Good Times and Strange Rituals in Slovakia

Slovakian traditions may seem strange until you know the lore behind them. Here's what to know about local customs and etiquette.

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Slovakians value their privacy and close ties, so they may seem distant and reserved at first. This gradually changes once they get to know you. You should always address people by their family names unless you're invited to use the first.

Chocolate, Booze and Fertility

If you get invited to a Slovakian home for Christmas, consider yourself lucky. You'll be fed and liquored generously. Don't be alarmed if suddenly the head of the house takes a spoonful of loksa, a mushy blend of what with honey, raisins and nuts, and flings it at the ceiling. It's a tradition in certain parts of the country.

According to lore, the bigger the lump that sticks to the celling, the larger the crops will be in the coming year.

Slovakian Easter boasts by far the oddest custom in the land. It's almost a dying tradition, thriving only in deeply rural villages. If you're a woman who happens to be a guest in such a town be warned: you might get whipped on the legs with a be-ribboned stick, sprayed with perfume, and drenched with water.

Supposedly some kind of fertility rite, this is done by young men to the young women of the village. They chase them around with a willow cane decorated with ribbons and try to whip their legs. The more women they whip, the more ribbons they get. If a whipping attempt is successful, the man marks his prey with some drops of perfume.

They then throw a bucket of cold water on her (more sensible villages settle for a glass of water). This may happen several times during the day to a single female.

In return for the favour, the girls give the boys hand-painted eggs or chocolate eggs. The adults rejoice at it all with some shots of strong booze.

Good times.

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