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Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Christmas in the Slovak Tradition

Christmas Eve - Slovaks in Ohio and New York
by
Mrs. Anna Bacsi & Rev. Michael Sabo

Christmas Eve was festive. The younger children had to give up something in the food line for that day.

About 4 PM we all took baths and just before we sat down to eat our supper, my mother got a pan of water with a 50 cent piece in it. Then from the oldest, which was my father, to the youngest, we all had to wash our hands with this coin. The youngest child got to keep the coin.

We all sat down to our special supper. First we all had one small clove of garlic which we dipped in honey and ate it. Then came Babalki with sauerkraut followed by sauerkraut soup. We ate this with the paplannoh. Before we ate we all had to say a prayer. This was to tell us that there are sweet and sour times in life and to have faith.

Church Services started at 7 PM. We went to church every Sunday, but on Christmas Eve the church was a magic place. A large Christmas Tree and candles all lit. It was beautiful and peaceful. We silently got to the pews. No one talked and to us children, it was beautiful and magic.

We sang our Christmas Carols and the Pastor read the Bible telling us the birth of Jesus. The last carol was "Silent Night Holy Night." After the last blessing we filed out of the Church silently and in reverence. Then went home.

Christmas Morning we all went to church and that afternoon the choir and anyone who wanted to join went caroling the members of the church houses. We all came home loaded with fruit, candy and cookies.

Being a second generation Slovak born in America, I remember Christmas Eve a little differently than my Aunt Ann. We had the Balbalki with Sauerkraut and the Sauerkraut Soup, but church did not start until 11 PM. There was a children's service at 7 PM which consisted of the children doing the Christmas story in the Sunday School Auditorium.

I was not allowed to go to the 11 PM Service until I was about ten years old. Following the Children's service I had to be in bed by 9 PM. At the 11 PM Service, the same magic my Aunt talks about filled the Church.

A Christmas tree with white electric lights was located in the Sanctuary near the Pulpit. Hymns which were sung were: "Joy to the World", "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" , and "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Following the reading of the Scriptures and the sermon, The Sacrament of Holy Communion was given however Children who had not been Confirmed yet were not allowed to participate in the Sacrament.

Following Communion, the ushers came down the aisle with lit candles representing Jesus being the light of the world. Members of the congregation had their candles lit and when all the candles were lit, the electric lights were extinguished.

The sanctuary was filled with candle light. It was a beautiful sight to behold. The Congregation then sang "Silent Night." After all four verses of the Hymn were sung, the candles were extinguished. The minister pronounced the Benediction.

Every one left the Sanctuary in silence and gathered in the Northex to wish the minister a Merry Christmas. Everyone then left the Church and went home.

Christmas Day was also different in Buffalo New York than in Youngstown, Ohio during my generation. Perhaps we should blame this change not on the change of tradition or parents not remembering but on the Commercialism of Christmas.

When I arose, the Christmas tree in the living room was lit. We opened presents as a family. Since I am an only child, I did mine first, then Mother and lastly Father.

Mother then went to the kitchen and began preparing the Christmas dinner which was usually Chicken. Father usually stayed in the living room with me.

We played with the electric train and listened to the radio.

You have to remember that I grew up during World War II. My grandparents were deceased and my Uncles were away in the Army and prayers were said during the course of the day to remember them and to ask God to protect them.

Christmas Day was a day to stay home. There were no carolers, only the carols which were broadcast on the radio. In the evening, my Aunt Mary who lived only a few blocks away would come to the house with her husband to bring me my Christmas Gifts. My parents, my Aunt and her husband usually talked in the dining room while I played in the living room.

There were no Church Services on Christmas Day unless Christmas came on Sunday.

I think each generation makes their own traditions depending on the events of the day. I recall that Santa Claus, Christmas decorations, and Christmas shopping did not happen until after Thanksgiving.

I have tried with my own children to keep a combination of Christmas traditions as I remember them and traditions as were told to me by my parents. You can get in touch with us at the e-mail address below.

Rev. Michael Sabo - mpsabo@surfree.com

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