A small but very tourist attractive country in the central part of Europe combines conservatism of old traditions and modern approaches to mass tourism.
Slovakia is the best choice for all those who want to stay somewhere for Christmas time to feel this magic mystery atmosphere and comfortable life. You can see there a true Christmas holiday.
What is the secret of the Slovak Christmas holidays?
Christmas holidays are not an ordinary event for Slovaks. This is the brightest holiday of the year. Interesting Fact: almost all inhabitants of the country celebrate Christmas regardless of their beliefs and social position. Religious and non-religious people glorify Christ’s birth on the streets and in the places of entertainment.
Christmas holidays are the time for all relatives to meet under one roof. This is a family event, which is full of various traditions. It differs from the New Year holidays, which are celebrated by a small part of Slovaks (but those are large scale celebrations).
Christmas is the approval of family traditions, Christmas tree, and many tasteful meals. It is also a day of gifts and church masses. The atmosphere is festive but calm.
Advent. Christmas eve in Slovakia
People prepare for Christmas in advance at the end of autumn. Many fairs start working at that time. Local authorities and inhabitants install Christmas trees in the most important places, stores, malls, and places of entertainment. Fairs are working until December 24 usually.
This period is called Advent. It has its own symbol – a garland made from Christmas tree branches. Those garlands include candles, which are lighted each Sunday (one in the beginning, the two, three, and finally four candles before Christmas).
Children are using a so-called Advent calendar. This is a beautiful set of boxes or packets full of sweets.
Religious service takes place every Sunday. Advent turns people towards joyful expectations of the most important religious event of the year. Slovaks do not follow strict feasts. They clean their houses, make cookies, and vianocne kolaciky (a type of a carrot). Young housewives compete with each other trying to cook more various sweets.
Gifts are also a very important part of celebrations. It is to mention that Christmas gifts are the most desirable and valuable things. The package should also be very elegant. Everything should look beautiful and attractive.
This important rule is for apartments and private houses as well. The beauty of residences is admirable and makes you jealous. It seems that peaploe compete with each other trying to have the best decoration. The lights are sparkling and chiming. They are everywhere: on the trees in the windows, on the walls of the buildings, above and below. You can see a Christmas tree decorated with lights in every yard.
As for the entrance doors, they are decorated with a beautiful rounded wreath or small wreath.
Saint Mikulas Day
This religious holiday takes place on December 6 and is one of the most important in the country. It is very popular among children. They put their cleaned shoes on the window sill. Saint Mikulas is believed to offer gifts the whole night. By the way, those may be good or not so good gifts depending on the behavior of a particular child during the year. Children may find a potato, piece of coal, or sweets in the morning.
As for Christmas, this is Jesus Christ who offers gifts to everybody. Slovak children call him kindly Jezisko. They write letters to him asking particular gifts.
Štedrý večer (Christmas eve)
Winter holidays last three days. They start on December 24 after the sunset. This is a very busy day as it is necessary to cook many meals for the whole family. Normally, they start eating at 5-6 pm. There is brief fasting before the main celebration.
Traditional Slovak Christmas meals:
- Vegetable (sauerkraut, mushrooms, apples, pears, prune), lentil or fish soup. The priority is defined by local peculiarities.
- Goose, potato pancakes, bread roll with meat, and braised leeks.
- Honey and garlic waffles.
- Honey alcohol, mulled vine, punch.
All Christmas eve meals should be lean but those traditions are followed by the families with strong beliefs. Sometimes families cook two types of meals. For example, you can find a vegetable soup with sauerkraut and another portion of this soup includes meat or sausage. The members of the family exchange gifts after dinner. Once this part is done, a part of them goes to the church and younger family members go to the night club.
Attention. Traditional Christmas cuisine can be found on various fairs. You can buy some souvenirs there as well including wooden arts and crafts Christmas decorations and original gifts. Each town prepares its own holiday program. For example, Bratislava offers a rink especially created for the holiday period. You can borrow skates there. Squares host concerts of famous groups. You can see there children dancing troops as well. Postmen deliver holiday programs to all the inhabitants and guests of a town.
