Anna's vivid portrayal of the events of this time period were particularly clear as she was wed in Drahovce in1935. I've had the honor of meeting Anna on several occasions while visiting my relatives and friends in Drahovce. I can attest to her keen mind and recall of minutest of details of the customs in her community. I wish to thank a long-time family friend and neighbor, Agnes (Meliska) Pristash for her invaluable assistance with this article. Any errors which may occur in the following article would be solely my own in translating from the Slovak language. Lastly, may I remind the reader that some of the beauty of expression in Slovak is lost translation. Song verses rhyme beautifully in Slovak and the myriad of phrases used can be best understood only by living among them.
At about 16 years of age the young lad and young girl who fall in love begin going to the dances together. The young lad would visit at the home of the girl. When both parents were satisfied with the lad, the conversations would begin about marriage. It was best if the prospective couple each came from families of about the same level of prosperity - poor with poor and wealthier with the more affluent. Usually the more affluent parents dissolved any union of their son/daughter with someone from a poor family. The less fortunate would be able to offer but little by way of an inheritance of land into a marriage agreement thereby the wealthier encouraged seeking a more prosperous mate having more land. If everything seemed favorable, the young couple would acquaint one another with their families, help with the work on their home farms and even verbally decide at which place they would live after the wedding. Plans were discussed as they arose which included the amount of acreage being inherited.
When the time came concerning the terms of the wedding, The mother of the groom went to the home of the bride-to-be to begin finalizing plans. Such a meeting was always held on a Saturday evening. As she was invited into the home she gave her greetings by saying, "Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ." She then asked if they would permit their daughter to wed her son and, quickly adding, if their answer was to be no, she'd go to a home farther down. . . With a yes answer the mother of the groom was invited to sit in the "other room" where she was entertained and the plans for the wedding commenced.
On the Thursday following the above Saturday meeting, the groom and bride-to-be went to their respective Godfathers to ask them to be witnesses for the marriage. On the following Saturday each group met with the parish priest to sign the intent of the marriage so that the bans could be announced on three consecutive Sundays. The Godfathers were required to do attend this meeting. On the following day, Sunday, at High Mass and after the homily, the first ban was read and the date of the wedding announced . (It was the custom to have the wedding date always on the Monday following the last ban announcement.) After the names were read the people were asked if there was any reason why these people can't marry and to register their objection at the rectory following the Mass. . On Thursday following the second announced ban, two male attendants, one for each side, received a list of people to invite to the wedding and to inform them of the place of the reception. The attendants reported back which of the people accepted the invitation.
On Sunday evening following the last ban, family and friends of the bride-to-be and groom met at their respective homes to finalize arrangements for the wedding to be held the next day. The Godmothers were at these gatherings. Traditionally each Godmother would bring a braided basket neatly covered with a pretty table cloth. Carefully placed within the basket were 30 each of poppyseed, walnut and plum kolace. The basket was carried on their backs and in their hands they carried a live rooster for the soup to be served at the reception. The bride- to-be's Godmother also brought her an embroidered cap and scarf and the groom's Godmother gave him a white shirt. Relatives and friends close to the families also brought chickens and kolace. Gifts and kolace Page 2 were brought only by the women. The gatherings at each of the homes were hosted with chicken soup, chicken, dried cooked fruit (as canning in jars was not yet practiced), kolace and something to drink.
Also at this Sunday evening gathering came the bridesmaids and relatives to prepare necessary things for the bride. There were two bridesmaids who arranged three corsages of Rosemary. The nicest one was for the groom and the other two for the groomsmen. They also made up from 10 to 15 boutonnieres for family and friends who will be gathering at the bride's home on the wedding day. Everyone departed for their own homes around 9 PM.
