Najat, Elisa, Marina, Pauline and Cástor arrived in Slovakia from various places around the world and they came to love this tiny country. In several cases it was love that led them here, in others it was nature and the beautiful scenery. Even though they may have lived here for years, they are still not fully accustomed to Slovak Easter traditions.
Female foreigners ask why the men have it so easy, while male foreigners express clear views: these traditions are good and Slovaks should protect them.
Marina Vlasenko, aged 30, from Russia, is a dancer who says “fate led her here five years ago”. She is currently a dance teacher in Bratislava.
Marina usually spends the Easter holidays with her boyfriend in Italy.
“I associate this holiday mostly with spring and new life,” she describes. “As I usually travel to Russia only for the winter holidays and in the summer, I most often spend these days with my friend’s family in Italy. At Easter, we go to church and of course, the tradition there is to have the whole family gathered together and then enjoy a nice dinner.”
Even though they do not strictly observe Slovak habits, Marina has her own opinion: “You have it very interesting with the whipping and the pouring of water. But I have one question – what about the men? Why do they have it so easy?”
In Russia, Easter is connected with Christian celebrations and as in the rest of Europe, with family.
“We do have Easter in Russia. We call it Pascha (Пасха) and it is a very important holiday,” Marina tells us. “Of course, we have a tradition of going to church and of receiving guests throughout the whole day. We prepare and decorate eggs and bake a cake called pascha, we greet our loved ones and wish them well, after all, Jesus was resurrected on this day of light. The only thing is, we do not have so much chocolate – this is very popular especially here, in Europe. Which is just as well for me, as I love sweet things,“ Marina laughs.
Cástor Sánchez, aged 51, is from Columbia. He studied at a Slovak university 32 years ago and after graduation decided to stay. He is an interpreter, language teacher and tourist guide. Not just the capital captured his love for Slovakia but also regions like Spiš and Orava.
“I always return to Spišská Sobota, Spišská Kapitula, Žehra, the Slovak Paradise,” he says. “I also very much like Orava, and Orava Castle.”
He regularly spends Easter in Slovakia – embracing everything that is connected with this holiday.
“I regularly celebrate Easter in the Slovak way: together with my godfather, we always whip my godmother, god-daughters and female neighbours,” the Columbian linguist describes. He deems Slovak habits and traditions unique and rare.
“At first, I was very surprised by your traditions,” Sánchez admits. “Then we learned about them at school – what each of the traditions means, where it comes from. It is very interesting. I am proud of the way Slovakia has kept such old traditions. I hope you will manage to keep them for a long time,” he says.
In Columbia, Easter is mostly connected with religious customs.
“Our Easter is a purely a religious tradition, which means that there are no pagan echoes like you have here – Easter bunnies, chickens, eggs – nothing like that. We call it Holy Week and everything revolves around Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. When I was a small child, I did not like Easter very much, although we had days off from school but we had to go to church almost every day, for long services; father did not allow us to listen to loud music, etc cetera. It was boring,” he recalls.
Elisa Maniero, aged 30, from Italy, arrived in Slovakia six years ago. At first, it was love that brought her here; later, it was also work that kept her in a foreign country. She comes from a small town located about 30 km from Venice, in the Veneto province, where Easter is celebrated by a family get-together – similar to Slovakia.
“In Italy, the traditions differ from one region to another,” she explains. “In my region, in Veneto, we do not have anything connected directly with Easter – apart from eating big (or rather huge) chocolate eggs and “colomba“ (a sort of dove-shaped panettone). On Easter Monday, which is called Pasguetta, people go for picnics and walks in the mountains or to the sea, if the weather is fine and they try to digest the long Easter dinner,” Elisa describes.
Even though she usually travels home to Italy for Easter, this year she will face a new experience.
“This year is one of the few when I will be travelling during Easter, and I will not go home – I hope I will not regret it too much,” she confessed. “In Italian, we say “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”, meaning “Spend Christmas with your family and Easter with whomever you want”, so I try to stick to this,” Elisa says.
