The more time I’ve spent abroad the more I love Christmas. You know, that traditional family time spent at home with your loved ones (no matter that one of our prominent family traditions is that we won’t make it to dinner without at least one argument) when 24th of December starts with a shot of Jim Beam my dad likes to pour and my mom making sure (by asking five times) that even my husband will wear a white shirt that night (yeah, it’s only once a year, but still).
Christmas in Slovakia is the time when most people come back home from near and far, gather with their parents, grandparents, nephews, cousins (my cousins are hilarious, and yours?), aunts and all the rest for a session of overeating (screw you, light potato salad with no mayonnaise), gossiping and lovingly judging each other.
I have missed the Christmas 2016 (was in Turkey) and Christmas 2017 (in Georgia) and while I’ve spent a nice time with F, I really, really missed my
intrusive sweet family and their sarcastic remarks. And while this year I will have no less than two Christmases (remember, Georgia is an Orthodox country and they celebrate Christmas in January!)(shoot, but I have already started a detox so I’m screwed), I decided to write this little post on travel-related Christmas traditions from Slovakia.
We as a nation sure love traveling (you can meet a Slovak everywhere although we are just 5 million) but we also love coming back home! Here are three Slovak travel traditions to make your Christmas all the more special:
Cutting an apple
After the dinner, many families keep this funny and simple custom: You take an apple and cut it in half to see whether you get a star or a cross in the middle. Star brings you luck for the year to come while the cross envisions some struggle. After this, the apple is shared by all the people at the table.
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It is believed that when you get lost in the woods (by bad orientation skills or thanks to the evil magic of all the folkloric creatures inhabiting Slovak forests) you must remember who you’ve shared the Christmas apple with – this will help you to find a safe way back home. Won’t this be extra useful the next time you forget the location of your hostel while out of battery?
Don’t forget to prepare some nuts!
Another typical thing to do is to gather nuts, fruits, and grains in a basket and put them under the table during the Christmas Eve dinner for richness in the next year. (Some people also tie the legs of the table together to keep the family strong!)
Afterwards, everyone grabs some walnuts from the basket and throws them to the corners of the house – apparently, this will make sure that you get to travel to all the corners of the world in the future.
Extra plate for the lonely traveler
As someone who often benefits from the help of others, I must say this has always been my favorite Christmas tradition. In my family and in many others, people prepare a lot of delicious treats for the holidays. When everyone sits to the dinner together, there must be one extra plate and spoon on the table – if a pilgrim finds her or his way to your door on this day you will fill this plate with food for them.
Some people even light up a candle on their doorstep to guide the traveler. This Christmas (2017), we celebrated surrounded by friends who somehow found their way to Borjomi throughout the month of December. One of our friends arrived rather unexpectedly on 23rd – it was a Canadian hitchhiker who found us on Couchsurfing and we were very happy to receive him. I was especially glad because I finally got to serve food to that empty plate for a stranger!
This tradition reminded me a bit of the Muslim month of Ramadan when people also invite strangers to share food with them. Isn’t eating together one of the best ways to make friends?
3 Slovak Christmas Traditions Travelers Will Love
I am not into modern spirituality nor a member of any religion, but I do find traditions and folklore a fun part of our cultural heritage. While we cut apples and throw walnuts into corners, my friends and family in Colombia will put on a backpack and walk around the block when the bells ring the new year in – in the end, we love to spend the holidays with our close ones, eating delicious food and feeling peaceful, but soon enough our feet will get itchy and we’ll be packed up and out of the door again! We better eat the traditional lentils the 1st day of the year to be able to afford it – lentils are a metaphor for money as you have probably guessed…
What traditions do you keep during the holidays? Do you know of any special ones that are travel related? Share with me in the comments!
Share these heart-warming travel Christmas traditions with your friends!