Festive Days in Wintertime


As it is true for many other nations, also the festive days of the Slovenes from the Raba Region are often based on church holidays. Furthermore, these festive days often emanated either from weather and vegetation based periods or from agriculturally important work phases. Any kind of work was forbidden on important festive days, on less important festive days however, people were allowed to process smaller work units. The dates of the various festive days and seasons are subject to change.


The most important festive days in wintertime, which lasts from Saint Andrew’s Day until Ash Wednesday, are Santa Claus Day, Saint Lucian’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day, the Day of the Three Magi (Three Kings) and Carnival Tuesday.


Instead of Santa Claus, some eerie figures (the so-called mikulauške norci, bohoctje) passed by the houses of the Slovenes from the Raba Region. On Santa Claus Day, elder bachelors and married men used to wear rags, fur coats (which were worn invertedly) and trousers. What is more, they used to tie a long chain around their waists and covered their faces with a mask. They held an osier stake in their hands, which had been lubricated with grime. On Santa Claus Day’s Eve they sought out those houses, the inhabitants of which were busy working with pumpkin seeds and picking feathers. These eerie figures rattled their chains, which were bound around their waists, in order to scare the girls. Furthermore, they used to hit the naughty children with the osier stake; however, they gave walnuts and candy to well-behaved children.


On Saint Lucian’s Day (Dec 13) women were not allowed to sew and to yarn. Men and women were only permitted to approach a house when wearing a men’s hat, otherwise hens would not lay eggs the following year. To prevent breed hens from overpopulation, people were not allowed to sit on that very day. Furthermore, men had to collect kindling for the fire and to beg for wealth for the following year by singing for the Lucians, who were 9-10 year old boys. The Lucians used to visit house after house in groups of three singing their songs in order to wish hens, other animals and men a productive year. They entered the kitchen carrying firewood or wisps, welcomed the inhabitants kneeling and preached the Lord’s Prayer.


Kokodák, kokodák…, aj  vaši kokouši teuko djájec znanséjo, kak po pouti kaménje. Vaše iža aj teuko pénes , keuko zvejzde geste na nébi, vaše krave aj teuko mlejka dájo, keuko vodé geste v Rábi, vaš sin aj tášega žrd, čér pa táše veuke cecke, kak péč!


Kotkodaaa, kotkodaaa ... (cackling) ... Your hens shall lay as many eggs as there are pebbles on the streets, you shall have as much money as there are stars in the sky, your cows shall produce as much milk as there is water in the River Raba, and your sons shall have “things” as long as wooden bars (refers to the ones used to attach the hay on the horse-drawn vehicle), and your girls shall have breasts as big as a chimney.”


People used to make the Lucians a present of eggs and money. The firewood (Slovenska Ves) was used to bake pretzels on December 24 (Christmas Abstinence). In the other villages of the Slovene Raba Region people used to burn the firewood on Christmas Day. On Saint Lucian’s Day’s Eve the houses of the Slovene-speaking inhabitants were sought out by women or girls who were covered in two or three white bed sheets. They had white tights over their faces and wore white gloves. In their hands they held a painter’s brush, a painter’s pot and a painter’s can. When women entered the houses they intended to mark the inhabitants with paint. Children had to pray; otherwise they would have been taken by the Lucians. The women who were dressed in white were given bread and liquor, which they drank with a straw.


On Saint Lucian’s Day, women were also predicted their future husbands by a mystic aid. Furthermore, Saint Lucian’s Day was an important day for weather forecast. The women from the Slovene Raba Region made a so-called onion calendar on this very day. Twelve onion skins were strewn with salt. Each onion skin symbolised a month of the year. The onion skin on which the salt melted characterised a month with much rain.


What is more, men used to craft the Lucian’s chair on Saint Lucian’s Day. This chair had to be constructed until Christmas Eve. When the men stood on that very chair in the moment of God’s blessing on Christmas Eve, they could tell who was a witch in the village. Those women who turned their heads away during God’s blessing were considered witches. Needless to say the name “Lucia” / “Licija” was not very popular in the Slovene Raba Region. Women were often teased by using this name: (“Stára Licija – Gray Lucia”).


The Slovenes from the Raba Region imitated the tradition of the crèche of the Hungarians. In Števanovci, people used to wear masks as well (similar to the crèche tradition of the Hungarians in Transylvania). In Gornji Senik the Christmas poem and the chant “The Angel Came Down from Heaven...” were translated into Slovene.


