Reconnecting with Family

We’re staying at my mother’s house. As usual, my mom and I got to talking about the Slovak Christmas traditions. She was attempting to write something up regarding our family traditions as she remembers them. Apparently there is an Eastern and Western Slovakia, both with their own separate customs. My mom’s family line contains immigrants from both regions so our traditions are more mixed. She’s trying to put down on paper all that we do, as some things tend to be lost if they remain simply oral traditions (such as my grandfather’s prayer).

A few things she reminded me of:
– The candle symbolizes the light that was brought to the world when Christ was born.
– The poppy seeds on the bobalki symbolize fertility and good harvest.
– My grandma also used to make these little roll things with apricot inside them. Those were actually good!
– Slovak families were often stuck in their homes in the mountains, so the oplatky was also a way for them to take communion on Christmas.

Something new she taught me:
– There’s always a single pink oplatky in each pack. My stepbrothers were always trying to swap it out if they happened to get the pink one. Mom did some research this year and found out that the pink one is supposed to be given to the livestock. The belief is that since animals were present at Christ’s birth they would be able to talk on this holy night.
– Slovakia is separated into Eastern and Western regions, each with their own take on the Christmas tradition. My mother’s immigrant ancestors were from both regions, so our own family traditions contain elements of both.
– Families were not supposed to eat meat on December 24th. Instead, they would go to Mass and possibly have fish (like the fish on Fridays thing a lot of Catholics do). Meat could be eaten again on December 25th.

This is why it’s so important to gather as a family and renew our bonds and history!


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