Slovak traditions and holidays
The next very important custom is held on 2nd November - it is All Souls Day. People visit graves to commemorate their friends, relatives - simply said - closed people. They light the candles and pray for rest in peace. It can seem as a sad time but it is not truth. People are already reconciled with death so they are remembering with love, may be with nostalgy but not with sadness. And cemetaries are so beautiful with light of so many candles that everyone go for a walk there at least.
December 6th Sv. Mikulas ( St. Nicholas ) Day
This is the feast day of Sv. Mikulas (Santa Claus). Sv. Mikulas walks around the village in his long red robe, accompanied by an angel holding a large book and a quill pen and the devil who is rattling large chains. Sv. Mikulas asks the village children if they have been good during the whole year. The angel writes down in the big list their answers. The child should sing a song or recite something for Sv. Mikulas. A bad child is told they could be put into the devil’s sack and taken to hell! On that evening if you have been good you could expect candy, nuts, fruit and small gifts in your shoes. If, on the other hand, you were not so good, expect lumps of coal.
December 24th Christmas Eve
Official national holiday. A Slovak Christmas tradition is to fast all day, having only sauerkraut soup until eating at 6 or 7 PM. A few days before, the parents shop for the main ingredient of the traditional Czech dinner: a live carp (fish), which is still sold in large barrels lining the lovely village squares. It is brought home and put into the bathtub filled with fresh water, for use later…. Of course, the children play with it, and a number of carp are then set free in the local river or pond. Shopping for the Christmas tree is next. Most trees are bought just a day or two before Christmas Eve, and are hidden. Some gifts are purchased, mainly for the children as their holiday’s are not nearly as commercial as ours. Not many decorations, just a few simple displays, are put up in mid-December. They keep to the tradition of simple, with little stress holidays. One parent takes the children out on the afternoon of the 24th, visiting or skating. The other parent puts up the Christmas tree. Many ornaments are still handmade; a small Bethlehem is placed at the base of the tree. The tree can not be seen until after the evening meal. The traditional evening meal would be a soup of pearled barley with dried local mushrooms, carp (coated with flour, dipped in egg and coated with dry bread crumbs, and fried) and the traditional Slovak potato salad. Then the children are told “ Jezisko ” (infant Jesus) has come to the house, and the doors are opened and they see the decorated tree for the first time, with some presents under it. All gifts are opened, and decorated cookies, candy and fruit are brought out to enjoy. The adults have some after dinner glasses of brandy or wine. It is also traditional to go caroling on Christmas Eve, in the street or from home to home. The carolers carry a small Bethlehem with them, and are often invited in for a glass of wine and a piece of the Christmas “vianocka” a sweet bread filled with raisins and almonds. Many people will attend midnight mass as well.
December 25th Christmas Day
Official national holiday. Everyone gets to sleep in. It is also customary at this time of the year to publicly forgive those you have quarreled with during the year. Traditionally the main meal at noon on Christmas Day would be: a giblet soup with homemade noodles, a roast goose with bread dumplings and sauerkraut. After this huge meal (and the main meal of most days at noon) they eat fresh cakes, fruits, nuts and coffee. They drink a much stronger coffee as in Britain.
December 26th St. Stevens day
Official national holiday. This day and the afternoon of Christmas Day is mainly used for visiting family and friends. Expect lots of great food, fresh homemade cakes and some wine or a few beers.
December 31st New Years Eve
It´s traditional to start off the new year with a clean house, everyone is busy doing their part to make sure that everything sparkles before the day is done. For good luck one should eat a piece of herring before midnight!
Name Days --- like a personal holiday
Every day of the year is designated with a first name. It is an importain day of the year for that person, sort of like a second birthday. It’s a reason to celebrate; you normally get to pick a special meal you want, or go out for a meal. Friends and family stop by to wish you a wonderful name day, and give presents like a bottle of something strong, a box of chocolates, or fresh cut flowers. Which are NEVER given in even numbers (2-4-6) - they are for funerals! For celebrations always give an in a odd number of flowers. (3-5-7)
Slovak Easter is an interesting one. Sunday is quite similar to English Sunday, big meal with your family...though they don't have the big chocolate eggs! But on Easter Monday, there's some pretty unique tradition. Men go around to the homes of their friends and relatives that are women and throw water on them and beat them with long willow sticks. And the women are so grateful they give the men chocolate and money in return! Well the tradition is that the water and beating gives women health for the following year and a long life. Depending on where in Slovakia you live, the more serious it's taken in the villages, girls are expect to change clothes a couple of time that day