Every time I share my Slovakian Christmas tradition, people get so excited to hear my story; they absolutely love it. I recently realized that I have not yet shared my Christmas tradition with you, my beautiful CEOs. So, here goes! The tradition begins with my awesome mom. Every year, my mom gathers up and sends us a huge package filled with all the Christmas goodies and ingredients we'll need to make our traditional Slovakian Christmas dinner. Yes, there have been years when, the day before Christmas, I could be seen chasing the postal truck down the street to see if they had my special dinner package. (I was an "angry elf," no joke.)
Unpacking the enormous box is the most challenging part of the whole experience. A few days before the package arrives, I must mentally prepare myself to "be good." To begin with, there's the biggest part of the package, which consists of four different kinds of Christmas cookies (baked from scratch by my mother and aunts). It is quite impossible to eat only one cookie; I have yet to meet someone who is able to do it. So, my "being good" is out the window with the first cookie. As I unpack the rest of the box, these cookies are on a continuous route into my mouth. Next, we get poppy seeds and Opekance,
which are bread-like dumplings, a side-dish for the dinner. These are both Lexi's and my favorite, favorite food: we are both willing to fight for the very last Opekance.
After that, I unpack the dry mushrooms. Over the summer, my dad goes into the forest to pick mushrooms. He brings them home, where my mom slices them and spreads them out on huge sheets to dry them. It is lots and lots of work. I need mushrooms for traditional Slovakian Christmas mushroom soup. We also receive delicious homemade honey from my aunt, and Oblatky, which are very fine and fragile vanilla wafers. Finally, I pull out my yearly supply of vanilla sugar, cinnamon sugar (apple strudel), Bay leaves, and Vegeta (a special mix for chicken soup).
Honestly, it takes my home village for me to keep our Slovakian Christmas tradition here in the USA.
And here is our Traditional Slovakian Christmas Dinner:
We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. There are no strict rules on how to set up the table, but these are the important items which must be present on each and every table: 1. Fruit, representing health; 2. Bread, representing the abundance of food; 3. Wallet, representing wealth; 4. Honey, to ward off evil and bring health to the family.
The dinner starts with Oblatky with drizzled honey on the top, and each family member makes wishes for every other family member, while consuming a wafer. The wafers are very thin; they are identical in composition to the altar bread. The Oblatky wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images, varying from the nativity scene (especially the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus), to the Star of Bethlehem.
The first meal is mushroom soup. Literally, this soup has only 6 ingredients: mushrooms, potatoes, heavy cream, water, salt, and pepper. Slovaks were very poor; they always had to labor in the nobles' fields, but were never paid.
The second meal is fish, and there is no specific recipe. Everyone uses their own traditional recipe, or else they try something new each year.
At the end, we cut apples to predict the future. Every person is given an apple, which they cut in half from the stem down and then study the shape made by the seeds inside. If the seeds appear in a star shape, it means that health, happiness, and unity are predicted for the new year. But if the seeds are shaped like a four-pointed cross, that means bad luck will come to someone at the table, and someone might get sick or even die.
I do hope and pray that you are passing on your traditions, because traditions are vitally important. They teach us who we are, and from where we came. Technology continues to push our lives into a faster and faster pace; I feel as if simple, real-world traditions are falling by the wayside in exchange for Alexa and Apple Watches and Tik Tok moments. With all my heart, I wish to band together to keep this world simple, REAL, and LOVING.
No matter what traditions your family keeps, I wish you and your loved ones a Christmas season full of hope, love, and laughter. Something about the simple pleasures of the holidays fills me with deep gratitude, most especially for all of the wonderful people in my life. I sincerely thank you for bringing me joy and inspiration, now and always.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to ALL!