 be a good one for you.

  6. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    I love your Christmas market tour tradition. This is such a great part of the Christmas markets that often doesn’t get mentioned due to the food and merchandise. I enjoyed the festive videos. I’m sharing this with my Hungarian friend who will really appreciate the folk songs. Wishing the both of you a very Happy New Year and many more adventures in 2014. Can’t wait to see where you’ll be going this year.

  7. Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel

    Hello, lovely to meet you via Travel Photo Thursday. What a treat to visit Eastern Europe with you. We are Scottish-born Australians, currently visiting the family in Edinburgh. I’m so enjoying a ‘real’ ie cold Festive Season. Have never yet visited Eastern Europe so was glad to do some armchair travelling with you there today.

  8. Josie

    Nice post Mr. TWS,

    I agree wholeheartedly about the music being a favorite aspect of markets — or travel in general. The little Budapest family is so sweet!

    My husband Conrad and I once popped into a local concert in Bilbao, Spain where a young man was holding a concert in an old renovated church. The audience was mostly his family members and friends and when they learned we were visiting and wanted to hear, we were welcomed in with open arms and big hearts. We rocked the night away, had fun, and felt honored to witness the band’s breakout performance. Such sweet people, those Spaniards!

    Happy New Year,

  9. Marisol@TravelingSolemates

    I think your Christmas market tour is a great tradition. I wish to do that someday. Listening to local carols is definitely a beatiful part of the tradition as well. I liked your story about the Hungarian Romanian family and the geographical history you shared. It was touching indeed.
    Happy New Year to you and Mr. TWS. Wishing you both more happy travels in 2014.

  10. Neva

    Growing up in Wisconsin, actually (Green Bay – Go Packers!), I applaud your bravery to visit during the winter.

    Your videos are fantastic and made me feel like I was sitting there too. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Nancie

    Happy New Year! Prague and Budapest are favorites of mine. One of these days I will enjoy the Christmas markets and the singing! Here’s too more of both, for all of us, in 2014!

  12. Lisa Goodmurphy

    Thank you for sharing the videos! One of my travel dreams is to visit the European Christmas markets but I’m not sure that I’ll have an opportunity while I have kids in school right up until the days before Christmas. Instead I live vicariously through my travel blogging friends! Happy New Year to both of you and all the best for 2014!!

  13. Pingback: Celebrating the Holidays on the Danube | Traveling with Sweeney

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