Christmas stories seen through children's eyes Christmas in the countries of Europe - Page 18

On Christmas Eve morning the carp is killed and gutted (or some other kind of fish is taken out of the freezer!). During the day the supper is cooked. It used to be the custom to fast (not to eat anything) all through Christmas Eve. This was a direction given by the Catholic Church. It was said that if you manage to get by without food for the whole day, you will see a little golden pig in the evening (after the Midnight Mass service)! The main Christmas meal is known as the 'velija' and consists of 12 dishes (the number of dishes symbolizes the number of Jesus's disciples). The table is prepared with a white table cloth with straw and sheaves of wheat at each end. Christmas dinner begins with Oplatky small bread wafers and a blessing. The main Christmas supper varies between regions and families. It normally has lots of courses including a fish dish and 'Kapustnica'. Kapustnica is a thick cabbage soup with sausage, meat, dried mushrooms and cream. Every family has its own recipe. Some recipes include ingredients that might seem unusual such as dried plums and apples. Carp is often the fish that is eaten. Some people buy it live and keep it in their bath until it's time to kill it and cook it. And if you want a bath or shower, you have to take it out of the bath and put it in a bucket! Other dishes might include a baked ham or a roost goose, 'bobajky' small pieces of bread mixed with butter and sauerkrat or sweetened with honey and poppyseeds, potato salad, pirohy dumplings, vegetables and plenty of walnut rolls or cookies. Cookies are a popular dessert and treat at Christmas. Some favorites include vanilla ones made with poppy seeds and walnuts and apricot cookies. Sometimes people will make more than 10 different types of cookies. These are given to visitors over Christmas. There are also special thin waffles that are eaten with honey. After supper people might visit the close family or neighbors and give small gifts. Then many people will go to a Midnight Mass Service. This is the busiest Church service of the year. In Slovakia there are many regional variations of the Christmas Eve celebrations. Some are local folk customs and rituals, that date back many years. One tradition is to clean the house and windows ready for Christmas. Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26th) are much quieter and days of rest. People might go to Holy Mass Service and visit their family on Christmas Day. Families with children like to go to church and watch 'Bethlehems' (crib scenes) which are displayed in almost every church. Some of them are mechanical!