Christmas lights usher in festive season
Christmas lights are being switched on across Slovenia to usher in the festive season. Ljubljana and Maribor were among the first to get into a cheerful mood with several other towns joining in at the weekend.
A large crowd gathered in Prešeren Square on 1 December to see the capital come gleaming with more than 50 kilometres of lights and 900 light creations that this year celebrate the spirit of tolerance with the slogan They are Us.
The main element is a flying saucer above Prešeren Square which city officials say symbolizes different cultures coming together in a peaceful and respectful way.
The city is adorned by ten tall spruce trees and 89 potted trees that the residents have been invited to decorate themselves.
Like every year, huge Chinese lanterns made by primary school children hung from trees in Zvezda Park and a life-size straw nativity scene is on display on the riverside.
Running until after the New Year's, the festive season in Ljubljana includes a Christmas market with gifts, mulled wine and other delicacies, and a variety of events such as St Nicholas's and Father Frost's parades, live concerts and street theatre shows.
Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, switched on its Christmas lights on 30 November. Apart from a Christmas market, the square in front of the City Hall also features a large Ferris wheel.
Stalls selling food and drinks have also been put up in Leon Štukelj Square, which will feature live concerts in the second half of the month. The city will also be visited by Father Frost and fairies will take over Vetrinje Mansion in the old centre of the city.
Virtually all towns are joining in in the festive spirit with Christmas lights, decorations and events. Most have organised a programme of concerts and other events, Christmas markets, and ice skating rinks.
The seaside towns of Portorož, Piran and Ankaran switched on their Christmas decorations on 1 December, with Koper to follow suit on 2 December and Izola on 3 December.
Celje in the north-east will ring in the festive season on 3 December, kicking off a programme that will see more than 60 events in 30 days.
Not far from Celje, 1.8 million Christmas lights will be switched on the same day at Mozirski Gaj, a park in the Upper Savinja Valley that has reopened after damage was repaired following the August floods.
Several cities, including Ljubljana and Maribor, will also have open-air parties featuring well-known local musical acts to welcome in the New Year.