Christmas Day

()Ah, Euro — the kitsch, camp, glitzy annual spectacle that captivates a continent and profoundly confuses the rest of the .

But truly understanding the joys and many, many oddities of Euro is trickier than it seems. It blends geopolitical skullduggery and skin-tight leather trousers like no other international event can. It sees entire glued to their teles, certain in the that victory alone can secure a unifying sense of national p.
And — most ly — it tes through copious amounts of glitter, crates of pyronics and drobes full of frilly national , all in the name of transboundy cooperation.
    Make sense yet? Don’t worry — ’s an eplainer.

    What is Euro?

    In simple terms, it’s an international singing competition organized by the European Union (EBU). It takes place once a ye, and is hosted by the previous edition’s winning country. T e two semi-finals, and a grand final, which this ye is taking place on Saturday in Tel Aviv, .
    Of course, it’s also so much more than that. The show features awkd back-and-forths between presenters, plenty of political messaging, a few big talking points and a controversy or seven. This ye, is even performing during the interval.
    But the contest’s lore throughout Europe comes mainly from the downright absurdity of the contestants taking pt. Just how e we talking? We’ll get to that…
    Duncan Laurence

    How did it all stt?

    The of the origins of Euro is surprisingly noble. Tasked with bringing together a continent torn apt by , the fledgling EBU organized a contest. Seven took pt the ound, with the live event testing the limits of the and shiny called “tele.”
    The contest rapidly epanded, and its of peace and hmony was eagerly embraced — that’s why, today, Europe remains a united and efree region with a ed population and almost no cross-boundy dis to note. OK, we may be eaggerating that last pt.

    Who takes pt?

    Any member country of the EBU can take pt, and that s on the fringes of Europe such as Morocco, and this ye’s hosts, . The is nically a member too, but their long-overdue entry into the Euro fray is tragically yet to materialize. , though not quite within the boundies of Europe, also takes pt.
    This ye, 41 ente, but those were whittled down to 26 via two semi-finals. Because they’re the five biggest financial contributors to the EBU, the UK, France, Germany, and all qualify for the final automatically — a red worth paying any price for.
    Each country performs a three-minute song once, during a very, very long and somewhat emotionally draining broadcast. can sing in any — most choose English, but plenty opt for their own — and they don’t even need to be from the competing country. Many choose their contestant in a televised competition. The possibilities e endless — washed-up boybands, regional supersts, novelty s and more all take pt on an annual .
    Then, for those ers still sober enough to process numbers, the results e announced — each country hands out points to their favorite competing nations, sepately revealing the scores from an epert jury and the vote. give 12 points to their top dog, 10 to their second-favorites, and between one and eight for their honorable mentions.
    Votes e read out, via link, by a national in each of the that ente the contest, so we get a whistlestop tour of over 40 European capital cities. “Hello Tel Aviv!” they’ll all shout, before milking their fifteen seconds in the spotlight and desperately trying to keep it together despite an ecruciating in the video link. Scores e e announced in English and French — and so the dreaded prospect of “nil points” hangs over every nation until they finally get on the bod.
    South Ossetia

    Wait, why is in Euro?

    No one’s quite sure. The country was invited to join as a “one-off” in 2015, to celebrate the contest’s 60th anniversy, but it has stuck ound ever since.
    In theory, it’s because ns have loved Euro for decades — despite it stting in the hours of the morning, it is broadcast annually by channel SBS. If won, the following ye’s contest would likely be held in a European country of its choosing — which probably presents Britain’s best of ever hosting the competition again.

    How popul is it?

    Oh, it’s huge. ound 186 million ers ed last ye’s competition, according to the EBU. Certain regions within Europe take it especially seriously — Scandinavian nations have long been obsessed and can boast a long list of .
    In Iceland in 2018, more than 95% of tele sets were tuned in to Euro — despite the country not even qualifying for the final.
    Populity vies from country to country, but few nations can honestly say they’re uninterested. The UK likes to pretend it’s above the whole thing, but Brits e secretly seething that the once-ful nation hasn’t taken home the crown since 1997. They like to put the drought down to all manner of political motivations — currently, Breit seems the most logical eplanation — and stubbornly refuse to accept the possibility that their entries e just not very good.

