If you walk through the Advent Košice, not all the decorations are kitsch. Not every stall at the Christmas market was about alcohol or pricy langos. The decoration is no longer visible only on the Main street. Let’s have a stroll into less-visited parts of the city or other city boroughs, alongside the family houses and housing estates.
An excursion into the recent past
In December 1992, Rudolf Schuster started to work hard on his tasks, even though he was elected but not appointed to the Mayor’s office yet. As it was Advent time, he started to work on the Christmas decoration. Excited by the illuminated Christmas decorations he had seen in the past years of being an ambassador in Canada, he decided to buy similar ones in Germany. The trend in the USA and Canada was for lights to be colorful, but it was more about united white color in Germany. He went to Munich with his son Peter, and for this trip to be cheap, they slept in a car. They didn’t have enough money to buy enough decorations, so they only brought a few as examples. Inspired by them, he asked to create similar ones through sponsorship while paying for the material. Then asked Kosice Public City Transport Company (DPMK) to hang them up on the Main street. That was why many members of the City Council wanted to dismiss the Mayor right after his inauguration ceremony. But when they saw that lighting up the Christmas tree and the city’s decorations lured almost 20 000 citizens into the city center, they changed their minds.
The lit-up center of Košice was the first trial if it would lure more people into the city. We need to mention that it was not recommended to go out in the first half of the 90s. Mafia was dealing with their enemies, and their practice was brutal. You could walk into a bar, a disco club, or a shop and return as a corpse. It was a time when even policemen used to be shot.
Since that year, the Christmas decoration has attracted people from all over Slovakia to visit the city of Košice. There were bus tours organized, just for people to see the festive decoration. The following year, the city center was enriched by Christmas stalls, and the Mayor’s Christmas punch tradition has started, with the earnings being donated to the chosen charity organizations.
People returned to the city even without the decorations, and the reason was the beginning of the celebration called Košice City Day. Noone would cancel these two traditions now.
The most favorite decoration
Technical university has long cooperated with the company MK Illumination residing in Prešov, which creates different light motives, including the Christmas ones, on the area of nine thousand meters square. They can manufacture over 30 000 decorations per year, and their supporters come from Canada to the Republic of South Africa, including Košice. It is already the tenth year they lend some of the pieces in a storehouse to Technical University of Košice for free. The university offers them the final works of their students and future graduates of design, engineering, and IT, in return. This mutually beneficial cooperation can only be seen by ordinary people in Christmas decorations. According to the survey results done for the talk show Without a Whisperer (2018), people consider the Christmas decoration in front of Technical University as the most beautiful in the city.
The building that once used to be the largest one in the whole Eastern part of Slovakia has part of the Christmas decorations installed over the entire year, with one difference – except for Christmas time, it is not lit up. One example is the 120 meters long light chain. A similar one can be seen on a bridge near Kunsthalle.
The Urban bell is almost invisible since it is surrounded by the Advent wreath. What is more prominent are the candles used as a countdown for Christmas.
For the first time in history, you can also enjoy the Advent wreath in front of the building of the self-governing region Košice. It was created by high-school students of the Combined School in Sečovce, which belongs under Košice’s Self-governing Region. The parts of the metal construction are made of remanufactured iron, the decorations are made of recycled cloth, and the greenery is from damaged or excessive branches in the school area. The candles are notable as well – the students created them by using a 3D printer.
In Socialism, Christmas (and other events such as Victorious February or the Great October Socialist Revolution) were communicated through the shop windows. After the Velvet Revolution, it was not qualified decorators anymore, who took care of them, but it was everyone, or in some cases anyone. The more Christmas decoration visible in the city, the less you can find them in shop displays. They cannot compete with brighter and bigger lightning decorations in public spaces.
The Franciscans have become the great worshipers of Baby Jesus. Together with the Jesuits, they have started a tradition of building individual Bethlehems in European churches since the 16th century. Their religious order had to leave Košice in 1950, and they have never returned to the city. The nearest we can find them is in Prešov. Despite that, we can find Bethlehems during Christmas Eve in every church.
The one in the Saint Elisabeth Cathedral is arranged by Ján Tancsák every year. The former one used to be stored in the Urban’s Tower, but burnt in the fire on 3rd December 1966.
We can also find the carved wooden Bethlehem on the Main street. Sometimes there are also live animals, which kids find very attractive.
The private sector
The Christmas mood is irresistible for many family houses, gardens, or balconies. The easiest trick is flashing. Generally, we can divide the objects into three groups, based on decorations: ignorant, kitsch, and artistic. I cannot talk a lot about the first group. The second one consists mainly of the photographs of some politicians and celebrities standing above the Advent wreaths. The third group is worth mentioning and photographing as well.
The Christmas tree
I don’t know if people in Bratislava also reflect that Košice’s Christmas tree is almost every year higher than theirs. Allegedly, it is one of the reasons why people from Košice living in Bratislava return home during the festive season. But there are some troubles with having a big tree. It needs to be cut from the location where you can get with special machines and do it, so it is not damaged. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the logistics around its transport and installation. This year’s tree is 70 years old and has 22 meters, from which 18 is visible. The rest is in the ground.
The Infant Jesus of Prague as a year-round cult of Christmas
Almost everyone gets excited when seeing a little baby and its cuteness. The thought is even more joyful once we know what this little God-man did for us once growing up.
The statues and pictures give us the graphic impulse and new thoughts by only looking at them. Kids often tell their dolls or toys about their worries. Christians (and not only kids) have an opportunity to adore the Infant Jesus of Prague. It would have to be a really thick book to write down all the miracles around the world, preceded by the praying to Infant Jesus.
Such a child had supposedly appeared to a shepherd in the 11th century in Spain. He then carved a figurine based on that event. Later on, even Teresa of the Spanish city Ávila reportedly took it everywhere (1515-1582). The Infant Jesus got into Prague as a gift through the aristocratic family. For over 400 years, it has a throne in the side altar of the Carmelite order Church of Our Lady Victorious in the Lesser Town. Maria Teresa also belonged to his worshipers and even sewed him a dress.
It is also possible that the persona of the famous Little Prince is inspired by Infant Jesus of Prague since the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) was reportedly also one of his worshipers. This way, it would make sense that the Little prince met with the author specifically on a desert…
The cult of Infant Jesus of Prague is spread in Europe, India, the Philippines, and Latin America. In Košice, you can find the dressed statuette of Infant Jesus of Prague in the Dominican church, in the chapel of the order of the Barefoot Carmelites in KVP housing estate, or in the Seminary Church in the Main street 81.