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Customs of Liechtenstein

Marriage and Family

People usually marry in their late 20s; it is considered important to first complete one’s education and enjoy some financial security and independence. Some couples live together before or instead of marriage. Legal marriages are performed at the national Registry Office. To have a church wedding is optional, but common, and usually takes place the day after the civil ceremony. Some old wedding customs include decorating the door frames of the couple’s home with garlands or organizing a mock kidnapping of the bride.

The nuclear family is the most important social unit in Liechtenstein’s society. The father is generally considered the head of the household. Couples have been having fewer children in recent years. While single people and couples often live in apartments, families tend to prefer houses. The majority live in single-family homes, but more and more young families are becoming tenants because real estate is expensive. Many people prefer to settle in the village where they grew up. Adult unmarried children usually move out of their parents’ home by the time they have finished their professional training. An increasing number of married women work outside the home.

Eating

Zmorga (breakfast) usually consists of one of many varieties of bread with jam and coffee. Zmittag (the main meal) is served at midday and includes a soup or salad, a main dish, and dessert. Znacht (dinner), usually served around 6 or 7 pm, is typically light and often consists of open-faced sandwiches with cheese and meat. When going out for dinner, people meet around 8 pm. The national dish, Rebel, is made of ground maize stirred in a frying pan with milk, water, and salt. It is often eaten with elderberry purée. Other traditional dishes are Käsknöpfle, a type of pasta with sharp cheese, and Rôschti, grated and fried potatoes.

The continental style of eating is used, with the fork in the left hand and the knife remaining in the right. It is considered polite to not leave any food on the plate, and accepting second helpings is interpreted as a compliment to the cook. When a person has finished eating, the cutlery is placed side by side on the plate. In restaurants, leftovers are not taken home. Most people drink bottled mineral water, wine, or beer with meals.

Toasting with alcoholic beverages is common. Whether in the home or at a restaurant, it is impolite to begin drinking before the host proposes the first toast. The host will not do this until everyone has a full glass. Once the first toast is made, all guests are free to take a drink and propose additional toasts. In a group, the glasses are lightly tapped simultaneously in pairs.

Socializing

A handshake is usually the appropriate form of greeting. It is common to greet people verbally on the street or when entering a store. The traditional terms used to address strangers are either the Swiss-German Grüezi! or the Grüß Gott! used in Austria and southern Germany. Both mean “Greetings!” It is appropriate to add the other person’s name, if known. Among friends, young and old greet each other with a short Hoi! Most people living in Liechtenstein address each other with the familiar du form of the pronoun “you,” and young people generally use first names. This is, however, common only among locals, not with foreigners. The prince is addressed as Durchlaucht (“Your Serene Highness”).

Young people socialize on a casual basis in school and in numerous recreational clubs. There are close to 300 clubs and Verein (associations) in Liechtenstein.

Dinner guests are expected to arrive no more than a quarter of an hour late. They often bring a small gift for their hosts. In formal situations, guests do not sit down until they are invited to do so. It is appropriate to give notice of a visit in advance; dropping by is only common between neighbors or close friends and relatives. While dinner may last well into the night, daytime visits are usually short.

Recreation

People in Liechtenstein enjoy the outdoors and activities such as hiking, cycling, and skiing. They participate in a variety of leisure-time clubs. Among the most popular team activities are soccer, gymnastics, music bands, and choirs. Many clubs organize public festivals and other social events. People also enjoy traveling abroad. A great cultural attraction is the prince’s art collection, which includes world-famous paintings. A small part of this extensive private collection is exhibited in connection with the State Art Collection in Vaduz.

Holidays and Celebrations

The long procession of Roman Catholic holidays parading through the calendars of Liechtenstein citizens begins with the Epiphany on 6 January, which commemorates the visit of the Three Magi to the baby Jesus. Candlemas on 2 February commemorates Simeon’s announcement that Jesus Christ would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles” with the consecration of candles in churches.

The Feast of Saint Joseph is observed on 19 March, and Easter is celebrated Good Friday (Friday preceding Easter) through Easter Monday (Monday following Easter). The Ascension, 40 days after Easter, is the day Jesus Christ is said to have ascended to Heaven. The Pentecost, or Whitsunday, 50 days after Easter, celebrates the birth of the Christian church; Whitmonday, the day after, is a public holiday.

Labor Day is observed on 1 May. Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday in May. Corpus Christi (which occurs in May or June, depending on the date of Easter) is observed in honor of the Eucharist.

Liechtenstein’s national day, the Prince’s Birthday, is celebrated on 15 August in conjunction with the Assumption (when the Virgin Mary was said to have been “assumed” into Heaven). Festivities in the capital city of Vaduz include an open house at the prince’s home and castle (Schloß Vaduz), fireworks, street dancing, special foods, and speeches.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December celebrates God’s choice of Mary to give birth to his only son. Christmas (25 December) is the most important holiday of the year. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, when the family gathers around the Christmas tree. Christmas Day is for relaxing, and 26 December is a day for visiting friends and family.

In addition to this roster of Catholic and public holidays, many old customs, partly pagan in origin, are still continued as folklore, such as Funkasunntig (Bonfire Sunday) and Fasnacht (Carnival).

Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas