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!
We had a lovely evening with an array of Christmas treats too – some healthy, some less so – including my homemade mini-Christmas cakes, which were the star of the show!
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
7 thoughts on “Slovene Christmas Customs, Traditions and Gifts”
Hi there, your slippers were a lovely and thoughtful present. We are in the UK and find the majority of people take off their shoes and wear slippers. However, I don’t think the idea of guest slippers has caught on here. When visiting, many will take their own slippers to change into(as we do)
Our house is strictly shoes off and We have a bench by the door where everyone can sit and remove their shoes. On Sunday two friends came to visit. It is a new house with plush carpets and they had not been before, but they sat straight down and took off their shoes and then took their slippers out of their bag and put them on. We do live in the country, where everyone takes off their shoes by necessity.
But generally I have found that here in the UK just about everyone takes their shoes off at the door.
Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. Well, maybe things have changed since I left the UK nearly 8 years ago, or perhaps its just that I don’t know enough people with big houses and plush carpets!!! I’ve never come across anyone bringing their slippers, or been offered them, but it’s great to hear the idea is slowly catching on – even if only in parts of the country perhaps. It makes so much more sense all round. Hope you are enjoying my blog!
I think that things have changed a lot in the UK.Also it depends how you were brought up. Most who were brought up in shoes off house will carry this on in their own homes.
We always took our slippers with us when visiting when growing up. It has always seemed to be a very civilsed and polite thing to do.
For my family we are only wearing slippers on our new carpets and guests are being reminded to bring their slippers when they visit. It is the easiest and most effective way of keeping carpets clean.
Yes I do like your blog.
We were always celebrating Christmas in Slovenija even under Tito. During Tito’s time we were under Socialist rule, this is not the same as Communism. It was quiet celebrating but no-one was ever prohibited from that. Also we celebrated Easter. Christianity arrived late in Slovenija but we have almost 3000 churches (a lot for such a small country – and Tito did not close even 1) ever since then we have been celebrating all the main events in the Christian calender. Our national poet, Prešeren can tell you more about Christianity in Slovenija. It is not right to talk about Tito’s time as if it was something bad, especially in these times of recession and corrupt capitalist governments and small villages torn apart by drug problems.. People who lived here under Ttio’s time feel themselves fortunate to have experienced such times when we all had jobs and schools and dentists and highways for free.
I was rather surprised to read your (negative) comment on my blog as since I started writing it last year, over 40,000 people have read it, and to date I have received only positive feedback. After all, what I’m trying to do is to just provide a little basic information about Slovenia and my life here, but in the space of one blog I cannot possibly write a lot of detailed information.
I certainly didn’t write anything that said, or even implied, that life here under Tito was bad. I’ve been here long enough, and know enough people that have told me that in some ways life was actually better, simpler, in those times. Slovenia, had, and still has, problems but all countries have problems so that is nothing unique.
What I wrote about Christmas is that it wasn’t ‘per se’ celebrated as it is, for example, in the UK, and this is true. I know some people did celebrate it but to nowhere the extent as it is elsewhere. This, by the way, isn’t a bad thing because it has become way too commercial and over the top in the UK.
I don’t quite understand your negative comment but it is a free world and you are of course entitled to your opinion but please understand that through my blog I am only trying to help promote Slovenia and provide information to help prospective visitors, which I have done and have helped a lot of people and encouraged them to visit.
So sorry Adele, but Bojan said it correctly!
I’ve no idea from where you picked up your information regarding Slovenia and Christmas.
And sorry to say that, you’re mistaking something enormously – Christmas Celebrating and Christmas Events (Markets, etc.)!
Under Titos Yugoslavia Slovenes have always celebrated the old Catholic Traditions, also included traditionally Christmas (as a family event).
But of course, that kind of Christmas-Markets and Events like nowadays they hadn’t….and they called them “officially” Winter-Market.
The Slovenes made under Titos Yugoslavia always the Joke, “we have to kind of Santa Clause, a red one and a white one….and the white one delivers second time presents 1 week later.”
Actually that “Dedek Mraz” thing (instead of Santa Claus) was more the tribute to the Socialistic Party (just by way, former Yugoslavia was not Communistic and not a part of the East-Block! They had their own way of Socialism.), but the Slovenes never really cared about it.
Especially outside of that 3 big Slovenian Cities Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje, Christmas with Santa Claus was primarily…Dedek Mraz secondarily….and finally just a Santa Claus in white for the most Slovenes! 😉
I ‘picked up’ my information from 9 years of living here and talking to Slovenes, in Slovene, so sorry, but I have to disagree with you comment.
You said yourself that although Christmas was celebrated, it wasn’t celebrated in the way, or to the extent it is nowadays, and if you read my blog thoroughly, you will see that is exactly what I wrote, that it was celebrated, but in different ways.
There also simply isn’t space in one blog to write about all the history, about Miklavz, dedek mraz etc. my blog is primarily aimed at those interested in visiting Slovenia and they are generally most interested in things like Christmas markets, food etc.
So please take it as it is meant as I am trying to help promote Slovenia and whilst I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion, I feel your criticism is undue and unnecessarily negative, and especially to air it publically.