Slovak Christmas in the Past

By: Veronika Šimová


Why do we decorate a Christmas tree for Christmas ?

In our territory the main symbol of Christmas was Nativity scene. The tree came to us from German countries only in the 1920s. Of course in noble families, we have known trees since the end of the 17th century.




What about gifts? When did we start giving them to each other?

Even gifts are not old. Again, they appeared in noble families at first. This symbol was taken over from the Holy Bible, we commemorate the birth of little Jesus and three wise men who brought him the gifts. Today, Christmas is mainly about gifts, but in the past it used to be more spiritual to experience Christmas. Gifts were simple, for example seven kids got one tangerine. Even then exotic fruit could be bought, however, it was very expensive. The family wanted to make children happy, so they got one. Children were mostly given home-made gifts, wooden toys, mum-made dolls, handmade products dominated.




Why was the tree hung from the ceiling?

There was a little space in the house. One big multifunctional room, so where to put it? In addition, it was very ecological, because only the tip was cut off, the tree then grew as tall as it used to be. So it was just a tiny tree, decorated with straw ornaments.




What is a typical Christmas Eve meal?

Regional meals are different because the meals on Christmas Eve were ordinary meals, which were also eaten throughout the year, however, the portions were bigger because of symbolism – the more food they had, the better they would be, and the next year harvest would be better too. Christmas soup was sauerkraut on most of the regions, because cabbage was pushed into barrels almost everywhere. From the other meals, according to the regions, fish, “sladké pirohy“, “šúľance“, or “bobaľky“ also called “opekance“. Depending on what people had. Now they are focused just on the gala dinner. The fried meals were brought to us only after 1918 by Czech professors. And the massive breeding of carps for frying occurred only after 1948, when the Communists came to power.