Posted by Jennifer Werner
Dobre den! That’s Slovakian for “good day,” and since I have just returned from a month-long trip visiting my brother and his family in Slovakia, it seems appropriate. I also discovered one of the great things about being an SPS student at SLU – flexibility. With the shorter 9-week courses, there isn’t any problem if an opportunity presents itself and you have to withdraw for a term. So when my brothers put their heads together and cooked up this trip for me, I couldn’t say “no” even though I had already registered for Spring I and Spring II classes. I simply contacted my counselor, Kelle, and she reassured me that I could withdraw from the Spring II term and start right back up in the summer.
I flew out of St. Louis on March 25th and changed planes in Newark, New Jersey, and Dusseldorf, Germany. I arrived in Budapest, Hungary, about 10:00 a.m. where my brother, David, and his wife, Bibiana, picked me up for the 4-hour drive to Presov, Slovakia. Presov is the third largest city in Slovakia, so there is plenty of things to see and lots of places to shop! I arrived on a Friday, so I had the whole weekend to recuperate from my trip before the Easter holidays began. About 70% of the people in Slovakia are Roman Catholic. As you can imagine, Easter is a big holiday there. They start celebrating on the Thursday before Easter and don’t stop until the Tuesday after.
Two of the traditions really stood out from the others. The first one was the Blessing of the Baskets on Easter Sunday. On Easter afternoon, we walked to the town square and, as you can see by the picture, lined up around the church along with a large majority of the townspeople to await the priests. We placed our basket of ham, boiled eggs, sausage, and bread on the ground and removed the white embroidered scarf which had been covering it. The priest and his procession came by, prayed and sprinkled holy water over all the baskets. We then walked to Bibiana’s mother’s house to join her for lunch and eat all the blessed food. This tradition is to ensure that there will be plenty of food for everyone in the year ahead.
The second tradition was less religious and a lot more fun. It involved water and small woven willow whips. The Monday after Easter is call “Great Night Monday” and I was awaken that morning by my nephew dumping ice water on me while my brother “whipped” me with a willow whip; for this, I had to “thank” them by giving them chocolate treats. This tradition is to assure that the women stay beautiful, healthy, and full of life throughout the year. I thought it was kind of fun; however my poor sister-in-law received soakings and whippings throughout the day as she was visited by her Godson, her brother, a couple of neighbors, and various other male relatives. And, of course, we had to take my nephew around to collect his own treats from friends and relatives. It was fun, but I could see why Bibiana said some of her friends choose to be out-of-town on Great Night Monday!
All in all, it was a great trip! I didn’t realize how much running around I do and how stressful life can sometimes be until I had absolutely nothing to do! I was amazed to find myself so relaxed and the one thing I learned from this is that I need to slow down and take some time for myself, even if it’s only an hour a week. That’s it for now, Do videnia!