A Slovak Easter: Wine, Whips, and Water

(Well, technically it’s not really “wine,” just general alcohol, but I’m an obsessive alliterator, what can I say?)

Yesterday, as most of you know, was Easter. And while Denisa and I have done a pretty good job teaching our kids about the ways various holidays are celebrated in Slovakia, there was one we hadn’t really informed them about. Until dinner last night. We were all sitting around the table, chowing down on some ham and potatoes, and I asked the kids if they knew how Slovaks celebrated Easter. Both confirmed that they had no clue whatsoever.

Denisa, meanwhile, was less than amused that I’d brought this subject up. Not angry. More of an exasperated look.

TRC and DC wanted to know what was up.

Basically, it goes like this. The morning of Easter Monday (that’s today, in case you were wondering), the men (and boys) will go around to houses of the women (and girls) they know and knock on their door. When the girls answer, the boys use a switch (like the one I put for the picture for this post) to whip or spank the girls.

TRC thought we were making this up. He didn’t believe it could be possible. DC was skeptical as well.

But it keeps going.

After the girls have been whipped/spanked, they need to be cleaned. That means they’re either splashed with water (from a cup . . . or a bucket), thrown in the shower or bathtub, or tossed in a convenient stream.

TRC was wondering why we hadn’t been doing this all along. DC still thought we were pulling their legs. Too close to April Fool’s, I suppose.

But it keeps going.

After the girls have been whipped and doused in water (to keep them healthy and beautiful for the coming year, according to tradition), they give the boys eggs, candy, money, or alcohol (depending on how old they are).

“Wait,” TRC said. “They give the boys money?”

Denisa nodded. DC was aghast.

“The boys get paid to do this?” TRC asked. He’s always been a true blue capitalist. Anything for an easy buck.

Denisa nodded again.

“I don’t want to go to Slovakia at Easter,” DC said right away.

“Can we do it tomorrow?” TRC asked.

The answer? Nope. Nope nope nope. Actually, until yesterday, I was always under the impression that this was a tradition that happened in tiny villages, but not in cities. Denisa informed me that I was wrong, and she’d done this every year growing up. (And was in no hurry to keep that particular tradition alive, thank you very much.) Although it sounds like these days, the emphasis is growing more and more on the “drinking alcohol” part of the tradition. Most women wouldn’t dream of going outdoors after noon today. The men just get too plastered. Or so I’ve been told.

But now my kids know. And it’s important to keep the ties to their heritage strong, right? Right! Something tells me that if I started this tradition back up again, it might not prove to be the smartest tactical decision I’ve ever made . . .

And in case any of you (still) think I’m making this up, please consult this article.

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