Slovak Traditions

Exciting news, winter wonderland, carnival festivities and other bits

Male Karpaty in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

Every week I plan to write here on the blog, and most weeks time goes by faster than I can catch it. Things have been busy here because, as I announced on Facebook…I’m writing an ebook!

It will be an ecookbook about Slovak soups and stews, full of bowls of comfort and notes about life in Slovakia. We’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews lately. As a cook, I don’t mind because they are easy to throw together. And my kids haven’t complained yet.

I’ve set the launch date as March 13…soon!

If are on Facebook, follow my Almost Bananas Facebook page and click ‘all posts’ under notifications. I’ll be sharing bits of the book as it is coming together and asking for your input. Here’s a Facebook video of me behind the scenes, complete with twin “helpers”. If you aren’t on Facebook,  you can see the video here.

To catch up on 2017, I’ve got mostly a pile of photos to share.  Click to continue reading

Orešanský Rínek: a fall celebration

Slovak traditional costumes - Almost Bananas blog

A while back a town nearby, Horné Orešany, had a “rinek”, which involved music, dancing, and lots of food.

There are a number of different types of celebrations in the fall, for example, vinobranie celebrates wine. While considerably bigger, the Trnava jarmok is similar to the rinek. Friends tell me that ‘rinek’ and ‘jarmok’ are mostly just dialect differences. Rinek comes from ‘ring-kruh’, both German and Slovak for circle, because tables were placed in a circle as they sold their wares, while jarmok comes from ‘jahr markt’, yearly market in German.

Play of a traditional Slovak wedding - Almost Bananas blog

This year’s rinek had a wedding theme. The entertainment consisted of a play in which the music and dance acts were incorporated. Above, a woman throws her hands up as a friend relates how useless her husband is in preparing for the wedding (if I recall correctly).  Click to continue reading

Winter Markets, Fog, and Misc. (Winter 2015/16 photos)

Winter in the Small Carpathians of Slovakia

Now that spring has finally come, at least to my town, I’m finally posting photos from the winter. I blame it on my family genes, always late for everything.

November begins with one of my favourite traditions, visiting the graveyards and honouring the dead. I can’t even come close to capturing the atmosphere. I’ve written about it before: Nov. 1, All Saints Day

All Saints Day in Slovakia

All Saints Day in Slovakia

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Fašiangy: Slovak Carnival is a party time

Fasiangy: Slovak Carnival is time to party

Leftover from observance of Christian seasons, fašiangy is the time between the end of the Christmas season (January 6) and the beginning of Lent. Basically, it’s party time. It’s the time to indulge in rich foods and have fun before the austerity of Lent. This year, we went to a folklore zabava, a family dance in folklore style that was amazing (read on for a picture of me in kroj below).

For children, one day towards the end of the season is designated for dressing up in costumes, usually at school or pre-school. Slovak kids (including my own) don’t know much about Halloween but get excited for to dress up for Karnival.

For adults, fašiangy marks the ball season. Formal dances are planned in smaller towns and cities alike, attended by men in suit and tie and women in uber fancy dresses. Slovaks dance into the not-so-wee hours of the morning, to live or DJed music. There are certain songs that are played every time, that everybody loves and sings along to. Most of them are hits from the 70’s and 80’s. There are usually at least two meals, plus snacks (read here for how much food a Slovak party must have).

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Traditions: finding the balance between the past and the future (October 2015 photos)

Are traditions your garbage or your treasure? - Almost Bananas

As any reader of my blog will know, I’m a big fan of keeping traditions alive, whether a village, song and dance, or lighting candles in the night. So many people, however, seem to take these traditions for granted or consider them as unimportant.

I was taking pictures in the old shed behind my inlaws’, grinning that they would not understand my fascination. A shed of old junk, to them.

Treasures in an old shed - Almost Bananas

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Hody: the modern take on a religious medieval festival

Every town in Slovakia has 'hody'. Here's the modern take on a medieval festival - Almost Bananas

Every town, every church in fact, in Slovakia has a festival called ‘hody’. Each church is named/dedicated to a particular saint or feast, and when that annual feast day rolls around it’s party time. The consecration of the church coincided with finishing the building, so hody feasts are in the warmer month and full of food and fun. In my parents in law’s village, hody is in the fall and usually coincides with Jarmok in Trnava.