On the day of the wedding, Monday, at 9 AM the groomsmen again make the rounds to invite the guests and to remind them not to be late. At 12 o'clock the group with the groom and likewise for the bride, gather at their homes where they are hosted with a drink and served goulash with bread and kolace. Just before the groom departs for the wedding, the Godfather asks the groom to kneel in front of his parents to thank them for his upbringing, his well being and to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoing he may have done and seeks their blessing. His parents make the sign of the cross on his forehead and kiss him. Many shed tears as the groom leaves with his entourage on his way to the bride's home. Women brought out kolace and some drinks for those uninvited but viewing the proceedings outside the home. First in the procession was the groom with his groomsmen at his sides with sticks in hand and singing. Next in order are the single men, married men, single and married women. Usually a lone individual played an accordion as they walked to the bride's home. The group sang and the younger girls added their melodious squeals. (Pan Jozef Majernik was frequently called upon for his accordion playing. He was able to earn some extra income this way.)
Meanwhile a crowd had gathered outside of the bride's home to view who was with whom and how everyone was dressed. These on-lookers, too, were hosted outside of the home by the women. The bride and her entourage waited within the home for the arrival of the groom's procession. Upon arrival only the groom, his Godfather and the groomsmen went inside. The youngest bridesmaid gave out the boutonnieres to the groom and the two groomsmen while singing these words:
"I'm the younger bridesmaid, red like a rose.
The young bride-to-be gave me this boutonniere
that I would wear it in my hair.
But I will not wear it and that is why
eligible bachelor, my groomsman,
I give it to you."
(The above rhymes beautifully in Slovak.)
The boutonnieres were pinned on the members of the wedding party as well as on selected guests. As was with the groom, the bride asked for her parents' forgiveness and blessings upon her married life. Tears were shed by the parents, relatives as well as the young girl friends of the bride who would not be going out with them anymore. They all left for the chapel singing. The marriage was performed in a small chapel a short distance away from the church. The groom and the young single men lead the column. Next came the bride and her bridesmaids who were followed by all of the rest. The Godparents were the last in the procession. Parents of the bride and groom did not attend the marriage ceremony held in the chapel. There was only room for a small group in the chapel so the rest waited outside and were hosted with drinks and kolace. After the marriage ceremony the married couple visited with group outside of the chapel receiving the customary wishes for a prosperous married life. The Godmothers gave out kolace to many appreciative children who gathered near the chapel. It was a great treat to the children as some did not even get bread to eat every day. These were meager years with high unemployment.
The people left the chapel singing, accordion playing and the young girls squealing on their way to the bride's home. They sang:
"The forest is turning green,
what will I get out of it?
When I have to cry,
wherever I look,
I cry every day, by day and by night.
I will cry myself out,
until I cry my blue eyes out."
(Rhymes in Slovak)
Arriving at the bride's home the group stepped aside and allowed the bride and groom to enter the home first as
man and wife. The bride's mother gave each a teaspoon of honey - a symbol that their married life be sweet. The
guests then entered with the married couples seated in the room with the newlyweds while the single men and
women and young children sat in another area. At the head table sat the bride and groom, the Godparents and
the rest of the relatives. When all were seated they prayed the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be. . . Dinner
was served which was chicken soup, chicken, stuffing, potatoes and cooked dried fruit. Dessert was kolace
which were brought by the Godmothers and others. As they dined a band played whatever music the Godparents
or others would request. At some point one from the band came around the tables with hat in hand collecting
money for the musicians. The dinner, music and singing was a very joyful event which continued until about 5
PM. The guest left for their homes and the bride left to go to her husband's home. As she was leaving she sang:
"I am leaving, mother, from your home.
Bake me that kolac, bake me a large one
because I am leaving you forever."
(Rhymes in Slovak)
Hardly was anyone not crying. Then the band began playing and people sang as they escorted the couple to their new home. When they reached the groom's home they sang:
"Hey, look here old mother,
greet your daughter-in-law.
Hey, look here old mother,
greet your son with some wine.
Hey, look here old mother,
greet your daughter-in-law.
Hey, see that gin -
Greet your daughter-in-law."
