Last year, when I was spending my first December in Slovenia, I came to (sort of a disappointing) finding – Slovenes do not really worry about Christmas, at least not as much as many other nations do. The Christmas topic in Slovenia is a pretty complicated issue, but luckily, after a one year of research, a lot of interviewing with locals and a laboratory test, I came to the following explanation 🙂
Before telling you more, I have to point out that in my home country Slovakia, Christmas is probably the most important and most celebrated cultural holiday of the year. It is celebrated by absolutely everybody, regardless from age and religious beliefs, just like in the majority of other European countries. But, how was my surprise when I found out that Slovenia is an expection!
The awkward moment…when you wish merry Christmas, and they tell you they do not celebrate it…
I remember the odd moment last year when I wished merry Christmas to a Slovene woman I know and she replied : “Ah, hvala, ne praznujem” (Thanks, but I don’t celebrate it). Wow! So strange!
So, do they or do they NOT celebrate Christmas?
Well, it really depends…it depends on the region, village, family tradition, weather and the current degree of shift of the Earth’s from its axis. Yes, so complicated it is!
For most Slovenes, “Miklavž” is the most important Christmas tradition.
“Miklavž” (in Slovak “Mikuláš”),a European version of Santa, is someone who always comes along with a devil and an angel (or several angels and devils) and brings presents to children (mostly sweets, chocolates and fruit). The tradition celebrated in the evening before December 6th exists in a number of Central-European countries including Slovakia and Slovenia. However, the two countries celebrate it a bit differently.
Besides the slightly different outfits (see the picture below), there is also a difference what this Miklavž-guy is brings. Whereas in Slovakia, one can usually expect a bag of chocolates, sweets, fruit and maybe small toy for kids, in Slovenia Miklavž is bringing all kinds of stuff: from chocolates, through mobile phones, watches, clothes…but again not everywhere, depending on the particular region and family.
2. They don’t give presents but still celebrate Christmas a bit
Coming from a country where everyone keeps asking if you have all your Christmas presents ready from about beginning of November, this was something unexpected. Although most Slovenes families decorate their Christmas trees and have some kind of Christmas dinner, they do not give each other presents for Christmas! And if they do, these presents are rather small and the whole gift-giving tradition is only a matter of the past few years.
Ironically though, the Christmas decoration of major Slovene cities (not only the capital) is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen!
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3. The biggest deal is – the New Year’s!
Yes, that is it! Much more then about Christmas, most of Slovenes worry about what to do on the New Year’s Eve. Although the way of spending it is not very different from other countries, Slovenes tend to make more plans for this day rather than for Christmas. Also, the traditional company parties being held in December, usually referred to as “Christmas parties” are called “the New Year’s parties” in Slovenia.
On top of that, some Slovene families preserve the Russian tradition of “Dedek Mraz” (Grandfather Frost) who is bringing gifts on New Year’s Eve.
All in all, I can tell that this tiny country of Slovenia has so many Christmas-related traditions as dialects 🙂 And, despite living here for a while, it’s still not quite clear for me. Therefore, if you are also an expat in Slovenia and have different kinds of experiences, let me know. Or, if you are Slovene and you don’t agree with my interpretation, tell me about it!
And, if you just got lost in this complicated SloChristmas business, watch at least this little video from the amazing Christmas Market in Ljubljana 🙂