For as small of a country as it is, Slovenia has a number of truly fascinating traditions, and the priod leading up to and including Easter are no exception. Being largely Catholic in religion, Easter holds great significance to the people of Slovenia.
On Palm Sunday, people would take little ‘sticks’ made of brightly colored folded palm leaf strips (see picture) called butara to be blessed at the churches. They would then be taken home, and throughout the year, they would pull off a single strip and burn it in the woodburning stoves for protection during storms.
Preparing for Easter
For a week or so leading up to Easter, almost all of the time was devoted to preparations for Easter. The house was cleaned out from top to bottom until it was spotless. In addition, the food began to be prepared; hams were smoked, poticas and Easter bread (a sweet bread with raisins, baked in a braid) were baked; fresh horseradish roots were located and dug up; and of course, eggs were painted. Among any more decorative eggs made, three were dyed plain red for the Easter Sunday basket.
In the morning on Easter Sunday, baskets were prepared with the three red dyed eggs, which symbolized the three drops of blood from the wounds where Christ was nailed to the cross in the crucifixion; the whole horseradish root, which was symbolic for the nails; and a whole ham, which stood for the body of Christ himself, similar to communion bread. In the cities, each family brought their own basket, but in the villages, one large basket would be prepared and a woman would carry it on her head with a donut shaped cushion to the nearest church. None of the food could be eaten before the church services.
At the churches, the baskets would be blessed with incense; when it was returned home and put with the other food, the blessing was considered to be spread to the rest of the prepared feast, and the eating could begin. In addition to the items in the basket, common foods in the Easter Sunday meal would be spring onions and other early season fresh vegetables, Easter bread, potica (a Slovenian sweet rolled nut bread), and French salad (see Slovenian Fresh Vegetable Salad Recipes).
The dyed eggs, however, had a further role to play among the children and teens. Young girls would hold the eggs in their hands so as to make a circular target with their thumb and forefinger (see picture below). The young boys would then throw coins and try to hit the eggs. If they successfully hit the egg, they won it. However, more often the young girls would have bruised and swollen fingers for days afterwards!