One of the things that have marked the Slovenian Presidency are the handmade Slovenian ethnographic ornaments that adorned several Christmas trees - from the Vatican to Brussels and Strasbourg. It all started last year when Slovenia erected a Slovenian Christmas tree in St Peter's Square in the Vatican.
Slovenia sent a Christmas tree from the Kočevje forests, provided the ornaments and decorated 42 smaller spruces and firs from 1.5 to 6 metres tall. The smaller trees were placed in the official premises, while the large one that was erected in St Peter’s Square was 30 metres tall.
Forests in Slovenia
Almost 60% of Slovenia’s territory is wooded, making it the third most-forested country in Europe after Sweden and Finland. Green is the predominant colour in Slovenia; we simply call it “Slovenian green”. Through sustainable and multifunctional management, the state strives to ensure the continuous and optimal functioning of forests as an ecosystem, the biotic community of plants and animals, their habitats, and the sustainable use and management of forests as an important natural resource. Slovenian forestry is based on one of the most sustainable approaches to forest management. The trees that Slovenia sent to the Vatican also bear the FSC certificate for sustainable management.
A Slovenian Christmas tree being put up in the Vatican, as well as the accompanying promotional events telling a broader story, were an excellent way to promote Slovenia. Last year, in addition to the heritage of forests and their importance for Slovenia as a natural resource, particular focus was placed on the forthcoming Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the 30th anniversary of the plebiscite held in December 1990, at which Slovenians decided by a landslide to become an independent state.
Slovenian Christmas tree in the Vatican ©Government Communication Office
In addition to its green message, the Kočevje spruce also spreads a message of Slovenian ethnological heritage through decorations made especially for this purpose. In deciding what ornaments are most Slovenian, Janez Bogataj, an expert on Slovenian ethnographic heritage, was enlisted to help. The central Christmas tree was thus decorated by the hexaconch-shaped ornaments. The hexaconch is one of the core elements typical of Slovenian cultural heritage. It was most commonly used as an ornament and symbol on house beams, door panels and sides of chests. The ornament is made of wood, which is understandable as it is also related to Slovenians. In addition to comet stars and a star in the form of a hexaconch, the spruce tree was decorated with single hexaconch stars.
After the holidays, the decorations were sent back to Slovenia, where they were dried carefully and stored in the spirit of sustainability. This year, they were used to decorate Christmas trees in Brussels at the Slovenian festival at Rond Point Schuman. The Christmas tree in Strasbourg, which stands in Europa Square, also has a special message: in honour of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the city authorities chose it to be decorated with ornaments used last year in the Vatican. In this way, the Christmas decorations symbolically rounded off the initial and final projects of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.