In Slovakia preparations for the most beautiful time of the year starts on December 1st.
24 days before Christmas eve the Advent starts.
1st Advent Sunday - On the first Sunday we light the first candle on the Advent wreath. Every next Sunday we light another one.
We prepare the Christmas decorations, and we make Advent calendar - it is made of little boxes filled with a little chocolate. One chocolate a day. We also make christmas postcards. We send them to our beloved.
6th of December - St. Nicolaus Day
On that day, we are excited and cant wait to welcome St. Nicolaus in our classrooms. We sing songs and say poems to him. He always comes with two friends - a devil and an angel. They bring sweets to good schildren and colour the bad ones with black :)
On 2nd Advent Sunday - we light 2 candles
13th December - Saint Lucia day or better said St. Lucia night
Lucia´s Day is one the most magic customs and it ranks among the “witches´ days” preceding Christmas. People believed that they could see witches on this night.
Foretelling of the future and various love wishes were also popular. According to the best-known of them, girls prepared 13 pieces of paper. They wrote different male names on twelve of them while the thirteenth one was left blank. The pieces of paper were then folded and every day one of them was burnt. The one before the last one was burnt on Christmas Eve in the morning and the last one was opened on the same day in the evening. The name on the last piece of paper was to be the name of the future husband. The girl, whose last piece of paper was blank, was not to be married the following year.
The most typical custom associated with this day is marching of Lucias, i.e. disguised women, in some regions also men. The most frequent clothing of a Lucy is a white dress or a white blanket.
With a piece of goose wing they swept all bad ghosts from all corners of the rooms. We keep this tradition in school too.
3rd Advent Sunday - we light the 3rd candle.
The purpose of the season of Advent is to prepare one's heart for Christmas. ... The 3rd Advent Sunday is called the Sunday of joy and the candle is of different colour than the others.
In churches the candles are usually violet and the 3rd one is pink. In houses families choose the colours of candles they like, not violet and pink necessarilly. :) It is a question of likes and taste. :)
4th Advent Sunday
Last candle on the wreath is lit up. Christmas is here soon. The Sunday is called gold and normally all shops are full of people who buy presents for their beloved. Christmas holidays begin on 23rd December (this year it is 18th because of covid). At school on last day of the lessons we usually have christmas parties in classrooms, we exchange little gifts and sing christmas carols.
Children make Christmas
In our school we have a nice annual tradition during Christmas time. With help of pupils, parents and teachers, we gathered little things and presents to give out and cheer up lonely old retired people in our town. Our volunteers went to their homes and wished them merry Christmas.
24th December - Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is the most important day during Christmas for Slovaks. It is called 'Stedry den' (the Generous Day). The actual evening is called 'Stedry vecer' (the Generous Evening) and the Christmas season is called 'Vianoce'.
Slovak Christmas Trees are decorated with colored lights, bought or hand-made decorations made of wood, glass and sweets. Christmas Trees are kept until January 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany). Then the children are allowed to finally eat the candies and other sweets from the tree. :) (of course they cant wait till then and sweets slowly disapear from the tree :)
Christmas gifts are brought to children by the Ježiško (Baby Jesus). Family gifts are put under the Christmas Tree. A common tradition is that the children have to leave the room when the presents are being brought by Jesus. Usually we go out and light the sparklers.
When they are there a bell is rung. The children then run to the Christmas Tree to try and see the Baby Jesus but they always narrowly miss him! :) Then the presents are opened. Most people open their presents after the main Christmas meal, although some open them before they eat!
During the day the dinner is cooked. It used to be the custom to fast (not to eat anything) all through Christmas Eve. There is a saying that if you manage to get by without food for the whole day, you will see a little golden pig in the evening (after the Midnight Mass service)! :)
Christmas dinner usualy starts at 6 o´clock and begins with Oplatky (small wafers) with honey and a blessing.
The main Christmas dinner varies between regions and families. It normally has lots of courses including a fish dish and 'Kapustnica'. Kapustnica is a thick sour cabbage soup with sausage, meat, dried mushrooms and cream. Every family has its own recipe. Some recipes include ingredients that might seem unusual such as dried plums and apples.
Carp is often the fish that is eaten with a potato mayonnaise salad.
In some regions they also eat Opekance - small pieces of bread mixed with butter and sweetened with honey and poppyseeds.
Cookies are a popular dessert and treat at Christmas. Some favorites include vanilla ones made with poppy seeds and walnuts and apricot cookies. Sometimes people will make more than 10 different types of cookies. These are given to visitors over Christmas.
After dinner people might visit the close family or neighbors and give small gifts. Then many people will go to a Midnight Mass Service. This is the busiest Church service of the year.
In Slovakia there are many regional variations of the Christmas Eve celebrations. Some are local folk customs and rituals, that date back many years. One tradition is to clean the house and windows ready for Christmas.
Christmas Day (25th) and Boxing Day (26th)
are much quieter and days of rest. People might go to Holy Mass Service and visit their family on Christmas Day. Families with children like to go to church and watch 'Bethlehems' (Nativity scene) which are displayed in almost every church. Some of them are mechanical!
26th December is a day of St. Štefan
On that day or better said night there are usually Christmas parties and music and dance parties in towns and villages. It is a day of meeting friends and spending time together.
31th December - Silvester - New Year´s Eve
For most Slovaks though, the last day of December is the occasion filled with parties, dancing, singing, fireworks and lots of fun. Families often spend the day skiing in the mountains or walking in the countryside, and return home in early evening for the main entertainment shows on TV and radio or meet friends. Whether at home or in a public venue, 31st December is supposed to be the merriest day of the year.
Slovak New Year’s Eve dinners can vary from family to family, and when eating out, they will also depend on the restaurant’s cuisine. On this special occasion people prepare various small bites that go well with New Year’s Eve cocktails and drinks.
Silvestrovské jednohubky are similar to French canapés, but we usually get quite creative with the choice of ingredients. :)
New Year´s day - January 1st
We all wish you happy new year, lots of health, love, success and dreams that come true.