SLOVAKIA

Christmas Eve (December 24) is celebrated as Štědrý den/Štedrý deň, which means “Generous Day”, when the gifts are given in the evening. The December 25 and 26 are Public holidays in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, but Vánoce/Vianoce (Christmas), is most commonly associated with the 24th. According to tradition, gifts are brought by Ježíšek/Ježiško, or “baby Jesus”. Fish soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad are a traditional dish for the dinner. In Slovakia, before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other by sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Oblátky) with honey and walnuts. Traditional dinner depends on region, but common Christmas dinner is cabbage soup (Kapustnica) or lentil soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad or handmade gnocchi with poppy (šúľanky s makom). The gifts are surreptitiously placed under the Christmas tree (usually a spruce or pine and lately fir), usually just before or during dinner. Children have to wait for the ringing of a Christmas bell (one of the decorations on the Christmas tree) – the sign that Ježíšek/Ježiško (little Jesus) has just passed by – to run for the presents. That happens at the end of their Christmas dinner. There is a rich tradition of hard baked Christmas sweets (Cukroví/vianočné koláče).

Other Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions involve predictions for the future. Apples are always cut crosswise: if a perfect star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, distorted star means a bad year or illness, while a cross may suggest death. Girls throw shoes over their shoulders – if the toe points to the door, the girl will get married soon. Another tradition requires pouring some molten lead into water and guessing a message from its shapes.

In Catholic Slovakia, the tradition of Jasličkári involves young men dressed as shepherds or angels visiting their neighbors and presenting recitations and songs about the story of the birth of Jesus.

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