Christmas in Slovenia

23-12-2005

The small mostly Catholic country of Slovenia is also enjoying a feat of Christmas festivities but with a lot of variation on the theme. Michael Manske of Radio Slovenia International takes a look at the traditions of Slovenia's Christmas.

During socialist times in what was then-Yugoslavia, an attempt was made to phase out Christmas and Santa Claus in favour of something less religious. To that end, the New Year holiday was trumped up, and Santa was replaced with a more generic "Dedek Mraz", which literally means Grandfather Frost.

When Slovenia gained independence, older traditions then reappeared alongside the new ones. Slovenia now has three Christmas figures which are nearly identical: Santa Claus (Bozicek), Miklavz (St. Nicholas) and Dedek Mraz (Grandfather Frost).

But the festive spirit remains a strong part of the country's end-of-the-year festivities. Cities and towns glow with Christmas lights, decorated trees are put up in main squares, and little stands offer chilled pedestrians everything from baked almonds to cooked wine, known in Slovene as kuhano vino.

And of course, there's plenty of singing. Caroling is an extremely old Slovenian tradition. Carol singers are even mentioned in the first printed Slovene book, written by Primoz Trubar in 1550. Back then, Slovenes would walk in groups blessing various houses with their songs.

But traditional Christmas folk songs are often unfamiliar to Slovenia's younger generation. For some, the traditional Christmas carols that often appear in films and television are better known. Most of these carols have been translated into Slovene.