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The barn – a multipurpose place. The Slovak celebrations

We invite you to... the wedding! And not any wedding, but one you have never seen before; maybe only your grandparents or great-grandparents. What you need to know about it is that it doesn’t take place at a restaurant, not even at a cultural center, like it was common until not long ago, but... in the barn!

On our hike on the eco-touristic trail at Huta Slavia we have arrived in a completely unexpected place, a multipurpose barn. Since the association between two such different terms might astonish you, let us make a few clarifications. The building that you see in this location is a barn (slov. „humno” or „stodola”), a household annex that served in the past especially for storing fodder, cereal, agricultural tools and even for sheltering cattle and horses. Since the available surface area was very large, the barn could be transformed, when needed, into a space where gatherings, festive meals, various parties and, why not, even weddings, were held. The celebration took place in a barn or shed, in the yard and inside the house, and later in makeshift tents. The preparations began several days before the celebration itself and involved the help of the entire family, of the neighbors and all members of the community. Together, they cleaned, cooked and prepared all those necessary for the great feast.

The reconstruction of a barn in the Huta Slavia complex was done not only for reminding those visiting us of our ancestors’ life, but also for creating a complex space, where various events could be organized even now, especially those related to celebrations, be they religious or laic. Therefore, in the barn you will discover different thematic exhibitions, presenting the life of the Slovaks, or you will find information about their most important celebrations over the year. We also aim to mark some of them, by organizing events to which those willing to join us are invited.

Traditions related to the wedding

Regarding the wedding and its organization, multiple changes occurred over the years. At the beginning of the 20th century, still common were the customs according to which youngsters had to court long before the wedding and that partners were still chosen with the approval of the parents, who aimed, through the wedding, to increase or at least preserve their fortune. Thus, the boy’s mother or one of the aunts went to propose the girl. If the girl and her parents did not agree with the boy for various reasons, they had to give him an answer on the same day. If they agreed, they gave him a positive answer, but no sooner than 3-4 days, for people not to believe that she couldn’t wait to get married. Then, both families agreed to go notify the priest about their decision. In the following weeks, the future groom went to the girl’s house and officially proposed to her. The groom, together with the bridesman, went to invite people on the part of the groom, while the bride and the bridesmaid went to invite people on the part of the bride. Only the two pairs of godparents were invited by the two future spouses. The godparents were those they had chosen at the Anointing ( brdovce – made with the loom). A big tent was set up in advance, in which all wedding guests could fit. Then, the cakes were prepared and the bread was baked.

The wedding started on Sunday morning. The fiddlers, along with the bridesmen, set off for the godparents’ house. From there they all went to the groom’s house. Here, the godfather gave a farewell speech (odberanka) on behalf of the groom, through which he bid farewell to his parents, family, friends, and neighbors. The groom kneeled in front of his parents.


After the speech, they sang:

World War, most weddings were held on Sundays. The preparation for the wedding started

long before. One week prior to the wedding, the women in the family and the relatives prepared

special pasta.

Zbohom, zbohom, mamko tatko, Vychovali ste ma sladko
Ďakujem vám za vašu lásku
Bo ja idem na tu dlhu prechádzku.

Zbohom, zbohom, bratia, sestry, ...

Goodbye, goodbye, mom, dad You dearly raised me
I thank you for your love
I’m going on that long journey

Goodbye, goodbye, brothers, sisters ...

During all this time, the groom bids farewell to everyone. The whole procession sets off for the bride’s house. The groom, with the bouquet of flowers that he will give to the bride, is accompanied by two bridesmen; behind them come the godparents, parents, family, and then the other guests. The fiddlers came last and sang all the way. Once at the bride’s house, the procession stops at the gate. This is where the custom of negotiating the bride begins. Initially, another person dressed as a bride is presented (in ripped white clothes, with her face covered),  a theatrical scene with a humorous purpose. After this scene, the bride’s godmother, who had also helped her get ready that morning, brings the bride, for whom the negotiation with the groom starts. After they reach an agreement, the groom hands the bride the bouquet, and she sticks a cockade to his shirt’s lapel (pierko – in a free translation, feather). The bridesmaids hand out the cockades as well, first to the bridesmen, then to the godparents, the father and the other boys and men invited. The girls did not wear cockades. There were only two main bridesmaids, dressed the same. This way, they stood out among the other guests. The godmother and the bridesmaids each brought a wedding cake.

Then the farewell speech (odberanka) is given on behalf of the bride, through which she bid farewell to her parents, family, friends, and neighbors. The groom’s godfather held this speech too. Nowadays, these speeches are delivered by the starosta.

