Since I left Slovakia twelve years ago, I was only home for Easter once. This year it’s going to be my second time. While I’m looking forward to experiencing the Easter traditions all over again, not all customs are very enjoyable, especially if you are a girl.
There are things like traditional Easter food I love, yummy home made cakes, the family atmosphere I miss so much and then there is ….Easter Monday.
But let’s start from the beginning. We’ll get back to Easter Monday in just a short while. So how do we celebrate Easter? What are Easter traditions in Slovakia?
It all starts on Ash Wednesday…
Easter together with Christmas is the most celebrated Christian holiday. My family, particularly my mum, is strongly religious, so the preparation for Easter always started on Ash Wednesday, which is 40 days before Easter. After that day you are not supposed to eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, plus you should give up the things you love, such as chocolates and sweets. It was also a time when we shouldn’t have any parties or celebrations.
Easter weekend starts on Thursday, called ‘Green Thursday’ in Slovakia, followed by ‘Big Friday’, ‘White Saturday’, ‘Easter Sunday’ and ‘Easter Monday’. No other holiday offers so many different traditions and a variety of food like Easter.
First the fasting then comes the feast…
Big Friday is a big fasting day, which means no meat or dairy products. On White Saturday we prepare our food and take samples of everything in a wicker basket to church to have it blessed with holy water. We then still have to wait until Sunday morning (sometimes our mum gave in to our pleas, and we had some of the food on Saturday evening) to have the feast. And what a festival of food it is. We quickly catch up with all the fasting during Lent.
So, what exactly do we eat on Easter?
Well, where shall I start? The food varies slightly in different regions and households.
In our family, it was always smoked pork ham, cured meat, homemade sausages, hard boiled eggs, homemade cheese and butter, homemade Easter stuffing, horseradish, homemade bread and of course plenty of homemade cakes and pastries. Honestly, I have no clue as to how my mum has always managed to cook and prepare all the delicacies.
Oh, while we are talking about the food, have I mentioned all the chocolate eggs that we get to eat? Talking about some serious overeating here.
That’s the food, next to the fun part…
After you’re done with all the eating, the rest of Easter Sunday is spent with your family, enjoying some peaceful and quiet time before that much dreaded Easter Monday.
I say dreaded, but that’s only a case if you are a girl. If you are a boy, you’ll love this day. Why?? Do you still remember the ‘ice bucket challenge’ a few years back? Well, let’s just say that every household practice it on Easter Monday and it’s only girls who are being unwillingly nominated. Yes, that’s right. And it doesn’t end there. We also get chased around the house with a whip. How did we deserve it I have no idea.
So here’s how it works. Boys go round their girls’ cousins and friends houses, and in exchange of the splash and whip, they get some chocolate eggs, cakes and a little bit of money from the ever so grateful soaked up girls. If it’s adult men, such as uncles visiting, they also get some alcohol shots. All this going around friends and relatives is done in the morning, so you can imagine how merry they are by the lunch time.
Where does all this come from? Well, the water is meant to bring girls health and beauty in the coming year. It’s a symbol of healthy and prosperous life.
This tradition is quite mild now compared to what it used to be in the past. Girls used to be dragged out of the house to have buckets of cold water poured all over them, or in worse scenarios they used to be thrown straight into the ponds. These days boys carry some plastic bottles of water instead.
Although, it sounds quite dramatic, if not torturous and humiliating, and it can certainly feel that way, when you have to change your wet clothes every half an hour, I still have great memories of these situations. And you also start to appreciate your traditions when you move abroad. I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss those Easter Mondays when I’m here in the UK.
What are your Easter traditions? As always, please leave your comments below.