Gymnastics this is how the grunstadt gymnasts celebrate christmas all over europe

With TSG scarf and Santa Claus cap: Vlad Cotuna decorates his Christmas tree

With TSG scarf and Santa Claus cap: Vlad Cotuna decorates his Christmas tree.Photo: Cotuna/free

Coach Alexander Pogoreltsev in front of the Christmas tree

Coach Alexander Pogoreltsev in front of the Christmas tree.Photo: Pogoreltsev/free

Tim Randegger celebrates at home with his family

Tim Randegger celebrates at home with his family.Archive photo: Dell


Timo Benb

Athletes from all over Europe take to the apparatus at the national league gymnasts of TSG Grunstadt. We asked two of them how they celebrate Christmas in their home country. Coach "Pogo", who comes from Russia, has several holidays to choose from. But his main holiday is fixed.

Vlad Cotuna lives in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. There he celebrates Christmas with his family. They cook together and eat a lot, the family plays board games. And a lot of wine is drunk, the 31-year-old artistic gymnast says.

But they don’t celebrate on the 24th, as they do in Germany, for example. December. Presents will be given only on the morning of Christmas Day. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old. December has a special meaning for Cotuna. Together with his wife, he spends the evening in front of the television with a movie marathon. "We just sit there, watch movies and drink mulled wine," he says. And of course you wait for the presents.

Christmas Day is celebrated with the family of Cotuna’s wife, who also lives in Bucharest. "We all fit at the same table," he says. It is very familiar and cozy.

But in the evening we go into the car. Then Cotuna drives eight hours to Timioara in western Romania, where his family lives. The city with about 300.000 inhabitants is located about 700 kilometers from Bucharest. There will be a celebration on Boxing Day.

And what does Cotuna want for Christmas?? "I just wish to be healthy," he says. This is the most important thing. Taking everything else as it comes.

In Switzerland there is fondue

For Tim Randegger in Switzerland, Christmas is not celebrated much differently than in Germany. Randegger lives and trains in Magglingen, where the Swiss Gymnastics Federation’s performance center is located. There is the annual dinner, an internal Christmas party with all gymnasts and coaches. "Otherwise we’ll go out partying afterwards. But that is difficult at the moment," says Randegger.

Over the Christmas holidays, there are two weeks of vacation, then it goes home for him to Wilen near Wollerau on Lake Zurich, where his family lives. On Christmas Eve, Randegger celebrates with his nuclear family, and on Christmas Day he visits his aunt. There they have fondue – typical Swiss fondue. In his family there is usually still meat loaf or Geschnetzeltes.

In the family a lot is eaten and it is played parlor games. As far as presents are concerned, the Randeggers have something small, he says. Everyone gets a present and is allowed to unwrap it under the Christmas tree. Now and then Christmas carols are sung. However, Randegger does not know any typical Swiss Christmas traditions that are different from the German ones.

Are competitive gymnasts actually allowed to eat cookies? "Yes, we do that too. We’re pretty normal young people," says the 21-year-old, adding: "We’re allowed to spoil ourselves a bit at Christmas." The hard training then starts again in January.

In Russia they celebrate later

Cookies TSG coach Alexander Pogoreltsev allowed his gymnasts, he says. In the midst of the pandemic one should not be so strict. The 43-year-old has lived in Germany since 2002, but grew up in Russia. Since then, he had to decide on a Christmas celebration. "Too many holidays are not good either," he says, laughing.

In Russia, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the night of 6. to the 7. January – according to the Julian calendar. You meet with the family, there is a lot of food. Then you gather up your friends and relatives and go to church together. At least, that’s how it is for Pogoreltsev, who is baptized Russian Orthodox.

After the services, which can sometimes take a little longer than in the Catholic or Protestant church, the group usually goes for a walk to warm up. On 1. January begins namely the so-called Christmas cold. Minus 30 degrees are not uncommon there, says Pogoreltsev.

At home there will be food again. "And it’s pretty hearty," the coach tells us. Lots of sausage and meat or a duck are on the menu. Often, he says, there are also traditional dishes such as the popular bliny, a Russian variant of the pancake. This can be eaten with caviar, for example, or for dessert as a sweet option. Sometimes we have pierogi, dumplings filled with fish, for example. "Everyone does it differently," says Pogoreltsev.

The 6. January has not always been the most important Christmas holiday in Russia, tells Pogoreltsev. During the Soviet Union, Christians were persecuted and Christian holidays were banned. That’s why New Year’s Day became the most important holiday. Even today, people in Russia celebrate New Year’s Eve under the Christmas tree. For many Russian Orthodox Christians, however, after the end of the Soviet Union, Christmas Eve – in Russia the 6. January – to the main holiday. But in Germany, "Pogo" celebrates like the Germans do. "The 24. December has now become my main holiday," he says.

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