The United States has Marti
Gras and Slovakia has Fašiangy (a German
word meaning Carnival). The period was introduced at the end of the 4th century
and was followed by a fast that lasted for 40 days.
Because custom commonly
respected by all religious traditions was that during the seasons of Advent and
Lent no dancing parties, weddings or other events were held, a Carnival period
began on Jan. 6, The Feast of the Three Kings, which is the end of the Christmas
and New Year festivities and lasted until Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of
In Slovakia, Carnival
developed from older customs that took place at the turn of winter into spring.
One was the burning of Morena (she represented winter) sometimes the celebrating
lasted several weeks. Eventually it came down to the last 3 days (Shrovetide)
before Ash Wednesday. Everyone from the farmers, young and old, honored heads of
families and stern representatives of the municipality participated in the
traditional gaiety, which included drinking wine and other beverages.
Musicians performed in a
designated room from afternoon until the next morning. Tables were filled with
various beverages, roasted meat, and fried doughnuts. These special doughnuts
were made in almost every European country. The young, wearing masks and playing
music would go from house to house acquiring food for their parties. Some of the
men dressed as women or wore other comical outfits.
In some villages, the young
men, led by their mayor, began to visit houses after January 5th to
collect rye. This was used to make spirits to be consumed at the parties that
were held in the local pub. Everyone danced, drank and ate. The carnival parties
ended at midnight on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
In the bigger towns the
Carnival was enriched with procession and parties organized by the craft guilds.
The different guilds held certain rituals, which proved the physical
capabilities and acrobatic skills of their apprentices. Members of each guild
celebrated the end of the Carnival separately in their foreman’s houses. Of
course there was much dancing, drinking, eating and laughing during these
It was a time for fun and
frolic because everyone later got down to the serious business of penance and
fasting for Lent.
You will find more about the traditional activities that took place in the homeland, in the book Slovak Folk Customs and Traditions published by the Slovak Heritage Society of NEPA.