Festive Slovenia Welcomes the Holidays with Mulled Wine

Ljubljana in December. Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Riley A Arthur
Ljubljana in December. Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Riley A Arthur

National Geographic grantee Riley Arthur is documenting the Erased of Slovenia- 200,000 non-ethnic Slovenian residents who were not automatically granted citizenship after the country split from Yugoslavia in 1991. Over two decades later, the community is still fighting for documentation. These stories are about the Erased and the places they live. 


Expedition Journal: Izbrisani

December is an amazing time to be in Slovenia. Tourists of the coast have long left their resorts and lost their tans. The Julian Alps practically sparkle with fresh snow, as local and Italian skiers take notice. The transformed capital of Ljubljana roars with activity.

The festive holiday decorations have a cosmic theme. LED lit comets, planets and shooting stars fill the walkways and squares. I was skeptical when the shooting stars were being hung, as they looked a lot like tadpoles or q-tips. But when illuminated along with the other thematic lights, it really was a sight to see.

Kongresni Trg (Congress Square) in Ljubljana. Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Riley A Arthur

The smell of roasting chestnuts fill the air. One can purchase piping hot paper bags filled with these nuts for as low at €2, at almost any hour of day or night. Hanging from the trees of Congress Square, angels crafted by local school children rock in the cool breeze. A seasonal ice rink is open to children, which appear to have no strict bedtime or curfew this month.

Crowds gather around Prešeren Square. Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Riley A Arthur
Crowds gather around Prešeren Square. Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Riley A Arthur

Each night of December hundreds of people gather until the wee hours of the morning hovering around the many temporary wooden huts and stands. Sipping hot med or mulled wine, chatting and eating a kranjwurst (spiced sausage) fresh off the grill.

A Roma band busks in competition with the bass heavy boomboxes blasting year’s past Euro Vision songs. The merry sea of people drink out of scalding plastic Dixie cups on the verge of melting. They crowd around space heaters and ashtrays and drink their libations as quickly as temperatures permit, in an effort to stay warm.

The center of Ljubljana at night in December is a place to dress up, to see and be seen.  With multiple local holidays in November and December, it seems as if a majority of the population has taken extended holiday vacations. In line for a glass of mulled locally made wine, it’s easy to see what they have found to do with their vacation time. It’s beautiful, lively and I am happy to be a part of it!

When I asked my Slovene friends who live in Ljubljana for a family recipe for mulled wine they explained that they don’t make it themselves, because they enjoy going into the city for the social gathering. So I found this recipe for Slovenian mulled wine online.

Slovene Mulled Wine Recipe:

300ml water
125g sugar
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 lemons sliced
1 bottle of red or white wine
150ml Aperol
Orange and lemon slices for decoration

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Boil the water, spices and sugar together.
  2. Add the 2 sliced lemons, stir and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and the orange liqueur, heat gently taking care not to let it boil.
  4. Strain into glasses and serve hot with the lemon and orange slices.


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Meet the Author
Photographer, islander, environmentalist, gelato eater.