Folktales, Legends, and Stories

Fašiangy

 

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 lent.

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 celebrations.

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.