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Oldomáš in Detva

IN THIS beautiful postcard from the beginning of the 20th century, people are at a fair in Detva, a small central Slovak town. It is probably the work of famous photographer Pavol Socháň.

IN THIS beautiful postcard from the beginning of the 20th century, people are at a fair in Detva, a small central Slovak town. It is probably the work of famous photographer Pavol Socháň.

The people pictured are in a good mood: some are inspecting the goods they have bought but most are drinking and celebrating. Such an invitation for all, at the end of a trade, a deal or of shared work was called oldomáš.

This tradition comes from pagan times and by toasting people expressed their agreement with the deal and also their satisfaction. Oldomáš also were made after the grape harvest, the general harvest, the annual election of community shepherds, and also after parties in a dispute had reached a compromise. In the Gemer region, the construction of a new house was toasted with alcohol too – when the first corner (roh) was built, the so-called ‘rohovné’ was drunk.

A similar ritual existed for pig-sticking. At its end, a feast was usually made called ‘karmina’ or ‘swine dance’. Oldomáš was habitually paid by the contractor, i.e. the person for whom the work was done; or, after a deal, by the seller, according to the saying: “So says St Thomas – he who takes the money, pays the oldomáš”. The pleasant habit of oldomáš still exists and continues to reflect a certain social prestige on the part of the family which organises it.


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