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Easter 2018 and 2019

Easter, known as “Velka Noc”, in Slovakia, is considered there to be the most important Christian holiday on the calendar.

201830 MarFriGood Friday
2 AprMonEaster Monday
201919 AprFriGood Friday
22 AprMonEaster Monday

As about 62 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, Holy Week masses are often attended on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Lent begins 40 days prior to Easter, and Catholics traditionally eat only one full meal on Good Friday. In the evening on Holy Saturday, vigils are held to welcome Easter Morning at midnight. Secular institutions like the Easter bunny and commercial candies are also common as in most countries that celebrate Easter.

While there is much in how Slovakians celebrate Easter that is similar to other lands, we will highlight three of the more unique aspects of a Slovakian Easter below.

First, there is the tradition of creating ornately decorated, dyed and patterned Easter eggs known as “kraslica.” This tradition is kept all over Eastern and Central Europe, mostly in Slavic countries, but the egg painting in Slovakia is unique, though very similar to that in neighbouring Czech Republic.

To obtain multi-colour, geometric patterns, the “batik” method is used. This involves using a pin to dot wax onto the egg shell into the desired shapes, as many as 300 to 400 dots being applied per egg. The egg is then dipped in dye and allowed to dry. Another layer of wax is then put on certain dyed areas, and the process is repeated, going from lighter colors to darker ones. At the end, the eggs are heated to melt off the wax. As reds combine with blues, you get purple, yellow and red turns orange, and so forth.

An easier alternate method is to use wax crayons instead. In this case the wax is not removed. Mistakes can be corrected by simply scraping off the wax. Also, there some eggs are dyed and then etched with a needle after applying an “etching agent” like vinegar or nitric acid. Finally, you can also find eggs with dyed straw pulp pasted on them, yarn or wire pattern applied, or perforated and hollowed to look much like lace.

The second tradition we mention is the culinary aspect of a Slovakian Easter. There is Slovakian Easter bread, which is a fluffy, sweet, buttery loaf with a braided cross pattern on top of it. This bread is traditionally blessed by a priest following Easter Sunday mass. Other common dishes include: potato salad, baked ham, cold cut sandwiches, devilled eggs, “hrudka” (an “eggy cheese”), and roast lamb. Both Easter Sunday and Monday are days to enjoy such feasting.

Third, and probably the most distinctive of all Slovakian traditions, is that of “oblievacka” and “sibacka.” The first term refers to pouring or sprinkling cold water on young ladies on Easter Monday. The latter term refers to (gently, we hope) whipping the girls with a willow branch switch to bless them with good health. Young ladies prepare their kraslica Easter eggs on Sunday to give as thank-you gifts to the young men on Monday for the service. Sometimes the water is only sprinkled, but other times buckets of cold water are thrown or a handy creek nearby provides the water. The young men also dress in traditional folk costumes, make noise with rattles, sing songs, and play accordions during the “festivities.” In some circles, perfume or a mere water pistol have replaced the bucket, but nonetheless, many girls “just happen to” be away from home during the long weekend.

If in Slovakia around Easter time, some events you may wish to attend include:

  • In Bratislava, the capital, go to River Bank Restaurant for an egg hunt, a kids’ fashion show, and of course, some excellent Slovakian Easter cuisine.
  • Attend the Festival of Flowers and Gardens at Bratislava’s Bory Mall, which welcomes spring by “greening up” their premises and giving shoppers ideas on how to do the same at home.
  • Take the kids to “Easter camp” at Klepac Mill in Bratislava. You will find educational workshops, the interesting old mill itself to explore, on-site accommodations, and a buffet-style restaurant.

Slovakia has a number of interesting traditions you can learn of while visiting the country, and there are plenty of Easter-themed events to attend as well.