She does not usually spend Easter in Slovakia but she has heard about all our rituals and traditions. “Unfortunately – or rather fortunately – I have never experienced this tradition when you are whipped by men who also pour buckets of cold water over you! I have never seen it live in Bratislava. I think it is more common in the countryside,” comments Elisa who would welcome greater equal opportunities in this area.
“I consider it quite funny and interesting on one hand, but on the other – I do not quite understand why boys do not also “get one” with the whip…. But I heard that these traditions, too, are changing and that in many villages, it is also girls who go and whip the boys!” added the Italian merrily.
Apart from Bratislava, Elisa has also come to like other corners of Slovakia.
“I have many favourite places in Bratislava and in Slovakia,” she says. “My most favourite site in Slovakia, apart from the capital, is Banská Štiavnica, a small treasure in the heart of Slovakia, I would say.”
Najat Bakkal, aged 34, is from The Netherlands. Although she was born there, her roots go back to Morocco. She was also brought to Slovakia by love. She established her family here with her husband and Najat opened a cosmetic studio with a Slovak friend.
“I met my husband at school and as he is half Slovak, I also discovered Slovakia,” Najat starts her story. Although she has two children at home, she has not sacrificed her career and she specialises in professional beauty care.
Najat spends Slovak holidays with her family in Slovakia and gradually, thanks to her children, she has started discovering local traditions.
“My Moroccan family celebrates different holidays so we also celebrate the Slovak ones,” she explains. So far, she has only heard about the traditional Slovak Easter pouring of water but she has already faced a traditional whip, called a korbáč, at home.
“Last year my son surprised us when he brought home a korbáč, which he got from my husband’s uncle,” Najat continues. „It was something new to me, I did not know that this is part of the tradition but when we saw our son having fun, we had some fun too. I wonder what will happen when my daughter grows a bit…” she laughs, adding that what she likes most about Slovak holidays is that the whole family always gets together.
In the Netherlands, Easter is mainly a celebration of spring and family. “In our family, we have the tradition of a common Easter breakfast. After this opulent feast, the children hunt chocolate eggs in the garden. We have an Easter bunny who plays an important role in the traditions. During my childhood, Easter was always connected with spring, so we just enjoyed the nice weather. As I grew up in a multi-cultural environment, Easter was not a religious holiday for me but rather an opportunity to meet the whole family and organise a bit of fun for the children.”
Pauline Mably, aged 42, from Wales in the UK, reveals that she came to this area through her friends with whom she went for a trip to Český Krumlov and to the Vltava river years ago. She fell in love with the region immediately. “I love the warm sunny summers, nature and the cheap beer!” laughs Pauline. She returned to the Czech Republic several times until she decided to find herself a job in Prague but then she saw an offer in Bratislava and thought this would be almost the same.
“I fell in love with Slovakia immediately,” Pauline comments. “First, I thought I would end up in the Czech Republic but I came to like our small, big city quite quickly. Two years after my arrival I met a Slovak who was able to tolerate my lack of “Slovakness” and exactly a year ago we married,” the Welsh lady says. And what about Slovak Easter?
“I am a staunch feminist, so when I first heard about your traditions, I was not enthusiastic and I tried to avoid them.”
“However, last year I spent the holidays at my mother-in-law’s and so her cousins and nephews finally could get to me and soak me with water – and I was happy about how much joy it gave them. In Wales, we have no real Easter traditions, except for buying commercial chocolate eggs so this is a nice change, although it absolutely represents a patriarchy,” the teacher of English laughs.
Of the holidays spent in Wales, she mostly misses Cadbury's chocolate eggs and a festive dinner with a whole family where lamb is prepared. “It is hard for me to get lamb here but this year, I will certainly give it a try.”
12. Apr 2017 at 23:22 | By Martina Štérová