Christmas Traditions in Slovakia

Vesele Vianoce a vela zdravia v Novom roku!

The highlight of the Christmas season takes place on Christmas Eve which is called Stedrý deò (Generous Day) or Stedrý vecer (Generous Evening). The generosity that is referred to on that day is that of God’s great bounty. In return for this bounty the Slovaks rejoice and give presents to each other.

During the twentieth century people started to put presents for their children under a Christmas tree that they had decorated in secrecy as a surprise. Children would write letters to Jesus asking for presents. At Christmas time there is great importance placed on the preparations for Christmas Eve. These preparations begin at least one week before Christmas Eve and include a large scale cleaning of the whole house, the baking of cakes, and the purchasing of the last gifts.

The Christmas Eve celebration begins in the afternoon. Christian families attend worship services at their local church. They sing songs like “Holy Night” and wish each other God’s blessings, health, and wealth. They then return home to eat the Christmas supper by the Christmas tree. Following the meal, presents are exchanged. In some villages, groups of young people and children go from door to door singing Christmas carols. In return they receive pieces of cake, sweets, pastries, and apples for their efforts.

As in the Ukraine, the Christmas meal in Slovakia is composed of numerous courses that together make up a feast: For the first course, wafers are usually spread with honey and eaten with a clove of garlic. A soup prepared from sauerkraut, sausage, potatoes, dried mushrooms, and dried fruit is served next.

Fish, formerly only salted or cooked, but in the twentieth century also fried in oil served with potatoes salad makes up the next course. Pasta, for instance vermicelli with poppy seeds, is also prepared frequently. In most of Slovakia small pastries called “opekance”, “bobal’ky”, or “pupacky” are baked. They are topped with melted butter and sprinkled with poppy seeds.

Christmas cakes have different shapes and names, “baba,” “Stedrák,” “calta,” “kuch,” or “kracun.” Each family used to make honey-cakes in a special shapes that was traditional for that family. Fruit, especially apples, nuts, and prunes are traditionally served. To finish off the meal spirits, brandy, warm brandy “hriate,” and wine have always been traditional drinks as well.