Christmas is approaching fast! In a few days time, the world will gorge themselves on delicious food, loads of gifts and buckets full of happiness. We did our Christmas dinner shopping yesterday, so we are all prepared for the big evening. Creating the shopping list, it brought me back to my first Slovak Christmas dinner, 8 years ago by now. How did that look like, you ask? Let me give you a glimpse into Christmas at my Slovak in-laws.
One doesn't need to spend much time in Slovakia to realize Slovak people have a special relationship with their snacks - whether it is the all-time favourite Horalky wafer bar with peanut filling, the salty sticks (tyčinky) from DRU, bananas covered in chocolate (banány v čokoláde) or the endless supplies of Deva and Rumba at grandma's house, these snacks have been a must-have in any Slovak household for decades. However, probably none of these snacks are as shrouded in legend as Chrumky.
Today is a special day in the Netherlands. Today is the birthday of His Royal Highness, our King Willem-Alexander of Orange-Nassau. This in itself may not inspire you to leap of joy immediately. What makes this day special to the majority of the Netherlands, however, is that this means we will celebrate King’s Day. And boy, is that a party!
Slovakia is by some (including myself) affectionately described as the “Hidden Gem in the Heart of Europe”. But how hidden should this gem really remain from the rest of the world? Ever since I moved to Slovakia and discovered how beautiful a country it is, I have struggled with the realisation that back home no one really seems to know anything about Slovakia.
In Slovakia traditions still hold a very important place in people’s lives. In fact, the year round, the calendar is filled to the brim with traditional habits, happenings that seem to go back centuries, folk festivals, village feasts, Church feasts, very local celebrations and country-wide festivities.
As far as I know, there are only two holidays in the Slovak calendar that make people to willingly drive tens, even hundreds of miles across the country to be with their family: Christmas and All Saints’ Day. The only difference being that the former is to be with the living, while the latter is to be with the dead.
It is Easter! That means bunnies, finding hidden Easter eggs and watching the 500th rerun of Jesus Christ Superstar or the like. That is, of course, if you are not living in Slovakia. In Slovakia, Easter Monday is host to one of the most fascinating traditions you will ever find in this country. Sure, people go to Church and some may even want to search for eggs, but it is the tradition of boys going out into the village, armed with a bucket of water, a bottle of cheap perfume and a whip made from willow branches, and, awaiting rewards like chocolate eggs and even money, to search out the female population of said village, drag them outside, soak them in water, spray them with perfume and hit them with the whip, that makes Easter Monday a true spectacle to behold.
You can say whatever you want about the Slovak people but one thing no one will ever be able to deny is the importance of traditions. Be it political achievements (like beating the Communists or the birth of the Slovak nation state in 1993) or Catholic feast days (like pretty much all major ones, including Three Kings, Easter, All Saints and Christmas), Slovaks love to celebrate these moments (as they should). More importantly, however, they love to celebrate these moments with each other. Because directly connected to the importance of tradition is the inherent importance of family.