A basket of painted eggs with tulips and small, ornamental sheep

Easter in Slovakia: water, whips and painted eggs

While in some parts of the world, people hide Easter eggs, in Slovakia, Easter means women drenched with buckets of water, water guns and vodka. This so-called šibačka and oblievačka take place on Easter Monday (but more on that later).

Easter in Slovakia is celebrated over five days, from Thursday to Monday. The date isn't fixed, but it’s celebrated annually in March or April - in 2024, Easter Sunday falls on 31 March. Every Easter day has a different name and importance:

  • Holy Thursday (Zelený Štvrtok - Green Thursday)

  • Good Friday (Veľký Piatok - Big Friday)

  • Holy Saturday (Biela Sobota - White Saturday)

  • Easter Sunday (Veľkonočná Nedeľa)

  • Easter Monday (Veľkonočný pondelok)

Painted eggs with pussywillow sprigs and colourful tulips

Slovakia is a predominantly Christian country and, spiritually, Easter is a reminder of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians should fast for forty days before Easter starts, with the fasting period ending on Good Friday. During the fast, they shouldn't eat meat.

For many households, Easter is also a time of decluttering and spring clean-up. I remember how every year, just before Easter, my mom would dust the highest corners of the house and make all the windows look sparkly.

While the religious perspective of Easter is similar to many other countries around the world, Slovakia has several unusual Easter traditions.

Painted eggs hanging on a tree outside a house in a village in Slovakia

Easter Monday in Slovakia

The main Easter festivities take place on Easter Monday (Veľkonočný pondelok).

Men and boys group and visit women and girls at their homes, splash them with water buckets or spray them with water guns and whip them gently. This tradition is called šibačka and oblievačka.

When I say whip, don't picture any horrific scenarios from medieval-themed movies. What I mean is a small braid handwoven from thin willow branches. According to pagan traditions, the braid from the willow tree was believed to be magical, and the act of soft whipping was symbolically transferring the power of the tree to women.

In return, women attach colourful ribbons to this special willow whip and give guys treats, chocolate eggs, bunnies and sometimes small cash. Think of it as something similar to trick and treating.

Older men get a shot of vodka or other alcohol and some nibbles instead of chocolate treats.

Slovakian Easter whips, a thin braid handwoven from thin willow branches

I had a love-and-hate relationship with these Easter traditions, and sometimes I would hide the entire Monday or go for a full-day hike to avoid getting soaked.

I remember waking up on Easter Monday with a glass of water poured over my face in bed. My brothers would giggle, and I would chase them furiously, attempting revenge. 

Yes, having to change your clothes a few times a day sucks, but on the other hand, it can be fun, and the overall atmosphere is something special. Since I moved abroad, I get a sense of nostalgia for this crazy tradition. 

If you think about it, multiple studies revealed that a cold plunge or cold shower is great for your immunity and can reduce inflammation in the body.

So perhaps, the folk traditions aren't too far from the truth when they claim that splashing women with water is meant to keep them healthy and pretty for the rest of the year. Although using this logic, we should splash guys too, which isn't the case.

Girls walking down the road in Slovakia dressed in traditional folk costumes

In the past, these Easter traditions used to be taken more seriously. Boys and men would visit as many girls and women as possible, especially those who were single. They would spend an entire day going from house to house, singing folk songs and wearing traditional folk costumes.

Today, boys and men visit only neighbours, relatives and classmates. In most cases, they use water symbolically by spraying perfumes on women's hair. Also, soft whipping is more of a symbolic act than an actual spanking.

As a Slovak, it had never occurred to me that there was something strange about how we celebrate Easter until I tried to explain our Easter traditions to my foreign friends. They're usually amused and sometimes a bit horrified.

Carefully painting patterns on eggs

Slovak Easter Decorations

Symbols of Easter in Slovakia are lamb, bunnies, little chicks and Slovak Easter eggs - kraslice. Other typical decorations are the tree branches of zlatý dážd (weeping forsythia) with bright yellow flowers and bahniatka (pussy willow). 

Painting and decorating kraslice (Easter eggs) is a popular Slovak Easter tradition. The designs of kraslice vary and have many bright colours and symbols.

In many Pagan cultures, eggs represent new life and the rebirth of nature, making them an integral part of Easter and spring festivities around the globe.

To paint the Easter egg, first, you need to poke a small hole at the top and bottom of the egg. Next, blow out all the egg white and egg yolk. After that, the eggshell is ready to be painted. The sky is the limit when it comes to painting techniques for kraslice, but the traditional way is with wax. 

A traditional Slovakian Easter cake, shaped like a lamb

Slovak Easter Food

The Easter menu in Slovakia varies depending on the region. The most popular Easter dishes are hard-boiled eggs, potato salad, and smoked ham.

And for those with a sweet tooth, there is the traditional Easter cake in the shape of a lamb. In eastern Slovakia, people prepare Easter cheese - hrudka or bake a sweet bread called paska

You can enjoy paska with some butter and jam or simply eat it plain and fluffy as it is with a good cup of coffee or tea.

And, of course, what would Slovak Easter be without a bit of a homemade moonshine from plums - slivovica?

Colourful, painted eggs next to woven, willow whips

Final thoughts

Easteris a time for the community to get together. Believe it or not, šibačka and oblievačka represent the good wishes men have for women in their lives.

Unfortunately, these typical Easter traditions are slowly disappearing from certain Slovak regions. Some Slovaks think it's old-fashioned and has no place in modern society, while others love it and want to preserve the folk traditions. 

Only time will show if Easter in Slovakia will continue to be celebrated traditionally for future generations or šibačka and oblievačka will disappear entirely.

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Kamila Jakubjakova

Author - Kamila Jakubjakova

Kamila is a freelance writer and blogger originally from Slovakia and now based in Canada. On her blog, she and her partner share useful tips for expat life in Canada. When she isn't writing, you can find her on a yoga mat or enjoying a cup of tea.

Last Updated 4 March 2024

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