A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR (SOBER) FOREIGNERS

Christmas in Slovakia!

Let’s start with my standard question: Who is afraid of “Vianočné dvorné hry”? Me!!!
But first, let’s take a first step back for those lucky of you who don’t know yet about the traumatising experience of Vianočné dvorné hry, or VDH. It literally means Christmas Garden Games and they are usually played on the 31st of December between 23:00 and midnight, waiting for the New Year to arrive. The issue with this is that in the past 3 years the temperature in this happy time slot has ALWAYS been below zero! Add to that, that the bigger the group of your friends playing, the longer you will be out in the cold… Be prepared to up to 2 hours of teeth rattling in the snow.
VDH are played in the back garden of your host's house (I now carefully pick my Slovak friends by always casually asking at an early stage of our friendship “Do you own a garden”? to avoid this traumatising experience.) The game climaxing horror includes:
1) drinking (gulping down) an average of 10 glasses of hard-core 40 years old slivovica in front of a screaming crowd (no hiding, ladies…);
2) chopping wood with an axe in a dark corner of the garden (where you may as well chop your leg off - after all the drinking) in front of even more excited crowd;
3) if you are unlucky enough, like me last year, the garden has a slide(!!!)… so harmless and loved by children during the day, the slide transforms in a killer frozen metallic blade at night. You must swallow - guess what? - another slivovica glass under the eyes of the so called Slivovica guardian (slivovicový policajt) whose role is to make sure you don’t pour the drink on the floor and just pretend you are drinking (I tried that and THEN you can try and go down the slide as quickly as you can. Think fingers trapped between legs and frozen slides = best way to start in the new year injured.) So now you are warned! When your Slovak friends invite you over for Silvester, always ask “Máš šmykľavku?”/Do you have a slide? Better safe than sorry!
4) MBD - merry brave dog - you were playing with during the day transforms himself in MBD - mad barking dog - at night! MBD will hunt you down no matter in which remote corner of the garden you are hiding - dreaming of warm Sicilian beaches and Christmas in your orange trees and palms garden ... If you keep a low profile and try to hide, MBD will make his mission throughout the game to bark his way to your hiding (hopefully warm) place! Everybody is now looking at you screaming with expectation: Come on! You now! (Guess? Standard glasses of slivovica offered again by slivovicový policajt - your best friend by now)… Red faces excited by seeing a foreigner's first ever attempt at VDH on Slovak soil! You can't win! So be warned, guys.
If you are lucky enough to enjoy your brand plums - not my case - you must have discovered by now. I recommend you get hopelessly drunk by 22:00... Chances are you may go through this unscathed and don’t remember a thing on the New Year! Happy Christmas Garden Games to you! Veselé Vianočné Dvorné Hry!
Daniela Di Gioia, alias Penny Lane
P.S. Penny will spend Christmas windsurfing on an undisclosed tropical destination with slivovicový policajt this year (always have a PLAN B).

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