Slovakia – A European Christmas Story

In Slovakia many people are Roman Catholic, so they start off the Christmas period by celebrating advent from four Sundays before Christmas Day. It is common during advent to have an advent wreathe and to light a candle for each of the four Sundays up to Christmas. Each candle has a different meaning with the first two candles and the last candle being a purple colour and the third Sunday having a pink coloured candle. Typically the first candle represents hope, the second represents love, the third candle represents joy and the fourth and final candle represents peace.

There is often Christmas markets across the country to celebrate the Christmas period during December. The Christmas markets are usually lit up and sell Christmas gifts, traditional Slovakian food as well as beer and wine.

On 6th December it is common for people to celebrate St Nicholas’ Day which is when St Nicholas, or Mikuláš as he is known in Slovakia, delivers presents to well behaved children. 

Usually people in Slovakia put their Christmas tree up on 23rd December in time for Christmas Eve on December 24th. Traditionally Christmas Eve is celebrated more than Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve, which is also known as Štedrý večer, is a big celebration in Slovakia with many people attending midnight mass. For the children it is believed that baby Jesus delivers the Christmas gifts rather than Santa Claus and it is traditional to open presents whilst eating Dinner on Christmas Eve.

In Slovakia it is traditional to eat Carp for Christmas which is a type of fish and some families will leave a spare plate out for loved ones who are no longer with them as a way to remember them.

After Christmas Day on December 26th people in Slovakia celebrate St Stephens day. St Stephen was martyred for his belief in Jesus and Christianity and he was the first Martyr in the Christian faith.

A personal story:

By Nicki Hlousek

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

The traditional Christmas dinner as well as the main celebrations including exchanging of presents happen evening of 24th December. The most traditional Christmas dinner would consist of sauerkraut soup (this sounds dreadful but is actually rather tasty), fried carp (many people now replace that with chicken or turkey schnitzel) served with a delicious potato salad. Sometimes we make schnitzel with potato salad and have this on Christmas eve still but we tend to find it is quite a lot of food with all the chocolate and sweets normally consumed in our house over Christmas and have opted out of this tradition entirely last two years. But because my boyfriend loves the dish so much it keeps returning and might be on the menu again this year.

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

I always love when I can spend Christmas along with both my brother and my mom and my partner. This does not happen that often as we try to take turns around where we celebrate Christmas. Since we got our two cats two years ago it is becoming more difficult for us to travel to Slovakia during Christmas period too. The best memories of Christmas are the ones where we spent some time together with the wider family like cousins, uncles and so – I very much prefer when there is more of us together.

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

In Slovakia it is not traditional to gift sweets or chocolates or stockings at all. We normally make the effort and buy ‘cool’ presents. One of the rules in our house is to try and avoid gifting useful things as much as possible and try to go over the top with things that aren’t going to be something you would buy for yourself but would still very much rather have if that makes sense. Now I am not sure if that is keeping up with either traditions.

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