White Christmas in Slovakia

White Christmas in Slovakia
Ivana Azami

Hello, I thought I’d write about the traditional, beautiful Christmas in Slovakia.

As Catholics, the whole December just seems to pass by extremely quickly as there’re just too many things to be done and celebrated.

On 6th of December, we celebrate St Nicholas day (Mikulas), when children put their boots or shoes on the windowsill in the evening, and in the morning they’ll find lots of goodies in them (depending how well behaved they’ve been all year, that is!!) Of course, everyone’s so excited, including parents that it’s no suprise to find children stealing into the room in the middle of the night, just to check whether “St Nicholas has been yet”.

Then on 13th of December it’s St Lucy’s day, which traditionally involves “clearing out the houses of eveil”, and Lucy is made out of wood, dressed in old clothes. She is then carried around the village or town with the big trail of children following, singing traditional songs. They are given sweets on their way to the nearest river for their good work, and Lucy is then thrown into the river to swim away.

On this night, the girls secretly write 12 names of the boys they might fancy, or their friends, put each name into individual peice of paper, wrap it up and put the pieces under the pillow. Each morning, girl takes one piece and throws it in the bin, not looking inside. Whoever is left under the pillow on Christmas morning will be her lover.

In between, we are all busy preparing for Christamas. In Slovakia it is celebrated on 24th of December, usually people don’t eat meat and fast 4 weeks beforehand. On the day itself, you’re not supposed to eat at all so that you will see “a gold piglet”. I tried so many times and never lasted untill the evening.

We bake lots of cakes, the evening before the big day there’s a carp fish swimming in the bath tub (which means we have to find other means of bathing), ready to be put on Christmas table. The tree is waiting on the balcony to be carried inside in the morning. The potato salad is made that evening, we all taste it and declare it’s much better than the last year.

On the 24th in the morning, we usually go to church, while father kills the fish, lays out the fillets to be deep-fried, and mother starts cooking a traditional sour fish soup with dried mushrooms. When we get back we set about decorating the tree and laying out the table for the evening. People usually sneak out of the room one by one to finish decorating the presents, there are carols playing in the background and everyone talks in a hushed voice.

When the food’s cooked and all’s ready, we go to the cemetery to light candles for our families. It’s absolutely beautifull as we walk, looking into lit houeses, meeting people and wishing Merry Christamas to everyone. Cemetary is like a clear night sky with lots of stars, and we stand around in the snow, pray for our dear ones and go home slowly, breathing in the crisp, freezing air of usually -30 degrees.

We than go to see our nearest relatives, bringing presents with us, and we are greeted with the hot wine and vodka. But we can’t wait to have our Christmas dinner, so we won’t stay long.

When we get home, we sit down to a quite table beautifully decorated with festive candles. We say a prayer, then father dips his finger in the honey and makes cross on everyone’s forehead, so that everyone’s well behaved all year around.

We have our dinner, than cakes, that we sit and talk, being interrupted by the younger ones “can we open presents now?” We than open our presents, kiss, thank each other for wonderful Christmas and express wish that we all get together for Christmas for many years to come.

I think it’s the best, most emotional time of the year, and living in England now, I miss everyone at this special time enournmnously. Thank you for reading this, Ivana

One Response to “White Christmas in Slovakia”

  1. Peter Driessen says:

    Dear Mrs. Azami,

    With much interest I read your story. I never celebtrated Xmas in Slovakia but I experienced a lot of hospitality and I understand your feelings.
    I was looking on the internet for buying charity Xmas cards for our company in Slovakia.
    In the UK you can buy e.g. Xmas cards from the Chlidren’s Society or Unicef. I wonder if, in Slovakia, there are charity organizations which sell Xmas cards for their good course.

    I appreciate your feedback.

    With kind regards,

    Peter Driessen