After these rituals, the procession started walking to the church. If the distance that they were going to cover was long, they would occasionally stop on the road. The fiddlers were playing, and everyone else was dancing. The godmothers had baskets with cozonacs and cakes with them, and the godfathers a bottle (vlaška) of wine or palinka nicely adorned, with which they were serving all the guests.

The bride was accompanied by the bridesmen, and the groom was accompanied by the bridesmaids, to the altar. They then sat down on either side of the couple. The godparents were sitting behind the bride and the groom. After the ceremony, they would go to the party. This time, the bride went together with the groom. The bridesmen and bridesmaids, together with the godparents, followed them.

Once in front of the gate, they were stopped again. Here, also in the spirit of tradition, they had to prove that they were capable of managing themselves. The groom had to crack a piece of stump and the bride had to sweep the broken shards of a plate or other vessel. All the while they joked around, had fun and enjoyed themselves. After passing this “test”, the actual party started, which lasted till dawn.

The biggest cake was cut at midnight and given out to all the wedding guests. The bride changed her wedding dress for a new one and they put a bonnet on her head, as a sign that she was already married. Sometimes, the wedding continued the next day, and the relatives kept having fun while disassembling the tent.

In Slovak culture, calendar customs form a special structure that is strictly respected by all members of the community. Here are some of the most important holidays of the Slovak community:

On January 1st they celebrate the New Year, a day when all the men and boys go caroling („Vinšovať”) to relatives and friends. The lyrics of the traditional carol were the following:

„Vinšujem vám na tento šťastlivý Novy Rok aby vám dal Pán Boh zdravie, šťastie, hojne božské požehnanie,
na dieťatko potešenie,
hojnosti, prajnosti, úrodnosti,
v komorách, v stodolách, všetkých veci dosť, aby ste boli veselí
ako v nebi anjeli.
Pochválen Pán Ježíš Kristus.“

„I wish you a Happy New Year,
May God give you health, luck,
Godly blessing to the full,
May you rejoice at your child,
May you have in abundance all that you want, bountiful harvests, In pantries, in barns, everything in abundance,
To be joyful,
Like the angels in the sky,
Praised by our Lord Jesus Christ!”

One of the most popular Slovak holidays is Fašangy, a three-day ball. It was organized in the period between January 6th and until the first day of the Lent, a period when traditions symbolizing the end of winter and the beginning of spring intertwine. On this occasion, the boys received beautifully embroidered handkerchiefs from the girls, which confirmed the girl’s agreement to dance for three days, at the organized balls, with that boy. Boys who failed to catch a girl’s attention were not allowed to wear a feather on their hat and had to wait until they too received a handkerchief. The end of the celebrations was announced by the ringing of the bell. In Bihor, however, the priest himself came to announce the end of the ball.

On Easter (slov. Veľká Noc), the feast of the Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ, a series of activities were organized, religiously respected by all believers. The rituals began on the Maundy Thursday, the day when the bells are tied and the semantron is used. The Good Friday was the day of confession; no one worked and a very strict feast was maintained. In Bihor, the water in the streams or in wells symbolized the blood of Christ, and this is why the cattle were sprinkled with water ever since the morning and, through prayers, health was demanded for the family. On Holy Saturday, the women began to prepare the ham, decorated the eggs, kneaded the cozonacs. At midnight, between Saturday and Sunday, people went to church. Easter Sunday was an occasion for the family to meet for a festive meal in the parental home. Easter Monday was for all Slovaks the day when they went sprinkling. In the morning, the girls were brought to the river or to the well and they were sprinkled with water. Lately, the sprinkling with water has been replaced by the sprinkling with perfume. The girls gave adorned eggs to the sprinklers. In the villages of Bihor, boys would also go sprinkling on Tuesdays, but now it was the girls that went to the boys who had forgotten to sprinkle them the day before.

Other important celebrations of the year are: Epiphany (slov. Tri krale), Ash Wednesday (slov. Skareda streda/Popolcova streda v kalendaru), Saint Joseph (slov. Sv. Jozef), The Annunciation (slov. Zvestovanie Panny Márie), The Day of the Dead (slov. Čierna nedela sau Smrtna Nedela), Palm Sunday (slov. Kvetna nedela), The Dormition of the Mother of God (slov. Nanebovstupenie Panny Márie), Pentecost (slov. Turice), The Feast of Corpus Christi (slov. Božie Telo; lat. Corpus Christi).

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