Monthly Archives: December 2011
This year I was lucky to experience a traditional Slovakian Christmas with my husband and his family.
The world is now such a small place, and with Skype, email and the BBC iPlayer I never really feel far from home. In Nitra there is even a Marks and Spencer and two Tescos where I can find a tin of Quality Street with ease. So I was surprised just how different Christmas is here in Slovakia.
Firstly it’s a day early. Like our French frenemies Christmas is celebrated in Slovakia on the 24th December.
Slovakia is still a predominantly Catholic country, and even for non- believers the tradition is to fast until the Christmas meal, served in the evening.
I thought I would miss my selection box, but there was a surprisingly delicious snack called Pupačky where tiny cotton-soft bread rolls are sliced and soaked in milk, sprinkled with poppy seeds and topped with hot butter and icing sugar.
Before the meal, tradition dictates you say a little prayer to Jesus under the Christmas tree (the presents have yet to appear). Jesus is the one who delivers the presents and not Father Christmas.
Father Christmas makes his appearance on the 6th December, ‘Mikuláš Day’ translated as Father Christmas Day. The night before, you leave a shoe out by the fire place or radiator and in the morning, if you’ve been good, Mikuláš will have visited and stuffed your shoe full of chocolate and fruit. If you’ve been bad- the Devil visits and leaves you a shoe full of coal and carrots!
The Christmas dinner begins with a huge dish full of fruit, walnuts, chocolate, curled wafers, honey and sliced garlic. Money is placed under the table cloth for wealth.
The head of the table shares out the food.
Firstly Walnuts are thrown into the four corners of the room. This is to be thankful for having four walls to live in.
Then an apple is sliced widthways and if a perfect star is shown then there will be good health for all concerned.
Chocolate and fruit is eaten, each piece is shared, ensuring that we will all be together next year.
The main meal is then served consisting of a cream soup of cabbage, mushrooms and sausage followed by fish, usually Carp, and potato salad.
Fish is still a treat in landlocked Slovakia. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, huge tanks full of live Carp appear in town squares and the fish is bought and wrapped in newspaper with its gills still flapping.
My husband Ján can remember when the Carp was kept swimming in the bath in the days up to Christmas, and then his Granddad would arrive early on Christmas morning and do the deed…
After dinner we all gathered round the Christmas tree and the youngest person (my nephew Filip) handed out the presents. When the excitement of opening had died down we watched the Christmas television. Traditionally old Czechoslovakian films are shown, and apart from the odd Disney movie, this tradition was kept to.
I found the Slovakian Christmas to be much less commercial than its British counterpart. Snow fell softly outside and it felt like the day was special and for that one day nothing else mattered but Christmas.
And besides, the beauty of it falling on the 24th here was that we got to do it all again on the 25th!