Matjaz is a translator from Slovenia who enjoys traveling, writing, reading, and watching movies. He believes that a person's character grows and becomes richer by meeting new people and discovering new cultures and places.
Latest posts by Matjaz Drobne (see all)
- Potica – Traditional Slovenian Sweet Roll with Walnuts - December 30, 2017
- Traditional Slovenian Dishes Served on Christmas - December 23, 2017
- Popular Slovenian Christmas Traditions - December 20, 2017
Christmas is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated all around the world. In reality, the holiday stems from the pre-Christian times, when the old pagan people celebrated the Winter solstice. They believed that, since the day was becoming longer it was a clear sign of “good” winning over the “evil”. They made this conclusion based on the Sun winning over the darkness. Later on Christmas became a symbol of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, even though the date of His birth is not completely clear.
In Slovenia, each Winter solstice Slavic people celebrated the birth of Svarožič. He was the son of Svarog, who personified the young Sun. Slavic people from the south named him Božič, which is the Slovenian word for Christmas. Years later, once Slavs converted to Christianity – this holiday was turned into the celebration of Christ.
Now I’d like to share a couple of the most common Slovenian traditions and customs, celebrated around the Christmas time.
December leading up to Christmas
Since Slovenians are predominantly Christian, they tend to follow various religious traditions. One of them is the four Advent Sundays, which lead up to Christmas. As per an old tradition, during this time there are no major events or even marriages happening in the local towns or villages. Homes are usually 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.
In the beginning of December, one usually plants grains of wheat to grow until Christmas. The growth of a grain into a wheat is a symbol of life’s force, as well as of man’s hope. Hence, 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 Slovenian 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.
The custom also dictates that the Christmas table should be well-lit with candles, since light symbolizes happiness and good fortune in the coming year. Another popular treat which is always present at every Christmas table, across Slovenia – is potica. Potica is a round cake made with different fillings, such as walnuts, nuts, cocoa, bananas, coconut, and more. Some other favorite Slovenian Christmas delights are the Bundt cake made with raisins and walnuts, plus the gingerbread and cinnamon cookies.
The Pre-Christmas Wish Tradition
In some of the regions in Slovenia, there’s a popular custom among children and young adults. They would take a piece of paper on December 13th (St. Lucia’s Day) and jot down twelve wishes. They would then cut this paper into twelve smaller pieces and crumple them all up.
On the evening of December 13th they would throw the first piece of paper into the fireplace and repeat that every evening until the Christmas Eve. The last remaining scribbled piece will have the wish, which is bound to come true in the following year.
Pre-Christmas Cleaning and Fasting
In Christianity, the birth of Jesus Christ represents a new life. Therefore Christmas is a sign of new beginnings. So in order to have a new and fresh start, you’d first need to de-clutter your life by cleaning your house. Literally and metaphorically. A couple of days prior to the Christmas Eve, the family spends a day (or longer, if necessary) cleaning the house, which must be spotless. Yet, on 24th and 25th of December people must rest.
In the past, Slovenians used to fast on the Christmas Eve, but nowadays they fast one day before, on the 23rd of December. The dinner on the Christmas Eve is somewhat small and humble. However, the breakfast on the next morning is usually laden with meat, different types of cheese, Christmas bread, and sweets.
Christmas is a Time for Family
Christmas is also the special time of the year when the whole family gathers together. The same could be said maybe only for Easter. In general, Slovenians tend to stay at home on the Christmas Eve. They usually visit their family and friends during the day. They would also bring each other presents and enjoy the special holiday delights.
A modern tradition has also evolved. Nowadays, Slovenians tend to go for a walk around nature on the Christmas day. It’s great to be free from the technological burdens of the daily life for at least a day.
The period around Christmas is a time for us to reflect on the past year and to be surrounded with people we love. It is also the time to leave everything bad and negative behind, and to focus on a new start. The next year will surely bring countless new opportunities for a fresh beginning.
Besides being surrounded with those closest to us, what really makes Christmas special is… snow. Lots of snow, God giving!
Bonus: below are few of the traditional Slovenian New Year’s Proverbs:
⇒ If you owe money to someone on the New Year’s Eve – you will probably owe money throughout the entire next year.
What you do on the New Year’s Day is a sign of what you will be doing during the next year:
⇒ If you are hungry on the New Year’s Day, then you will be hungry for the rest of the year.
⇒ If you get up early on the New Year’s Day, you will do so for the whole year.
And so on! ⛄️