In the Catholic Church, if you attend Mass on the feast of the consecration of a church (as well as meeting a few other criteria) the person receives a plenary indulgence (in simple terms, related to the eternal state of your soul, so it’s important).

Traditionally, when it was hody in your parish, you invited extended family to come and gain eternal advantages. And then you had to feed said friends and family, so you prepare a feast.

And when there are all these extra people in a town, it’s a great time to sell things and go on carnival rides.

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June 2015 Photos

I’m starting a new series with photos from the month that didn’t warrant a whole post but that I wanted to share anyway. I’ve shared some on Instagram but my new phone requires more work to put up a big camera photo, and therefore I get them up less.

This month I actually have photos since the end of April, so there are some spring ones in there as well.

Gaming, Austria
Sunrise on the former monastery in Gaming, Austria.

Mystery Flower
Despite looking like lilacs, these lilac coloured flowers were growing singly in my sister in law’s lawn. I have no idea what they are, but I saved them from the lawnmower.

Spring Leaves

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My Love Affair with Folklore (and a Slovak folklore concert)

Children's Folklore Concert

If I had to guess, I would say that my love of all things related to traditional cultures started in my grandparent’s living room. Our fairly frequent family gatherings would often involve some Scottish airs and folk songs, my grandfather on the fiddle. Sadly, us grandchildren didn’t learn the songs although I recognize most of the melodies (I started learning the violin with my daughters, and one of my goals is to learn those songs).

One of my favourite memories is of listening and dancing to some jig or reel after a day of haying in the summer. At that time haying was a family affair, involving many hands, lots of food, major itch caused by sweat mixing with hay seed, and rides in the back of a pick up on swaying piles of hay bales. Hay used to be made into square bales, which are actually rectangular, and they were leaned against each other like a pyramid so that if it rained the water would run off instead of soaking into the dry hay, like this. We still did it by hand, lifting and carrying each bale.

Anyway, we were relaxing after a day of hard work by playing music, when an evening thunderstorm started and everybody dashed out in the rain to stook the bales in the field behind the house. My sister and I went out under an umbrella and tried to lift the bales but we were still too little to lift them. Afterwards we sat on my grandmother’s couch, counting the time between thunder. One Mississippi, two Mississippi…

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A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

The air was thick with the smell of cooking stew, the buzz of a crowd’s conversations, and a tinge of wood smoke, as contending teams vied for the coveted ‘best goulash’ award.

The other weekend we attended a goulash cook-off in our village. Lined around the brick laid yard were cauldrons of various sizes and types, all containing variations on goulash. Even though the basic idea of goulash is the same, each competitor had his own style or twist on goulash.

Goulash is of Hungarian origin but, like many dishes of Slovakia’s southern neighbour, is immensely popular in Slovakia. Caramelized onions, meat, paprika, tomatoes, peppers, and marjoram are the crucial ingredients, with anything else being optional.  Click to continue reading

A Slovak Pig Butchering: Part I, The Setup and Process

Slovak Pig Butchering

One of the qualities that I enjoy about Slovakia is how many traditions are still observed in rural areas, whether it be folk singing and dancing, draft horse competitions, or lighting cemeteries up with candles.

Some of these traditions are cultural and remeniscent of the past; others are born from survival. In December, my husband’s parents had zabíjačka (za bee yach ka), killing the family pig.

In the not so distant past, everybody in the village had a pig. It was necessary for survival. Now its less common though still practiced, particuarly by older people.

I grew up on a farm in Canada, but the style of slaughter is very different. In my experience, a number of animals were slaughtered at once but not much was done with it. The meat would be cut up (after hanging if beef) and stored in the freezer. I remember making sausages once at my grandparents and the smoke house in use, but it certainly wasn’t the same day as butchering.

In Slovakia, one, max two, pigs are killed and a variety of goods are made that same day. Many of the recipes use up the organs, so that you can’t even tell when you eat it. Everything is used, besides the toenails, contents of the intestines, and ear drums. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share those recipes here at Almost Bananas. Today, it’s about the set up of how they do it, which I think is fascinating.

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