    Who’s won the most?

    has the most wins, with seven, but the majority of those were from the days of the contest, and need just one more victory to equal their record. Monaco e the smallest country to have won, with their vs. Goliath triumph coming in 1971.
    Overall, 27 have won the contest. was the most recent winner, taking home the title in 2017.

    OK, how e these s?

    I thought ’d never ask. In recent yes, Euro has seen an ethno-pop band called Buranovskiye Babushki comprised of eight grandmothers; a pair of rapping Montenegrin ; an all-fe Polish group who churned butter throughout their ; a Ukrainian dancer in a hamster wheel; and Ukrainian superst Verka Serduchka, who… well, it might just be easier to see for rself.
    That came in second.
    Not quite every country opts for such an over-the-top spectacle. On Saturday, as is the case every ye, t be a handful of drab ballads about peace, and a few more about love. But with every nation keen to stand out from the , even the most straightford tunes can be presented in some eyebrow-raising ways.
    Duncan Laurence
    The chorus to ’s 2013 ska-k entry was the statement “alcohol is free” g ad nauseum, while ’s 2008 d dancers in bikinis holding up pictures of onions, for no cle .
    And Euro always manages to stay current — so current, in f, that San Mino’s 2012 entry was called “The Network Song,” and featu the lyrics: “If wanna come to my , then click me with r mouse.” But most topical epressions e political: Ukraine’s winning 2016 song, “1944,” for eample, detailed the deportation of the Crimean Tats in the and severely ange .
    So epect bright colors, perhaps some magic , a few questionable hairs… and most ly, epect the unepected.

    Is it always so controversial?

    Absolutely. Euro vaguely resembles — it’s circled on the calend months before, and millions look ford to it with bated breath. Then, when it finally rives, everyone falls out with each other and the whole thing descends into one giant shouting . With sequins.
    ly, no “lyrics, speeches (or) s of a political nature” e allowed during the contest — but if believe that, ’ll believe anything.
    In f, Euro’s hi has always been connected with the continent’s . It’s been alleged that, as as 1968, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco oversaw a campaign of vote-buying to hand victory to , over the heavily favo entry Cliff Richd.
    Duncan Laurence
    More recently, pulled out of its scheduled Euro debut in 2005 during a spat over its refusal to broadcast the i . And in 2009, a ye after -n tensions reached a flashpoint in South Ossetia, withdrew its entry for the Moscow contest, after unfully guing that their entry “We Don’t Wanna Put In” had nothing to do with the .
    And then t’s the ever-present complaint of political voting, with cle regional blocs of nations always seeming to gift each other plenty of points. That eplains why more isolated nations really need to go above and beyond to win.
    Editions in cities such as Baku have also drawn complaints over the human records of competing nations. This ye’s contest, in Tel Aviv, has been particularly controversial, coming at a tense for the country after a fle-up of violence between militants in Gaza and the .

    Who’s going to win this ye?

    T’s plenty of on the entry this ye. Their entry is 25-ye-old superst . k, Duncan Laurence. haven’t hed of ?
    In f, he’s little-kn even at home. But his debut single “cade” is attring plenty of buzz among Euro eperts and performed well in the semi-finals — meaning the Netherlands e in pole position to claim their Euro title since 1975.
    e also in the , but if they pulled off their ever Euro victory it would likely cause chaos back in Europe. With Breit, political di and regional disputes dominating headlines, it would surely be a cruel too f if Europe can’t even win its own singing competition.
    The Swiss entry has ened some love, and e always a good bet. But out, too, for Iceland — their no-bondage-synth-k Hati have raised eyebrows already, and they’re sure to provide one of Saturday’s most memorable s.

    Euro s great. How do I it?

      That’s the spirit. If ’re in Europe but ’ve so f held out against embracing the wondrous tradition that is Euro, ’ll likely be able to find it on a terrestrial broadcaster. US only began the event in recent yes, and t e no plans to broadcast it this — but worry not, as t’ll be an official live stream on YouTube. Swedish broadcaster SVT also put up an on-demand repeat, which can be ed anyw.
      It stts on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the UK (3 p.m. ET).

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