Christmas in Slovakia

In December 2012, RedLine published a series of posts on how people in other countries celebrate Christmas. This post focuses on Christmas in Slovakia.

Nativity scene, Christmas in Slovakia

Christmas in Slovakia: Shopping, Family, and Kapustnica

Profile: Adriána Lajdová

Birthplace: Slovakia
Raised in: Slovakia
Age: 38
Speaks: Slovak
Also speaks: Czech, English, Spanish
Adriána’s website

  • “Merry Christmas” in Slovak: Šťastné a veselé, krásne Vianoce

  • “Happy New Year”: Šťastný Nový rok

  • “Happy Holidays”: Šťastné a veselé

Adriána on Christmas in Slovakia

Before Christmas really begins, people are crazy about shopping for gifts. Recently, the whole mess and circus around this holiday has been more pronounced than in the past, starting already in October. On Štedrý večer (Christmas Eve), families usually stay together, even the divorced and separated ones.

Christmas in Slovakia, food vendor in main square

Shoppers stop to buy from a food vendor in a Bratislava square.

Christmas Food in Slovakia

They usually eat the traditional starter of wafers or waffles with garlic and honey, just to get a taste for the main course. (This tradition varies by region, though. Some families in different regions eat chopped apples and share them as a symbol of abundance for the next year’s harvest, while others eat walnuts with honey…)

But the main course has changed a lot in the past few years. Some families stick to traditional carp and potato salad with cream and mayonnaise and vegetables (traditional salad).

For Christmas in Slovakia, other families just eat the traditional kapustnica (cabbage soup) while others prepare a more modern dish (salmon, trout, or some other meal). The main dish and even starters differ from region to region, which is surprising for such a small country.

Kapustnica is popular at Christmas in Slovakia

Kapustnica, a traditional Slovakian cabbage soup, is a mainstay around Christmastime.

The meal and the festivities last a long time (three hours or more). In fact, there’s often heavy drinking. Then there is a surprise for all family members: the presents under the Christmas tree.

giant reindeer sculpture, Christmas in Slovakia

A giant reindeer decorates the area outside a mall in Bratislava.

Sviatok Vianočný (Christmas Day) is full of food again and people usually celebrate with family, chat, and enjoy the presents they’ve received.

Sviatok Vianočný, Štefana (Boxing Day) in Slovakia is usually filled with visits from family or close friends, talking, and tasting the cakes, sweets, etc.

The dish on Christmas Day is usually duck or goose with salad or potatoes. There are also lots of cakes and sweets on tables. This “nosh-up and tuck-in” continues over the days that follow and lasts until New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Traditions

We call New Year’s Eve “Sylvester” because the feast day for St. Sylvester is on December 31. It’s also not a [first] name often used in Slovakia and thus it’s a bit special.

There are many parties, either in pubs, bars, and restaurants, or just at flats and in family homes. Celebrations of New Year’s Eve are huge events, including fireworks, eating, and heavy drinking. (We especially like champagne when ringing in the New Year.)

The next day, Nový Rok (January 1), is a national holiday. People usually have festive and heavy lunches at home or just recover from the night before and prepare for the coming year.

If you’re still in the Christmas mood, see where the term Xmas comes from or read about the best kids’ Christmas book on the planet.

But if you’re looking for something else, check out these 9 incredible facts about language.