Slovak food is simple but delicious. No pizza, no hamburgers. You will find a lot of potatoes, cabbage and milk products. In the mountains, shepherds graze their sheep. They live in cottages and use the milk to make cheese.
Both kids and adults just love ‘bryndzove halusky’ – potato dumplings with a special kind of cheese. Slovaks also eat meat all the time – sausages, bacon and more sausages! Beer is very popular, too. But that’s only for grown-ups! On Christmas Eve, the whole family comes together and they have sauerkraut soup and carp with potato salad. Carp is bought on special Christmas markets, and is not eaten for the rest of the year.
For breakfast, most kids eat cornflakes or yoghurt. Maple syrup or peanut butter are very unusual! Lunch is the biggest meal of the day – mostly chicken or a steak with rice. In school canteens, all the kids eat together. Dinner, on the other hand, is a family meal. Mom or dad cooks and the whole family discuss their day at the table.
Slovak folk costumes are known as ‘kroj.’ They are different in every region, but always very colorful, with rich patterns. They are also different for different activities – there is a dance costume, a wedding costume… Women wear skirts and blouses and men wear special shirts with a leather belt. Sometimes, these shirts are so short that you can see the man’s belly! This is funny, but in the past, if you had a big belly it meant that you are very rich!
Today, people in Slovakia wear modern clothes. But for special celebrations, they still love to put on their ‘kroj’ and show their tradition. There are also many folk dance groups, which represent their culture both at home and abroad on many festivals. These groups always wear their ‘kroj’ when dancing.
Christmas and Easter are the biggest holidays in Slovakia. Christmas is the favorite holiday of kids – they all get presents! But it isn’t Santa Claus who gives presents to Slovak kids! No, in Slovakia, Baby Jesus comes through the window while you’re not looking. You have to be a good kid or he will skip your house!
Easter in Slovakia is really crazy. Boys visit each house in the village and whisk girls with willow twigs. But just a little! They may also sprinkle them with cold water. This is to make the girls beautiful and healthy! As a reward, they give the boys painted chicken eggs. Today, chocolate eggs are also very popular.
In Slovakia, people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. They have their own special festivals. One of them is ‘Fasiangy’- a big carnival between January and April. People celebrate the coming of spring, eat good food and have fun with their friends. But this holiday is followed by 40 days of fasting! On celebrations like these, Slovaks still sometimes wear their folk costumes.
Halloween is a serious holiday in Slovakia. People go and visit the graves of their parents, grandparents and friends. They bring candles and flowers with them. They remember and honor their family this way.
Famous Stories or Epics
There are many popular folk stories in Slovakia. Many have to do with fairies, goblins and mythical creatures, but the most popular one is based on a true story. It is the legend of Juraj Janosik. Everybody knows it and there are many poems and stories about him.
Long time ago, Juraj was just an ordinary boy from the mountains. His village was very poor because all the money and all the food were taken away by rich lords. Juraj didn’t like that. He decided this must change. He organized a group of friends and they started to steal from the rich. The lords always traveled in their carriages through the woods, so it was very easy to loot them. Juraj shared the stolen money and gold with the people in the village. The people in the village were very happy and they always helped Juraj and his friends. No one could discover Juraj and his group, because they always hid back in the woods.
But one man from the village was very envious and wanted all the money for himself. The lords promised him a lot of gold if he tells them where Juraj is hiding. The man told them that Juraj has a girlfriend in the village and that he visits her each night. And there the lords caught him that very night. He tried to escape, but he slipped on the peas that were spilt on the floor. Juraj was hanged, but his legend lives on – it tells us that you should always help the others and fight injustice.
Children in Slovakia like to play many different games. From hide and seek to throwing rings, you will find it all. Both boys and girls also play a lot of sport. Of course, computer games are very exciting, too, but fresh air is much healthier than staying outside!
In the fall, flying a kite is very popular. It is the best if you can make it yourself – it shows that you are crafty and creative. It can get very windy sometimes, so there are competitions! Who can fly their kite the highest and who can fly it the longest? And which kite is the most beautiful?
When the weather is not good, you can play ‘Name-town-animal-thing.’ One of the players chooses one letter of the alphabet. Other players must say a name, a town, an animal and a thing which starts with that letter. Who can do it the fastest gets points! You can play after you go through all letters of the alphabet. Some letters can be very difficult, so you need to be quick and know a lot about the world around you!
Verbal and non-verbal communication
Most of the gestures and greetings are the same as everywhere else. It is important that you always greet someone with respect when you meet them for the first time during the day. The greeting ‘Dobry den’ (means ‘Good day’) can be used the whole day.
In Slovakia, you use the same word (‘ahoj’) when you meet someone, but also when you say goodbye to them.
People in Slovakia are very warm-hearted. When friends or family meet, they very often kiss each other on the cheek. Men kiss women and women also kiss women, but men don’t kiss men. You normally kiss twice, once on each cheek.
Relatives and friends like to cuddle with kids and play with them. This is always a lot of fun!
For Slovaks, family is the most important thing. Parents love their kids and kids respect their parents. Mom and dad do everything to make a good life for their kids, and kids help mom and dad when they are old or sick.
Hospitality is also very important. Families and friends often visit each other, give each other gifts and have fun together. There is always a lot of food and drinks. You should always help those who need it, because their will help you when you need it!
Working hard and always trying your best is a must, but you also need to find time for your friends and relax. In Slovakia, people who work all the time are seen as crazy, but people who only lie around are seen as lazy! The balance is the key.
Most Slovaks go to the church every Sunday, but not all of them. Tradition means a lot in Slovakia, but so does tolerance – we are all different but equal!
The most popular sports in Slovakia are ice hockey and soccer. Baseball and football are seen as very exotic!
In Slovakia, Christmas gifts are not unwrapped on Christmas Day, but on Christmas Eve in the evening! That way, you don’t have to wait so long.
Slovakia is very far from the sea. That’s why in summer, everybody travels many miles to the south of Europe for holiday! But if you want a change, you can stay in Slovakia a enjoy one of the many mountain resorts. Skiing is very popular.
Slovak children love ‘Mikulas,’ the special holiday. Mikulas is an old man who looks like Santa Claus, but he comes to visit on 6th December. He always comes with an angel and a devil, and rides trought the town on his horse. In the evening, you need to put a sock or a boot on the window. If you were a good child, Mikulas will give you a lot of sweets. But if you were a bad child, he will only give you coal!
Slovakia is full of history. You will find old castles, chateaus and strongholds everywhere! Proudly standing on rocks or hidden in the woods, they look very romantic and majestic. One of them, the ‘Spišský’ castle, is the biggest in Europe and very popular. Tourists from all over the world come to see it.
‘Banska Stiavnica’ is the town of silver. People built giant mines there and they used to be very rich. Even today, the town looks exactly the same as a long time ago! Walking through the streets feels like stepping into a fairy tale. The whole town is protected by UNESCO.
Slovakia is also famous for its caves (the amazing ‘Dobsinska’ ice cave) and spas. You will find the most hot springs in the world here! Relaxing near them is wonderful, and it is one of the favorite activities for both Slovaks and visitors from abroad. If you need something more active, there are always ski resorts and hiking trails.