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.
But first, the feast. Lunch starts off with the classic Sunday soup, a clear brothy bone soup, followed by schnitzel and a Slovak potato salad. Always. Without variation.
After lunch, coffee is served as well as various squares, cakes, and sweets that everybody brings.
All the adults sit around partly comatose while the kids run around and beg to go to the carnival rides.
Around Slovakia are travelling carnival ride groups of various sizes. My parents in law live in a small town, so the rides that come are fairly simple. A carousal, flying swings, a twisty cup ride. Tables are set up selling candy and pumpkin seeds and plastic toys. The carnival rides this time were rather tame – the sets were painted with cartoons and they played oompa Slovak music. Usually the sets are painted with scantily clad mermaids and blast the latest pop hits, which seems ironic given that the origin of hody is religious.
After rides, everybody returns home to eat some more. My mother in law prepares a duck-goose hybrid the day before. We eat it cold, with more potato salad or lokše, a potato based flat bread. The lokše is warmed and brushed with melted fat from baking the duck/goose.
The brush is an old style pastry brush, made from plaited goose feathers.
The baking dish, made of clay, that my mother in law uses was used by the previous generation. It had started to crack, so she had it ‘covered’ with a wire net which helps keep it together.
The big kids’ swing.
For some reason I can identify this celebration as a continence of medieval times, when the church played a more prominent role in everyday life. I can imagine travelling musicians or theatre, tables selling artisan products, and games for children. Maybe it was never like that, I like to think that it was.
The little kids’ swing.
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the carnival part. It’s crowded and noisy and expensive. No rides are easier for kids than just a few. “Pleeeeeease, just one more ride??” But it’s part of the experience, and the kids love it. I would have loved it as a kid too. So I take my un-fun self over and am happy that the kids are happy.
I’m not sure how many younger families still call extended family over (we don’t) but in my husband’s family it is one of the sure times the whole family gets together at his parent’s place.
At the end of the day we go home, hopefully full in both body and soul, prepared to take on the coming week.