Today, let’s talk about how May Day is celebrated in some parts of Europe. For many, it is a traditional workers' holiday.
In Greece, one of the more popular activities on May Day is fire jumping. This is done after the sun sets. Women dance around the lit fire. The children wet their clothes and hair, before jumping over the fire. It is a symbolic act, to keep away winter and disease. Another popular tradition is picking flowers, and creating a May Day wreath, to hang on their doors. It is meant to bring people closer to nature.
In France, May Day is really a day off for its workers. French people like to give family and friends little sprigs, bouquets, or even whole plants of lily of the valley, for good luck. The more bell-like the flower, the better the luck.
Today, let’s talk about Christmas. What is it? Why is it? How do we celebrate it? What does it mean to you? Also how has it changed over the years? Some interesting questions for you to mull over…maybe over a glass of Glühwein? This German pre-Christmas tradition has in recent years spread across Europe to the UK in the form of popular Christmas markets.
In Britain, people celebrate Christmas with roast turkey and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding. Families open their presents that surround the Christmas tree. In Europe, many people eat fish, a good catholic tradition, for their Christmas meal. In Central Europe, they celebrate Christmas one day early on the evening of December 24. It is also a public holiday on this day in some of these countries!
While Easter is loved by men in Slovakia it is positively hated by women. Let me explain…If you are a girl from a village in the east or centre of Slovakia Easter Monday is not always fun. Why? You are likely to be chased by the village boys who will throw you in the nearest stream.
Worse - the girl is likely to be whipped by the boys in the morning using a specially decorated hand woven local willow cane with colourful ribbons. Called a “korbáč” in Slovak it’s used by the young men to whip the girls on the legs below the knees when they catch up with them. Such whips are sold before Easter outside Tesco in Bratislava!
Tradition adds a ribbon on the cane for each ‘victim’. This testifies the number of girls and women a lad has managed to whip or soak. In return the girls give the young boys hand painted decorative eggs or chocolate eggs. Older lads are offered a drink of spirits.