Christmas in Slovenia: Traditions, Events, and Decorations

Christmas Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dokiai Aikido/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

If you're planning on spending the Christmas holidays in Slovenia this year, keep in mind that Slovenia celebrates Christmas like most Western countries on December 25th, but some of the traditions and customs of this Eastern European country differ from those celebrated elsewhere in the world.

You'll want to make sure to visit the capital city of Ljubljana, whose Christmas Market boasts a wide array of Christmas arts and crafts, baked goods, and specialty gifts perfect for the holiday season, and explore some of the other holiday traditions observed in Slovenia during this time of year, including the more-popular New Years celebration.

No matter where you go, though, Slovenia is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit, complete with visits from Saint Nicholas (or Grandfather Frost, as he's often called in Slovenian) and getting Christmas presents on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6). 

Christmas Decorations in Slovenia

The creation of Nativity scenes is a tradition in Slovenia that dates back several hundred years. Although the creation of Nativity scenes in the home is common, live publicly viewable Nativity scenes have grown in popularity in recent years. The best-known live Nativity scenes are those found in Postojna Cave and at Ljubljana's Franciscan Church on Prešeren Square.

When you visit the unique Nativity scene at Postojna Cave, you'll ride a small train into the cave. Angel figures will guide you through the cave formations. Once in the cave, visitors will find 16 biblical scenes with 150 people playing traditional parts. These Nativity scenes are grander in scale than those found in many parts of the world and extend way past the crèche. 

Christmas trees are decorated in Slovenia, more often now with purchased decorations than with homemade decorations like in olden times, and evergreen decorations like wreaths and fir centerpieces are also common.

You'll also find all the other holiday favorite decorations like cutout Christmas characters and dazzling Christmas lights adorning many of Slovenia's city streets, making for breathtaking views when places like the capital city of Ljubljana is covered with snow and lighted by the softly glowing Christmas decor.

Santa Claus and Other Christmas Traditions 

Slovenia's Santa Claus tradition pulls from many other European traditions, meaning that children in Slovenia can receive gifts from Saint Nicholas, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, or Grandfather Frost, depending on which traditions the family follows. In any case, Saint Nicholas always visits on Saint Nicholas Day, which is celebrated annually on December 6, and Santa Claus or Baby Jesus visits on Christmas Day while Grandfather or Father Frost may appear at the New Year's celebrations.

The Christmas holiday is also marked by the burning of incense, the preparation of special foods, like the Christmas sweet bread loaf called potica, the sprinkling of holy water, and the telling of fortunes. Traditionally, a pig was slaughtered before Christmas, so pork may be prepared for the Christmas meal in keeping with the older tradition.

Traditional western celebrations of Christmas on December 24 and 25 are relatively new to Slovenia, but the country's citizens have embraced these celebrations in observation of this Christian holiday, and now people typically gather together as a family on Christmas Eve to eat dinner and on Christmas Day to exchange gifts and spend the day with loved ones.