Waffles, “oplátky”, were traditionally made by teachers. They started baking them right after a celebration of St-Lucia. A few days before, pupils would run from home to home, singing a song they learnt at school and asking for the wheat.
Christmas trees started to decorate towns by the end of 18th century. But in the countryside, it was much later, the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. This tradition came from Germany.
In the past, the legs of the Christmas table were wrapped in an iron chain. This was supposed to ensure the cohesion of the family.
The hard fondants, “salónky”, that we hang on the Christmas tree originate from Hungary. They came to Slovakia in the 19th century.
It was men who used to bake Christmas gingerbread cookies in the 16th century because it required a lot of strength, as they were made in wooden molds. 😮
“Vilija” or “vigilija“, “Kračún” and “Dohviezdny večer” (Starlit evening) are all different names for Christmas Eve, used by our descendants. In eastern and partially central Slovakia for the first, in Novohrad and in the Hont and Zemplín regions for the second and in the predominantly evangelical villages of central Slovakia for the third.
Strict fasting was observed on the 24th December, with the first meal of the day being Christmas Eve dinner. In order for this fasting to be respected even by children, parents promised they would see a golden pig that will fulfill their wishes. It is a custom still practiced in many families nowadays.
A vacant seat would be kept at the Christmas Eve table for the traveler, as a symbol of mercy, characteristic for this period. In some families the empty plate also symbolizes the memory of loved ones who have already left us.
Nuts were thrown into corners of houses representing a wish for these to be the same abundance all year round as for Christmas.
Any leftovers could not be discarded from the festive table on Christmas Eve. Crumbs from this festive dinner were given to sick or weak cattle. Everyone had to be given food on this special night be thought to put the family in danger.
By Martina Hornakova, Founder of KITnDO
Sources: “KVÍZ: Viete, ako vznikli naše vianočné zvyky?” – SME, “Najznámejšie vianočné zvyky na Slovensku” – Wellness Magazín, “Dodržiavate ich všetky? 15 slovenských tradícií, ktoré robili naše staré mamy na Vianoce” – Nový Čas
Photo: Main picture: Sevcik, bottom: my own pictures