December 25, Bozi Hod (Birth of Christ)
Christmas eve is done already but the main holiday is still going. Slovakia is one of those European countries where Christmas lasts for three days. Bozi Hod is a day when everybody glorifies the birth of Jesus Christ. Everybody prefers to visit his or her friends and relatives.
It is to mention that Slovakia should be treated as a small island of European traditions in the ocean of those who are cold to religion. Slovakia differs from the Checz Republic as Slovaks are very conservative to family and religious traditions. This day is dedicated to communication with relatives and close friends.
A special soup with cabbage, pork, and mushrooms is the mandatory meal for this day. Slovaks spend the whole day be eating traditional cuisine as they have to visit most of their relatives and friends.
Stefan birthday. December 26
This is the second holiday day to visit relatives and friends. There are plenty of celebrations called Stefan parade. This is a joyful time when there are many interesting events and entertainment. Stefanske Zabavy (this is how this holiday is called by the local inhabitants) is a chain of discotheques, concerts, and theater performances.
Slovakian Christmas holidays peculiarities. What should you know as a tourist? Useful information
Slovakian holidays are days off, which is inconvenient for the visitor coming from abroad. Days off in Slovakia mean that nobody is working. Almost all stores are closed. Shops’ workers go home at 12.00 on December 24 to celebrate Christmas eve with their families. You will be able to do shopping on December 27.
All activities adapt to Christmas. People are hurry to their houses to breathe home comfort and to taste some traditional meals. Transport is full of passengers. The streets are desert during the day. The life boils during the nights inside the night clubs and bars.
Next Slovakian holidays take place on January 1 and 6. The majority of Slovaks want to get home earlier. They get a day off on December 31. Those two weeks from December 22 to January 7 are considered to be working but this rule is not followed by the majority of the citizens of Slovakia.
The working rhythm is very slow, the life pauses in the central parts of the cities and flows to the suburbs, residential areas, village houses and tourist zones. If there are some important questions to be solved, you will need to wait until the end of the celebrations.
Christmas. How new reality influences old traditions. Traditional cuisine – the honor of Slovaks.
Some old Slovakian traditions are followed partially or completely in some regions. New traditions appear. They are less connected to religion. Those new traditions aim to attract more tourists. Youngsters also contribute to those new traditions. The representatives of various subcultures organize dancing nights, which are out of old traditions.
However, families in Slovakia remain “bastions” of conservative values and old traditions. Lentil soup is still considered to be a mandatory meal. It is a symbol of wealth. The more you have in your cup the richer you will be in the next year.
However, some traditions like a strange woman in the house on Christmas eve are considered to be a relic. Some other traditions like drying laundry, bringing death, or sneezing after the sleep predicting long life. The housewife is not obliged to spend all day at the Christmas table. Traditionally she was “tied” to the table as a mother hen to its eggs.
Carp on the holiday table
This is not the most popular fish in Slovakia currently excepting some regions with strong fishing traditions.
Why does this fish is included in the list of mandatory meals on the holiday table?
The roots of this tradition can be found in the past. Slovaks used to fast on the Christmas eve. Fish is included in the list of meals of Catholics. Slovakia is full of reservoirs with carps. During the Czechoslovakian socialism, Slovaks used to buy carps and place them in the bathroom. Children loved this tradition as they played and even took a bath with carp sometimes. Adults had to invent a story about a carp who escaped from the bathroom in order to protect children from learning the truth about the fish that would appear on the holiday table a couple of hours later. Parents cooked carp while children played outside.
NB. The European Union has applied strict sanitary norms. It is allowed to cut fish in special rooms with special coverage and running water.
Housewives hide scale under the plates. This is the key to a prosperous future. Slovaks eat fish and poultry meat on Christmas only. They do not use those types of meat during the New Year holidays as happiness may fly away. Until the next year.
The candle is lighted before the celebrations. It should burn until the end of the meal. The table should contain traditional fruits along with hot meals, snacks, and drinks. Those are apples and pears in most cases. Slovaks are trying to cut them so that apples and pears form stars. This is the key to health for the next year.