In the week before Easter we start with the big cleaning: first one in the confession
room and the other one at home. Everything has to be scrubbed, organized and
polished. In the evening we join the celebration of Holy Thursday, Holy Friday and
Saturday. On Saturday morning we visit the beautifully decorated "Bozji Grob"
(God's Grave) and pray and meditate about the huge sacrifice that Jesus did for us.
Early Saturday morning we also start to prepare the Easter meal. At our house we
usually start with making potica which is made in a tube pan because of its round
shape and therefore potica represents the crown of Christ. Then we cook a ham,
which represents Christ's body. Dad usually goes out and digs out two or three roots
of horse radish which represent the nails that pierced Our Savior's hands and legs.
We also paint Easter eggs which represent Christ's drops of blood. Sometimes we
buy dyes and sometimes we just use the dried outside leafs of the red onion. If we
would have enough time we would go out and find interesting leafs and grasses
(parsley works very well too), cut up an old nylon stocking and wrap the eggs with
the greenery inside. We would put the eggs into the water with the onion leaves
and cook them for about 15 minutes. When they are done we would unwrap them
and enjoy the images that are imprinted on the eggshell.
After all that is done we would put the food into a special basket, covered with a
special cloth and one of the young ladies in the house would have the honor of
taking it to the Easter blessing.
We were not allowed to touch blessed food until Sunday morning when the whole
family would come back from church. Everybody is in church for Easter so you have
to be there quite early if you want to sit. The biggest part of the Easter mass is the
procession. All the people in the church line up and leave the church. With singing,
bells ringing and praying we would walk across the fields and let everybody know
that Christ has risen (we did that in the times of Communism too even if the priest
had to ask for special permission for it). Well there is also the outside part of it. All
the women have to have something new on that day and their hair must be perfect
so it is almost impossible to get an appointment at the hair dresser in the days prior
to Easter. Next comes time for Easter breakfast and then rest. They use to say that
Easter is such a big holy day that you don't even visit on that day. These days
people have to work on Easter Monday so they do visit each other on Easter
Sunday too - especially boys who come to pick their Easter egg from the girl they
like. So this is how my family and my village celebrate Easter but this too varies
from village to village. There are many traditions and customs in Slovenia that got
lost and forgotten but some are coming back and make history live again.
As I am thinking of the Lent season I have to start with Carnival which reaches its peak on
the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. All of Europe is celebrating and some cities like
Venice and Köln prepare all year round. There is numerous different customs and masks
which makes this celebration so interesting and entertaining. Almost every village in
Slovenia has its own customs and masks but they all have the same purpose which is to celebrate
the end of winter and scare all its demons away. It is a happy celebration where everybody is dancing, drinking and eating
good. I think even the sun above Slovenija is in the shape of a doughnut on these days. It use to be very popular to get married
at that time. In my region you have to have krofi (doughnuts), flancati, suho meso (smoked ham) and jesprenj (barley). Masks
would go from door to door and you have to be nice to them and give them krofe, suhe klobase and in modern days money or
you will have bad luck. On Tuesday evening before Ash Wednesday we would go to a dance in masks but at midnight all the
masks come off, the music stops and Lent starts.
I have to mention Palm Sunday. In Slovenia we do not have very many palm trees
so the palm branch is substituted with olive branches and "butara". Olive branches
come from the coastal part of Slovenia and are sold at the churches a week or two
before Palm Sunday and all of the proceeds usually go to some kind of good cause.
The other very typical Slovenian thing, "butara" is a bunch of branches and
evergreen ivy leafs that are tied together in a special way and decorated with
painted wood shavings, oranges, apples, paper bows or anything else that could
look good on it. The top often includes a juniper branch which is, with its sharp
needles, sometimes used as a weapon by the younger boys with to much energy.
Villages also have competitions in who is going to make the biggest and the nicest
Ash Wednesday is a fast day. We would go to the church to be reminded that we are "ashes" and decide
what kind of sacrifice we would do during Lent. There are no big celebrations, dances, weddings, or
even comedies in the local theater at that time. A lot of people that smoke give up smoking for 40 days;
my friends who love sweets would give up those, some families would give up watching TV and so on.
There is no meat and only one real meal on Fridays but I do not recall any special food that would be
served only during Lent. It use to be that they did not eat meat all of Lent and did not use any animal fat
during that time but this too is different from village to village like everything else in Slovenia. Like
Advent, this is the time to clean up "sinful souls" and get ready for Easter. It is a quiet time of repentance
and self examination which ends up with the rituals of the Holy Week.