Easter in Slovakia is as important as Easter in the other countries of Eastern Europe. Traditions dating to the pre-Christian era survive today, albeit in a modified form, and people who grew up with these traditions have opinions about their merits and disadvantages. So how do people in Slovakia celebrate the Easter holidays?
Though the more exciting tradition appears the day after, first celebrants of Easter must enjoy the Sunday dinner. This extensive meal includes various traditional dishes, often including ham and the potato salad so common for the holiday feast. Some families also eat sandwiches, lamb, and some type of soup. An unusual “cheese” made from eggs may also appear on the feast-day table.
Of course, dessert and pastries are an integral part of the Sunday dinner. Paska is the traditional sweet Easter bread made with raisins, sugar, flour, eggs, and yeast and braided into a circular form to create a central decorative piece that can be consumed after it is admired by everyone present. Babovka is a type of cake somewhat lighter in texture than paska that often appears at holidays, including Easter. However, cookies and other types of pastries are also often offered to end the meal—preparations begin days before, so the person responsible for feeding the family may begin baking well in advance of Easter day to make sure that both savory and sweet categories are generously represented.
Typically, some type of spirits is drunk for the Easter meal, including wine or hard spirits. Some of these spirits, such as fruit b randy are similar to other alcoholic beverages in Eastern Europe. However, a type of gin called borovička, may also be drunk.
Whipping and Pouring Water
The most beloved/hated traditions surrounding Easter in Slovakia involve whipping women and drenching them with water, both which occur on Easter Monday. These traditions were probably taken to greater extremes in the past, but today they have dwindled to being merely a part of the “fun” of Easter . . . though fun for who is an unanswered question.
The whipping tradition stems from the fact that, in spring, trees grow new, young branches, representing vitality, strength, and flexibility—characteristics that the male whipper hopes to impart upon the female whippee. The women’s legs are whipped, and in some cases, the whipper is rewarded with a ribbon that he ties around his whip to signify the number of victims he has bestowed with this particular honor. Today, sometimes (in the case of adults), a drink of alcohol or some money is given.
Splashing with, pouring over, or—in extreme cases—dunking in water is another anticipated (dreaded?) ritual. While in the past a young lady might have been able to look forward to being thrown into the nearest stream, today this custom has been adapted so that it is less literal. Women may be splashed with water or even spritzed with perfume instead of having to run from men with buckets full of cold water or shrinking from other ways in which they would otherwise be completely drenched.
Of course, Easter eggs are an important aspect of Easter in Slovakia. Wired eggs are a particular type of egg that differs from the batik-style or scratched eggs that appear elsewhere in the region, though the latter types of decorated eggs are common in Slovakia, too. These eggs are called kraslice. Sometimes they are given to boys in exchange for their whipping or dowsing with water, but chocolate eggs can also be used for this purpose. Eggs are used to decorate the house and as important symbols of springtime.
Other Easter Rituals
The Drowning of Morena, where an effigy of winter is drowned in a stream, is a ceremony that encourages spring to arrive. A May pole celebrates spring with brightly colored ribbons and Easter eggs. Seeds may also be sprouted prior to Easter in order to ensure that the house contains green growing things for the holiday.
The Easter market in Bratislava is one way visitors to Slovakia can enjoy some of the festivities surrounding Easter in Slovakia and take home holiday-related gifts and crafts.