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I'm beginning to write these lines and while I'm thinking, my eyes are looking out of the window. It's still winter here, a lot of snow all around. But it looks like it's not going to take long and the snow will melt. We won't even notice how the Easter is knocking on our doors... This great Christian holiday has its own magic, especially in villages, where Easter simply can't be without traditional entertainment and a lot of joy.

It's a tradition, that lasts till the present days, that young guys (Kupaci) visit every house in the village where they have girls who are still single and they sprinkle them with water. In some regions they even whip her on her legs with a whip made of willow rods, which looks like a plait of hair.

This is how my grandma described the Easter holidays:

In a village people start celebrating Easter on Thursday already (this day is called Green Thursday). At 10 A. M. the bells always stopped ringing-they used to say that the bells had been "tied." They did it to honor Jesus Christ who had been crucified. So the bells were "grieving" too. Instead ringing the bells people were "rattling" (Rapcarovali) on the church tower. Can you imagine the sound? It's like when a wooden cogwheel rotates very fast and hits the wood with its cogs. This continued on Friday as well (Velky Piatok). Only on Saturday (Biela Sobota) at 10 A.M. the bells were finally untied.

Women and girls were already waiting impatiently. When the bell rang the first time, they ran to the village brook or river to wash themselves, so that they'd be beautiful all through the year. (Poor girls, what did they do if there was no river in the village?)

On Sunday everyone went to church.

On Monday morning girls used to get up early to be ready when the first guys-kupaci come. Guys had to start very early if they wanted to go through the whole village until noon, because in the afternoon, they used to say, it wasn't polite to "water" the girls. So at 6 A. M. the girls already opened the doors for the first guys. If a girl liked sleeping longer, they would find her in her bed and pour water on her, no mercy! Girls were happy to have these "morning visitors" but they also liked playing hide and seek with young men. They would hide under their beds, in the wardrobe, in the pantry or they would even go to the stable and hide somewhere in between the animals. One of the most sophisticated "shelters" for girls was the attic of the house where the family had hay. They climbed up the ladder, drew it up after themselves, and hid in the hay. But what a problem if the guys noticed there was no ladder!!! They immediately knew where the girls were and God helps these now! Two guys held the girl arms stretched, and the others poured water on her. No, they didn't have a cup, they had a bucket full of water right from the well in the yard!

When my grandma Ruzenka was a little girl, guys found her hidden in hay. She had to come down and they wanted to water her. But she started running down their yard, guys after her... She wanted to cross the brook and find a shelter at her godfather's who lived across the street. She shouted: "Godfather, godfather, help, help me!" But the guys were faster. They caught her when she was right in the middle of the brook, and then ... they didn't need any buckets!

In the past girls used to wear national costumes, not a dress or pants like nowadays. The costume consisted of a petticoat "spodna" or "knits," skirt "kitla," apron "fiertuska," thick shirt with armlets "stanka," thin shirt with folded sleeves "oplecko" and a small vest, embroidered or decorated some other way "prusliak." Just imagine, the girl had to put all these things on, then when she got wet, take everything off put on another costume (same stuff), dry and iron the wet things ... and around and around. Sometimes the girl would put her grandmother’s old skirt on, but if she was expecting her "dearest" to come and she wanted to look beautiful for him, the best costume of hers always had to be ready. This guy didn't water the girl with a bucket, he only sprinkled her face, had a cup, and the water was even warm! And then he didn’t leave with the others. He stayed in her house and protected "his" girl from the other guys-kupaci. The family welcomed him and treated him very nicely, well, he was supposed to be their future son in law.

While the girls were "recovering" from this oblievacka (watering) and were changing their clothes, gazdina (housewife) went outside and she gave the guys cakes and brandy. They sprinkled her with water as well, but only a bit, so that she couldn't complain that there was nobody to water her. Then the girl went outside and gave each guy a colored egg,  kraslica. Guys were also given some brandy, which they took with them. If they didn't manage to drink it all, they sold the rest and with this money they prepared a nice party for girls. It was something like saying sorry for making so many troubles for them at oblievacka.

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In the afternoon girls could already walk freely in the village, there was no more watering. They visited each other and they were boasting about how many guys came to water them. On Tuesday girls repaid all the Monday "water troubles" to guys, but they did it secretly. The guy, not expecting anything, all of a sudden had eyes full of water. Guys were a bit ashamed of these "incidents," so they’d rather stay away from girls on Tuesday.

We keep the tradition of watering till the present days, but it can't be compared with the original tradition. During Easter I usually go to my grandmother's. She lives in a village Budca near Zvolen, so I can see what oblievacka is like today. The girl comes out of the house covered with towels and a raincoat, the only thing you see is her nose. So, she is prepared and now the guys try to sprinkle her face somehow with water from a cup! Sorry if they don't "hit the target." There's no second chance. My family and I always enjoy watching this "comedy."

 In my town Detva, the girls are being watered according to the tradition: Detva has two parts a village and a large neighborhood. We have many folk groups here and they keep the old customs and traditions of Easter, of course, they had to adapt to new conditions. The guys from the folk groups take horses and a cart, musicians sit in it and they play all the way. Then they visit all the girls they know in the village and in the neighborhood. They take them out to the yard (or to the street) and water them completely! (We have a brook Detvianka that runs through the village and the neighborhood.) The musicians play all the time. The people who live in apartment buildings always like watching this "theatre." When they hear music playing, they immediately come to their windows, watch the guys and encourage them.

Relatives and friends visit each other, men water women a bit and they also sprinkle them with eau de toilette. There is this "garden or flower" smell in each apartment at Easter. Sometimes a woman has to get into the bathtub and a man showers her legs…

Slovak Easter simply couldn't be without colored eggs kraslice. Some women are real artists when it comes to decorating kraslice.

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Kraslica is an eggshell with two small holes on the two sides of it. The egg inside has been blown out of the shell. We can keep kraslice for a long time, even for several years. The techniques for decorating the eggs are different: the ornament is drawn with melted wax, the egg is then painted, the wax melts and then on the color background there is a white ornament left. But this is not a simple thing to do, not everyone could do it. Eggs are also painted with paint and brush, small wooden sticks or pins. You can make prints on the egg or stick color papers of different patterns on it.

In our house the Eastern decoration looks like this: we find a dry branch of a tree in the garden, paint it with white color, hang kraslice on it and put some colored ribbons there as well. Some days before Easter we cut small branches of the trees or bushes and keep them in water. At Easter we have "blooming flowers" all around the house. We put some soil in a shallow bowl, corn seeds into the soil and then water it. When they start growing, we have a nice little "lawn" in the bowl. We put kraslice or small yellow chickens made of wool or paper into it.

Dear friends, if you receive this copy of SHL before Easter, I wish you all a very pleasant holiday in your family circle.

Yours Dana

Dana Hodulova
A. Bernolaka 2
962 12 Detva

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Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 5, No. 1, Fall 1997
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1997 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.