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March

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Easter in Slovakia is unique. The unusual Easter traditions merge Christianity and the Slavic native faith that preceded it.

The most controversial Easter tradition is that of whipping and water dowsing. At first glance, this is a brutal and outdated tradition.  However, this is not an act of violence, but a remnant of an ancient culture.  Easter whips are handmade from willow, a tree associated with the goddess of beauty, health, fertility, and beauty. They are not weapons, but tools for bestowing young women with fertility and beauty young women in the act of gentle whipping. In the past, the survival of the family depended on the fertility of its women. Water dowsing too had a meaning. Water is synonymous with life and health and being blessed by water was hoped to keep women in good health.  This tradition originally only involved single boys and girls.

To reward the boys for blessing them with health, beauty, and fertility, girls presented them with hand-decorated eggs. Slovaks know these decorated eggs as kraslice, and the Rusyns refer to them as pisanki. They were once a symbol of new life and fertility and believed to be imbued with magical properties. Later, decorated eggs gained a different meaning and became tokens of affection of girls towards boys they liked.

In addition, a range of agricultural rituals were performed in the past to ensure a good growing season and a bountiful harvest. Indeed, Slovaks devote time to prayer and attend the church from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday. The custom of bringing baskets of food to church for blessing, a seamless merging of the Christian and the pagan legacy. Before Christianity, people used to bring certain kinds of foods to sacred groves to be blessed by priests in springtime. Such special baskets were believed to bring prosperity to the family. The customs continued uninterrupted, but today Slovaks bring baskets to churches on Easter Sunday.

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