Easter in Slovakia: Whipping and Watering Women

Slovak Easter Breakfast

I’m the sort of person who loves tradition. I romanticize the good ol’ days, all the while fully embracing the power of the internet.

But sometimes, there are traditions I’m not so sure about, like the whipping and water-dousing of girls on Easter in Slovakia.

ok, ok, I’m being a bit dramatic.

This is a tradition originating in pagan spring rituals, bringing beauty, youth, and fertility to women. So we can blame the pagans. Different areas of Slovakia have various ways of ‘improving’ their womenfolk; nothern and eastern parts mostly douse with water, western areas are heavier with whips, and some people like to mix both.

Slovak Easter Breakfast

Easter Sunday starts out lovely. Old grannies bring baskets of food to be blessed after church. Breakfast is a delicious plate of smoked ham with horseradish, boiled eggs, and ‘lost chicken’, a baked mixture of ground meat, wet bread, and lots of parsley.

Lunch is the classic Slovak celebratory meal: a clear, brothy, bone soup with thin egg noodles and vegetables followed by wienerschnitzel, creamy potato salad, and piles of sweet baked goodies.

In the evening, however, events start taking an ominous turn. Earlier that day or Saturday, males of all ages have gone out and cut willow branches (or whatever thin branches they can find). Sticks have been sitting in glasses of water, and now they are pulled out and plaited into whips.

Some fancy ones have 14 strands, simple homemade ones 8. Wire or tape holds the bottom togther while a knot finishes off the top.

Slovak Easter Whips

Monday morning each girl, young lady, mom, and grandmother is greeted with a circulatory-improving whipping and/or dousing with water. She automatically goes into a standing fetal position, hoping her legs don’t get whipped. While (usually gently) whipping the girl, the boy chants a rhyme ending with with a call for the girl to give him something.

And there’s the rub! For her beautifying treatment, the girl ties a ribbon to the whip and is expected to give the boy a sweet treat. I’ve heard that back in the day a girl had one special coloured egg that she gave to her favourite boy but now every male gets something (we wouldn’t want other other boys to feel left out now, would we? *drip,drip*).

Slovak Easter Whips

I have a number of nephew, and they go traipsing around town gathering candy and money, while the girls stay at home waiting for the next caller. I’ve always thought this was rather unfair, but I guess life isn’t fair.

Each year I watch my girls to see how they take it. So far, they are caught up in the fun and activity, passing out chocolate eggs and playing with cousins. When it dawns on them that this tradition is rather one-sided, I’ll start making them special Easter Monday baskets as my sister in law does.

Older girls have told me that your coolness was related to the number of boys who came knocking – the more boys came, the higher you were on the cool-o-metre.

Slovak Easter Whips

I personally prefer the whipping to water and, if you’re smart like my mother in law, you wear your coat in the morning and it’s soon over. And maybe it works – Slavic women are well known beauties. Just kidding.

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8 thoughts on “Easter in Slovakia: Whipping and Watering Women

  1. As an American woman this seems a little bizarre, but nonetheless interesing. Your photos and anecdotes are fascinating. And, of course, your recipes are inspirational. Thank you.

      • Hahaha!!!! Bez toho posledneho just kidding by to bolo lepsie!!!! ale nie! vies co, mne sa najviac nepaci na tejto tradicii, odhliadnuc od bizarnosti toho celeho, ze sa to vyzdvihuje vyssie ako cela Velka noc, lebo Velka noc by mala byt o zmrtvychvstalom Jezisovi a nie o sibacke. ale momentalne sa ovela ovela viac propaguje tato hlupa tradicia. dost ma to trapi. s celym tym trapnym procesom sibania som sa zmierila, ale s tymto sa asi nezmierim.

  2. Hi Naomi, it’s always interesting for me to read, how non-Slovaks are dealing with our traditions. 🙂 I’m slovak living in Switzerland and happy, that my girls have learned about Easter Bunny. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s definitely different, that’s for sure! My girls have the benefit of all our traditions, we do a Easter egg hunt too. You must have had to adapt to new traditions too!

  3. Yes and I somehow like it. We have mixture of painted eggs and chocolate eggs. What I miss is “bryndza” as we love “bryndzové halušky”. Is there some food you miss?

    • Have you tried mixing sour cream with feta in a food processor? I think that would give approx results.
      Yes! I miss the availability of international foods. I can buy most things now but it’s more expensive and I have to make a special trip to BA or a bioshop.

      • That’s exactly what we do. I’m always trying to find some substitute. It’s same over here, expensive.

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