Spring and Summer Festive Days
Spring-time customs are followed in the period between Easter and Saint Iván’s Day. Fires and noise on Holy Saturday are spring-time customs, which exist still today. Boys sit around burning stakes on Holy Saturday making thunderous noise, playing their harmonicas or guitars, singing and playing jokes on people.
Before the Second World War the adult inhabitants of the Raba Region used to fire shots with real mortar cannons. The elder villagers gathered around the burning stakes as well. Today however, basically only the boys and youths make noise with gas-producing cans. Making noise and cracking are destined to expel winter and evil ghosts.
On Easter Sunday morning the Slovenes from the Raba Region take their edibles like ham, eggs, horseradish, pretzels, etc. to church for sanctification. In former times people executed a magic procedure after Easter Sunday lunch. They used to place a sanctified “kitten” in every corner of the grain field. During this process they prayed for a rich grain harvest and for protection against hail.
In earlier times also decorated eggs were brought to church for sanctification together with the other foodstuff (meat, horseradish, bread, etc.). As for the Slovenes from the Raba Region mostly the godmothers decorated and coloured eggs, which were given to their godchildren on Easter. Often girls and boys used to play with their Easter eggs. The small children rolled their eggs on the grassland. They dug small holes into the earth and tried rolling the eggs into these holes. The bigger children tried hitting the eggs with coins. Those who managed to hit the eggs could keep the decorated egg as their prize. Since the custom of aspersing girls with perfume on Easter* was never followed by the Slovenes from the Raba Region, the girls did not give decorated eggs to the boys either.
The may pole was erected already before Christianisation as a symbol for the resurrection and new birth of trees. Since Christianisation the may pole (baur, boreč, plojek, májpán) symbolises love, respect and joviality. On the eve or in the night of May 1 the boys erected the may pole for the girls in front of the taverns in the village centres. In the wood the boys selected 15-20 metre high fir, which they transported to the village on foot, by horse-drawn vehicle or by wheelbarrow. They removed the branches from the fir trunk and took off the bark. Furthermore the boys decorated the fir top with colourful ribbons and attached a bottle of wine to it. On May 31 or on June 1 they toppled the may pole, the material of which was used for the construction of either a ladder or a part of a horse-drawn vehicle. Until the 1930s the girls and boys who were required to attend school used to celebrate on the grassland. Already in the early morning of Pentecost they used to drove their animals on the grassland and cracked their whips. Those who got up late were satirised as “Pentecost jar” (risauska pütka). Girls had to wash with dew already before sunrise in order to look pretty.
The Slovenes from the Raba Region celebrated Midsummer Night, Saint Iván’s Day, with fires (burning stakes) and by dancing around the fireplaces as well. It was said that if someone was grazed by a flame shortly they would get married within the same year. The popular belief says that one is able to understand the discussion of animals in the night of Saint Iván’s Day. Even though they were aware of the fact that they could hear the conversations of the animals in this particular night, people had to carry miracle-evoking fern seed as well.
In summertime from Saint Iván’s Day until Saint Lõrinc’s Day the custom of collecting forest flowers for Assumption Day has been preserved by the elder inhabitants of the Slovene Raba Region. After having been sanctified in the church the forest flowers are dried. The dead are honoured by the smoke of these dried forest flowers.
Between Lõrinc’s Day and Saint Andrew’s Day people celebrated All Saints’ Day and the day of the dead (All Soul’s Day). The Slovenes from the Raba Region put Swabian pockets filled with beet and pumpkin seed as well as water on the table for the souls of their ancestors, which returned home on All Saints’ Day Eve. To this end they bought the so-called Hájligeštricli pies, the width of which was the size of a finger, at the baker’s.
* The Hungarians follow the Easter custom in which boys asperse girls with perfume.
Translated from German into English: Joël Gerber
The German text is based on: Mukics Mária, „A Magyarországi Szlovének“; Press Publica, (2003)