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).
Adults also sometimes dress up and parade around the village singing in front of people’s homes and offering alcohol.
Rich foods are traditionally made at this time, of which zabíjačka products fit the bill. Deep fried sweets are popular, like šišky, similar to doughnuts. The dough is deep friend and instead of a hole there is an indent that is filled with jam. Fánky are another treat, rolled flat squares of dough that puff up when deep fried.
Apparently, once upon a time fašiangy was wedding season, which in an agricultural culture makes sense. Spring to fall are crazy busy on a farm. Traditionally winter would have seen more indoor activities, making things with the fruit of the summer’s labour, like spinning and knitting or embroidery. These handicrafts would mostly be done by the end of winter/beginning of spring but it would still be too early to start work outside, so it would be the perfect time to host a wedding. And if it’s rich food party season anyway, a family could kill two birds with one stone financially.
This year, our family went to a “starosvetská fašangová zábava,” an old fashioned Slovak carnival dance. A blast was had by all. It took place in the “Kultúrny Dom,” commonly referred to as KD and literally meaning cultural house, that is the community hall.
Live music was provided by a cimbala, a group so named because of the presence of a “cimbal,” the hammered dulcimer. These groups play folk music, usually quite lively. They played from 4 pm until 2am; a friend told me she was surprised it ended so soon. Bands are always well provided for at dances, taking breaks to sit at their own table overflowing with food and drink (as in the photo below). Must take care of the musicians!
In the breaks between music, small folk groups sang/played/danced. As well, as often happens at big celebrations, groups of people gather to sing, especially the men. Their strong voices drown out any instruments that may be playing along. There is a large repertoire of folk songs that everybody knows, so most people can join in.
Each family who came brought a plate of snacks, savoury or sweet, and there was more to choose from than you could shake a stick at. Pagač, something like a scone/biscuit, sometimes with cheese. Moravské kolače, sweet yeast dough baked in a circle with jam and curds, walnut paste, or poppy seed paste in the indented middle. Strudels, bars, and other snacks were in abundance.
Besides that, gulas was served, made from wild boar. After a complimentary litre of wine, more wine, mead, or hard alcohol was available to buy. As the evening wore on, a certain relaxation was evident among some of the dancers. One of the folk groups brought in a surprise roasted pig for a second meal. “Come, let’s dance some more so I’m hungry to eat the pork,” said my husband.
Partly what I loved about the dance was that they started early enough to include the children. It was like a old time country dance. Kids running around, dancing with or watching the adults and copying, learning how to dance. Trying moves out on their own. Good music, good food, good people, good times -I’m hope that it becomes an annual event to celebrate fašiangy.
Photo by Jozef Oravec. My neighbour sent me some photos to share – here you can see the singing on the right, the children dancing in the middle, the bar on the left, and adults taking a break to eat and rest. Click on the photo to see a bigger version.
More information about fašiangy on The Slovak Spectator.
Photo by Jozef Oravec
Kids figuring out Slovak folk dance moves.
Names of villages in the area are written on the cloths.
People from different villages coming together to sing.
Photo by Jozef Oravec
A lovely modern take on a Slovak folk dress by the talented Manufolktúra, who also sews folk inspired children’s clothes. Photo by Jozef Oravec.
Me with a tuckered out kid who fell fast asleep. Running around, dancing, and eating too many sweets is hard work when you are three. Photo by Jozef Oravec.
Photo by Jozef Oravec.
And here is me in a borrowed kroj (thanks Katka!). I discovered why in Slovak dances the women twist their hips back a forth – to get some air flowing under the three layers of skirts. And as fluffy as the outfit is, it is tied super tight around the waist. “Suck in,” said my friend as she wrenched it tight when showing me how to put it on.
And here is a video of various highlights, taken by a Matej Chrvala.