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Published: December 25th 2009
St. Nicholas Day
We awoke to find candy and creepy looking Santa figures staring out at us from our shoes.
This has been our first Christmas spent in Slovakia and so I thought I would share a little bit about the traditions and culture that surrounds the Christmas season.
Christmas traditions begin a little earlier in Slovakia (and Eastern Europe) than in the United States. This is due mainly to the celebration of St. Nicholas Day on the 6th of December. Of course, the legends upon which Santa Claus is based are derived from the stories attributed to St. Nicholas. Children leave their shoes near a window and the next morning, they are filled with candy, nuts, and fruits, as well as chocolate representations of Nicholas or Santa Claus in modern times.
Winter sports are very popular in Slovakia and early in December, the outdoor skating rink is opened to skating and hockey practices can begin. The ski resorts begin to open up in the Tatra Mountains as well. As Christmas gets closer, the larger towns open their Christmas markets. Kosice has a yearly Christmas market that is open for several weeks, while Roznava holds a smaller market open for only two days. Typically, the markets sell coats, hats, gloves, gingerbread cookies, sausages and meat, cheeses, boiled wine, and alcohol made
My Saint Nicholas candy figure.
from honey. Another staple of Slovak Christmas markets are roasted chestnuts.
My brother Eric joined us here in Slovakia for Christmas and the three of us enjoyed the Christmas market in Kosice.
On Christmas Eve day, families spent time together and typically abstain from meat during the entire day. At night, the traditional meal includes carp, potato salad, and sauerkraut soup and presents are exchanged afterward. Many Catholics attend midnight mass before going to bed. Christmas day is spent visiting family and enjoying good food. The weather this year has been very unpredictable. It has varied between heavy snow and heavy rain, making the roads difficult to travel on and leaving the streets covered in several inches of wet snow. However, it seems that we missed the 'whitest' Christmas in Nebraska in recent memory which is too bad.
So, Vesele Vianoce! (Merry Christmas!) from Brett and Sylvia and a Happy 2010!
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