(Rhymes in Slovak)
After this the mother greeted her new daughter-in-law and son and invited them inside. Sometimes the mother-in- law would greet them with some humor. She would say, "Come in daughter-in-law. You will not be required to do any work around here - only what I command you to do!" Again a teaspoon of honey was given to the new couple as well as to the guests who came. The guests were offered kolace and drinks. At this time It was customary for the bride to bring gifts for the groom's family. The mother received a head scarf (babuška), the father received a shirt and the others in the family received small gifts. After this all went to reception hall where the wedding dance was to be held. Anyone from the village could attend the dance. Many would come if only to observe. Mothers would be watching who their daughters are dancing with and to whom they are talking to. The dance would last until 10 PM after which all invited guests returned to the groom's home for supper. The meal was much the same as was served for dinner. Again the band played, they sang and they ate until about midnight.
Before the festivities would end, the older bridesmaid stood at the door and knocked with one of the groomsmen's sticks and asked if she could come in to the head table. Twice she asks and twice the Godfather says no. She asks a third time and the Godfather allows her in. She greets them and says, "Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ" and then tells this little verse:
"Quiet, quiet, listen as I tell you this word or two, it won't take much time. Our young bride went to pick some green rosemary. Her crown fell into the water and a dear young man found it. When she wanted to get it back from him, she had to give him a large reward. I ask that you will give what you can. Some a groš, some two, some a half-dollar and I give what money I can - some coins which I brought with me."
The bridesmaid with a plate in her hand, drops the coins in it and then goes around the tables of the wedding guests to collect their contributions. It is a custom to collect money from the guests for the wreaths and boutonnieres worn by the wedding group. She takes the plate to the head table and places the money before the group. She then thanks everyone for their gift of money. Speaking in behalf of the younger bridesmaid she thanks all of them kindly for the presents and that when their sons and daughters marry she will want to contribute to them if she's still alive. If she isn't living, our Lord God in His Heavenly Kingdom will pay them for her.
The next custom begins with the Godfathers, groom and groomsmen leaving the table and seated on prearranged chairs. Then come the girls with their Godmothers for the removal of the bride's wreath as they sing:
"Off, off, goes my green wreath, which never again on my head will be worn." (Rhymes in Slovak.)
The groom and groomsmen remove their boutonniers of green rose mary. The bride is then capped with the cap she received as a gift from her Godmother. She now becomes a young women and they sing to her:
"From Drahovce the wind blows,
already our bridal group is blown,
today a bride, tomorrow a woman,
this evening she will be capped.."
(Rhymes in Slovak.)
By this time it may be around 3 AM and the wedding guests begin to leave for home. The women package up some kolace to give to those who remained at home. As the people and the band leave the house they sing:
"Good night to this home, where we had a very good time. Best are all of those mothers who are raising sons and daughters." (This verse they repeat as they go down the streets to their own homes.)
If the mother-in-law was not particularly fond of her new daughter-in-law, her son would say to his mother:
"The green rosemary grew from a dry root, it is difficult to get used to a strange mother. The strange mother cusses the strange daughter-in-law whom she did not raise nor know how to be kind and to accept her. Do not cuss, do not scold my young wife. I did not take her for a single young girl nor is she my girlfriend for a year or two - but she is my wife for life."
The next day, Tuesday, again they gathered together but mostly the seniors to "top off" the wedding. They sang some songs, were hosted on a lesser scale, and talked as to what events await them - which of their young people will be getting married or when will the next Christening be. It is the custom that the bride's trousseau received from her mother and all of the wedding gifts are hauled to her new home. The groomsmen and bridesmaids came to help and safeguard the moving. The young men arranged for a wagon and pretty team of horses from their foreman. The wagon was decorated with ribbons. The customary trousseau received from the bride's mother consisted of the following:
A chest with three drawers containing her folk dress, clothes, footwear and lingerie. Also loaded on the wagon was goose down bedding - one large feather-tick (perina) and four pillows. (If it came to be that the husband went to live at his bride's home, the custom was that no trousseau would be given to the bride.)
Once loaded, all of the loading party got on the wagon to hold everything in place en route. An accordion was played and they all sang as they left the bride's former home. The route taken was not direct to husband's home but coursed along many of the streets so the people could see moving event. The bride waited at her new home for the wagon to arrive and would show the unloaders where the items should be placed. This finalized the wedding customs.
You contact Richard Mihalek via email at Valhalla@cheqnet.net.
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