Z néba je prišeu

dóli k vam ángeu,

pastirje, pastirje!

V Betlehem naj bi

šli ino vídli,

dejtece, dejtece.


The Slovenes from the Raba Region spent December 24 fasting. They ate bean soup, Swabian pockets, which were filled with pumpkin seeds, steamed dried plums, pears and apples for lunch. Under the table they heated kernel, juniper and oak branches on a plough blade. The doors and windows were decorated with periwinkle (Sakalovci). On this day women were not allowed to visit anyone, since they would have caused bad luck. In order to protect themselves from bad luck the male members of the neighbouring families wished each other a “Merry Christmas” already in the early morning.


New Year’s Greetings take place on early New Year’s morning and are characterised by the recitation of verses, castigation and by aspersing with water: In Gornji Senik men and women asperse girls and women with fir branches, which have been dipped in cold water. In the other Slovene villages in the Raba Region girls and women are being “hit” with plaited scourges: With these New Year’s Greetings good health and wealth for the New Year is being wished.


Zdravi bojte, friški bojte, v eton nouvon let! Dosta krüja, dosta vina, fse za volé! Düšno zveličanje pa največ!”


“Stay healthy and fresh in the New Year! Much bread, wine and wealth! But above all salvation!”


On January 6, the Day of the Three Magi, the Slovenes from the Raba Region bring water to church for consecration: As the case may be, the dead who has been laid out at home, was aspersed with this water. The “Three Magi” used to go from house to house in order to collect donation. The Day of the Three Magi is also the beginning of carnival. Those who went from door to door singing for charity attached a dress made of red, white and green crepe paper, which they had bound with a cord on their workaday clothes. On their heads they wore crowns made of paper, which were decorated with symbols such as the sun, the moon and the stars and, sometimes, with a ribbon made of paper. Furthermore, they carried a staff, which had a star on its tip. On the doorstep they sang a Slovene song about the Three Magi, which dates back to the 16th century and is still exists in prayer books. After the song they entered the houses and asked for gifts (money), which they also received. This scholar custom, the so-called “Course of The Three Magi” derives from the 16th century and was adopted both by the Slovenes and the Hungarians from the Raba Region.


The participants, who went from door to door on Christmas Eve and on the Day of the Three Magi, were originally primarily elder men. On New Year’s Day however, the inhabitants were mainly congratulated by young chaps. This custom, which consists in going from house to house wishing the inhabitants all the best, was absorbed mainly by children after the First World War. Above all boys used to follow this very custom, except for Sakalovci. On Saint Lucian’s Day this tradition was lived only by children at all times.


Carnival is the time between the Day of the Three Magi and Carnival Tuesday. On the final day of carnival, Carnival Tuesday, the Slovenes used to dress up. The Slovenes from Vas County used to seesaw. The typical carnival characters of the Slovenes are the “Fašenek” and his wife “Lénka”. The Fašenek wears a hood, which is decorated with red ribbons, which symbolises a sprout growing from the ground. The face of the Fašenek is either covered by tights or a mask. He either wears a vest invertedly or is dressed in old rags. Colourful loops made of paper and textiles are attached to his trousers. In his hands he holds an offertory box, which consists of a wooden spoon with a hole and tights. The wife of Fašenek, Lénka, accompanies him and in one hand she holds a broom and in the other hand a bag, in which she collects the gifts: pancakes, eggs and sausages. Lénka wipes the floor with her broom and lashes about. The couple is being accompanied with a harmonica player. The house owners are asked for a dance by Fašenek and Lénka. They jump around with tucked up legs in order to make the flax grow high and the beet fat. On Carnival Tuesday they had to grow poppy seed in order to protect it from worm infestation. Furthermore, one had to mill the corn on that day, so that the crows cannot devour it. In the evening, both the old and young people went to the tavern where they danced with tucked up legs in order to make the flax grow high and the beet fat. At midnight this joyful time had to end. Since midnight meant the beginning of Ash Wednesday and thus fasting, a Cinderella (Papanice), who was dressed in white bed sheets, used to lubricate everyone with grime.



Translated from German into English: Joël Gerber

The German text is based on: Mukics Mária, „A Magyarországi Szlovének; Press Publica, (2003)