The Advent season is an important time in Slovakia and three public holidays are provided each year on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day afterward.
|2019||24 Dec||Tue||Christmas Eve|
|25 Dec||Wed||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Thu||2nd Day of Christmas|
|2020||24 Dec||Thu||Christmas Eve|
|25 Dec||Fri||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Sat||2nd Day of Christmas|
In Slovakia, the Christmas season begins with Advent, reflecting the fact that the population is largely Roman Catholic. This is the time to “prepare” for Christmas both spiritually and physically, by attending special church services and by shopping for a Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies, and giving the house a thorough cleaning.
On 5 December, the Eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day, Santa shows up to give out presents to children, who leave their shoes by the door to receive the gifts. Normally, Saint Nicholas brings candies and fruits.
As Christmas draws nearer, large tanks filled with carp will appear along public streets. Here is where Slovakians shop for their “Christmas carp”.
Slovakians decorate Christmas trees as in most other places where Christmas is celebrated, but they traditionally use fruits, angel-shaped baked goods, candies and other sweets, and homemade wooden ornaments, besides the usual coloured lights. The tree will not be taken down until Epiphany on 6 January.
Baby Jesus brings the presents on Christmas Eve evening. When children hear a ringing bell, they know that the presents have arrived under the tree an rush over to open them. Traditionally, presents are opened right after Christmas Eve dinner.
The traditional Christmas dinner has twelve different dishes, one for each of Jesus’ twelve disciples. The tablecloth is supposed to be white, and straw and wheat-sheaves have historically been used to decorate it. Carp is the main dish, but other fish, cabbage soup, baked ham, roast goose, potato salad, dumplings, bread and butter topped with sauerkraut, and walnut rolls are also commonly consumed.
After dinner on Christmas Eve, many go to midnight mass. While there, they peruse the nativity cribs, called “Bethlehems,” that are put up in virtually every church this time of year. They also, of course, hear Christmas-themed sermons, sing hymns about Jesus’ birth, and remember the true meaning of the holiday.