Fašiangy, pust, mjasopust, maslenice. However they´ve called it, our ancestors always found the first and coldest quarter of year somehow special. Wedged between the Christmas festivities and pre-Easter fasting, the period between 7 January and end of February was giving a green light to various gourmet, social and even amorous events and celebrations. Visiting rural areas of Slovakia might still give you an opportunity to observe some of the typical Fašiangy traditions and customs. However, thought it might not be clearly visible at the first glance, many of historic folk traditions have transformed into the modern customs that can still be found even in the biggest Slovak cities. Here are 14 fun facts about Slovak Fašiangy you might want to know.
1# Fašiangy is not Slavic invention. It´s roots could be traced back into the ancient Egypt and transformed through the cultures of ancient Greece and Roman Empire into many medieval European cultures. Thought each community developed its own traditions, the essence stayed the same – this period is sacrificed to happiness, joy, wild parties, good food and strong drinks.
2# The word Fašiangy is derived from German “vast-schane”, which can be loosely translated as “last drink”. This symbolizes the upcoming pre-Easter fasting.
3# Old Slavs during the pre-christian era have known this period as “maslenice” and it was typical for them to eat the most caloric meals to fight the freezing weather and natural scarcity of vegetables during these month.
4# Traditional carnivals and processions in masks all took place in this period of year. Masks were often scary or animal-like, popular were also masks of soldiers with long swords which were soon covered by impaled goodies from local women.
5# Among the traditional masks was always “turoň” – a bull-like creature with bells hanging from its long horns and large, opening mouth. The mask was sometimes so big it had to be carried by two persons. During the processions turoň had to roll over the dunghill in every household and be symbolically undercut – the dunghill gained magical force this way, which later resulted in rich harvest.
6# Various guilds and craftsmen also celebrated this period by their own customs. Young apprentices were ritually accepted into the guilds, often having to showcase their courage and willingness by passing some tricky tests – like bathing in the cold and then hot water. Colorful parades of artisans showing of their skills took place. These attractive traditions have, sadly, entirely vanished because of the World War 1.
7# Unlike today, when most of the weddings are accumulated into the hottest months of year, old Slovaks were often waiting for the Fašiangy period to get married. Several days lasting celebrations full of heavy drinks and caloric food probably felt somehow better when there was no work waiting in the fields.
8# And, talking about drinking, it was quite common and acceptable for the fun to be somehow wilder during Fašiangy. Even the biggest gentlemen and the most genteel ladies could be found in the taverns turning upside down one shot after another.
9# The last of Fašiangy parties resembled a ritual funeral of a bass. This symbolized ending of the merriness that will soon be replaced by serious and godly Easter. Those willing to engage in wild jamborees will have to wait until May when the tradition of May pole rising will give them another opportunity to celebrate.
10# If you have a sweet tooth, you will surely appreciate one of the most typical Fašiangy meal – “šišky” with homemade jam. They are in fact something like a distant cousins of donuts – except for they should by originally deep-fried in the pork fat.
11# Pork is, actually, another typical Fašiangy meal. But it´s also much more than that. Traditional pig slaughter occurring during the Fašiangy time is a unique cultural phenomenon.Whole families engage into this several days lasting meat processing accompanied by drinking, talking and other means of socializing.
12# Another traditional meal of this season was classical meshed eggs. In some villages, reeves wife made them in a giant pan on some central place to feed all of its citizens.
13# If you want to experience traditional Fašiangy traditions, you should head to the north-west of Slovakia. In the open-air museum of traditional Slovak rural architecture called Čičmany you can be a part of colorful and vivid celebrations replicating the Fašiangy festivities of past.
14# Traditional folk gatherings of the past have transformed into sophisticated contemporary balls – in fact Fašiangy are known today as the “Ballroom season” with many opulent events full of well-dressed, renowned or even famous people engaging into the waltz dancing and finger food eating.
So, now when you know all the cool parts about Fašiangy, do you want to come and experience it first hand?