After the legend of Sunken Bell in Bled, today, I’d like to share with you some of the most common Slovenian traditions and customs, celebrated around the Christmas time.
All we know that Christmas is both cultural than religious holiday celebrated all around the world. In reality this tradition come from the pre-Christian times, when the old pagan people celebrated the Winter solstice, and since solstice the day was becoming longer: they believed that it was a clear sign of “good” winning over the “evil”. Only later Christmas became a symbol of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, even though the date of His birth is not completely clear and never really written (but this is another story).
In Slovenia, like for every Slavic people, each Winter solstice was celebrated the birth of Svarožič. He was the son of Svarog, who personified the young Sun and Slavic people from the south named him Božič, which is the Slovenian word that meaning Christmas.
Years later, once Slavs converted to Christianity, this holiday was turned into the celebration of Christ.
Slovenians are predominantly Christian, and people tend to follow various religious traditions. For example, according to an old tradition, during the four Advent Sundays, which lead up to Christmas, there are no major events or even marriages celebrated in the local towns or villages.
Homes are decorated with wreaths, on which one candle is lit up each following Advent Sunday. The four candles are a symbol of light which announces the upcoming birth of Jesus Christ.
There is another old but popular tradition: in the beginning of December, some people plants grains of wheat that grow until Christmas. The growth of a grain is a symbol of life’s force, as well as of man’s hope. So, it’s believed to deliver new life energy into the household and also bring positive thoughts to the entire family.
In the past, one of the biggest Christmas traditions was the baking of Christmas bread. Women would gather together in a kitchen and bake three loaves of bread. They would then set up a table and adorn the loaves with a nativity scene made of pasta. According to the tradition, the entire family had to eat the first loaf on Christmas, the second on the New Year’s Eve, and the third one on the Three Wise Men celebration, on the 6th of January.
According to the custom, the Christmas table would be well-lit with candles, since light symbolizes happiness and good fortune in the coming year. Another popular dish which is always present at every Christmas table, across Slovenia is potica, a round cake made with different fillings, such as walnuts, nuts, chocolate, fruits, coconut, or more. Other favorite Slovenian Christmas delights are the Bundt cake made with raisins and walnuts, or the gingerbread and cinnamon cookies.
In some of the regions in Slovenia, there’s a popular custom especially among children and young. They take a piece of paper on December 13th (St. Lucia’s Day) and express twelve wishes. They then cut this paper into twelve smaller pieces and crumple them all up. On the evening of December 13th they throw the first piece of paper into the fireplace and repeat that every evening until the Christmas Eve. In the last remaining piece there will be the wish which is bound to come true in the following year.
In Christianity, the birth of Jesus Christ represents a new life, so Christmas is the symbol of new beginnings. In order to have a new and fresh start, you’d first need to de-clutter your life by cleaning your house and your life! Literally and metaphorically: in Slovenia a couple of days prior to the Christmas Eve, the family spends at least one day cleaning the house, which must be spotless.
In the past, Slovenians used to fast on the Christmas Eve, but now some people fast one day before, on the December 23. The dinner on the Christmas Eve is humble, but the breakfast on the next morning is usually laden with meat, different types of cheese, Christmas bread, and sweets.
There are also popular proverbs, for example it seems that if you owe money to someone on the New Year’s Eve, you will probably owe money throughout the entire next year! Shortly, what you do on the New Year’s Day is a sign of what you will be doing during the next year!