One of the customs I love in Slovenia is that of always removing your shoes before entering anyone’s home and being given a pair of cosy slippers to wear; whatever the time of year. I found this a little odd at first as in the UK I’d never thought twice before about going into other people’s homes wearing shoes – the same shoes which I’d been walking around in outdoors – but it makes perfect sense really as who knows what could be lurking on the soles of your shoes. Now, I’m so accustomed to this, that even when I visit friends and family in the UK, I automatically remove my shoes at the front door even though it means getting cold feet since I’m not offered slippers! So I was particularly delighted this week when, on the occasion of a little pre-Christmas get-together with friends, I was given an early Christmas present; of a pair of beautiful hand-made, personalised slippers which I’m now wearing with pride – thanks Anja!
So, this got me thinking about other customs and traditions in Slovenia and, it being the festive season and all, I thought I would elaborate a little further this week, in particular about Christmas and New Year traditions.
I should probably begin by saying that Christmas is actually a relatively new tradition in Slovenia since during the times of Socialism, under Tito’s rule, Christmas per se i.e. 25th December, wasn’t celebrated. Instead, there were (still are) 2 festive celebrations; St. Nicholas (Miklavž), who secretively delivers small gifts to children on 6th December, and Grandfather Frost (Dedek Mraz), who delivers presents, usually in person (ahem!) on New Year’s Eve.
These days of course, Slovenia has rapidly caught up on celebrating Christmas and festive food and gifts starts to appear in shops late-autumn, though thankfully not in July, which I read wass when Harrods opened its Christmas Department this year!
As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal – which is usually some kind of roast meat though not especially turkey – exchange gifts, and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although some of the larger ones may open for a few hours in the morning.
Talking of shopping, which many of you, myself included, have probably been doing frantically in the run up to Christmas, I don’t know about you but I find there’s always someone who is SO difficult to buy for; the person who has everything and is choosy to boot! So, this week when I discovered the new range of gifts from the Slovene Centre for Architecture, it was a revelation! Their range of gifts are made in Slovenia, unique, stylish and practical too. The gift range includes towels, notebooks and other stationery, jewellery, water bottles and even chocolates and feature motifs related to individual works of Slovenian architecture, both traditional and modern.
The products will be on sale at selected Tourist Information Centres, including in Radovljica, or can be ordered directly from the centre. More information can be found here – http://www.centerarhitekture.org/vurnikovidnevi/?page_id=131
The Christmas programme continues in Radovljica and on Saturday evening we were treated to an impressive display by the flaming circus act, Cupakabra. As you can see from the photos below, it was quite a spectacle and drew plenty of spectators to the old town centre.
The week ahead will see more concerts and entertainment, as well as the Christmas market which takes place each Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday throughout December. The full programme of events can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, last week we had a WHOLE WEEK without rain, fog or low cloud. Thanks Santa!
© AdeleinSlovenia 2014