Folktales, Legends, and Stories

Harvest Feast


The feast, also known as regale, was a festival at the end of the complicated business of agricultural production. In some places it was known under the name kärmeš or kirmeš.

August Horislav Krčméy, in his description from 1865, mentions that the Feast began early in the evening with feasting, singing and celebrating, and continued into the next day. People had cakes, meat and spirits; wealthier people had hot spirits with honey and cinnamon, or beer. Relatives and close friends from adjacent villages visited, and together they had an extravagant dinner, then had a few glasses of spirits and went to a party; when the guests went home, the family either returned to the party or went home as well.

Originally, the Feast was a group celebration for a family when the fruits of the harvest from the fields, forest and rivers were eaten. In the extended family, the fruits, livestock, or a catch were divided among families and one part was kept for various common needs. For example, a ritual feast took place in the period when grain had already been harvested, young poultry reared, and hunting was successful. The feast was at first organized jointly; later, an ox, lamb, ram, goat or a rooster was purchased at the expense of the village. The purchased animal was killed in public, very often in a special manner, and the meat was eaten together, which is reminiscent of ancient sacrifices with ritual feasting.

The Feast began on Sunday with the arrival of guests. Houses and the space in front of them had been cleaned and arranged, housewives cooked and baked everything that was required by their customs and allowed by their resources. On Monday a golden hour took place. In the morning everyone who could, participated in the mass for all the deceased from the parish.

It was celebrated by the priest and financed by the village. A dancing party followed either in the pub or in the mayor’s house, whose role during feudalism was also to sell beverages produced in the brewery and distillery belonging to the lord of the manor. Young people lit a candle and danced until the candle burned down.

According to an ancient belief, the souls of the dead were also present at the party and enjoyed the dance in the candlelight with the living. Another tale states that the flame of the candle allowed the souls to avoid people, because they believed that whoever encountered the soul of his relative would die within a year.

Then everyone took his guests home for dinner, and many were accompanied by the musicians. After dinner, the party continued until late at night. However, the guests had to leave early in the morning as the rest of the celebration was intended only for the local people. Various disagreements would be solved, old friendships reconfirmed and new ones made while the party continue.

Entertainments consisted of a tamed bear demonstration, along with merry-go-round and seesaws provided by carousel-keepers, etc.

Today the Feast is simply an established church holiday when relatives and friends from all around the country meet to celebrate.

On Mitro’s Day, October 26, the Shepherds’ Feast took place. According to a description from 1866, the chief shepherd and other shepherds went to the church dressed in their best clothes, playing bagpipes, and offered cheese and a special smoked sheep cheese. After the settling of their accounts with the sheep-owners, a joint feast took place accompanied by music, singing and dancing. Such feasting, with small regional differences, remained in this form until the first half of the 20th century.

This topic and many others may be found in our book Slovak Folk Customs and Traditions.