Our favourite Slovene traditions and sayings…
16. May, 2020

Traditions, traditions...

"Rules" that will be observed for generations to come
In Slovenia we have a lot of old traditions and sayings that we firmly believe in. When I talk about them to my guests they usually look at me in disbelief and I guess, sometimes they probably think we are just a tiny little bit crazy. But I would feel odd if I wouldn’t live by them – this is how I was raised and by not respecting the “rules” I would feel like betraying my grandparents and generations of my ancestors as well. 
One of those silly things that we are doing is observing closely the days when our Saints are celebrating. In the old days they believed there is a story behind every Saint and each one of them is bringing us something different. Lots of Saints are connected with farming, weather or crops. Just now, in the middle of May, all of us hoped for at least 4 very rainy days – when our Ice Saints are celebrating (Pancrazius, Servacius and Bonifacius). Their name days are celebrated each year between May 12 – 14th. Usually that time of year our mild spring weather suddenly changes into clouds and rain, followed by a significant drop of temperatures. The last day of crazy weather is May 15th, name day for Saint Sophie, representing wisdom and knowledge, which in our land has gotten a nickname of wet or rainy Sophie. This days are usually predictors of our summer weather – if they are cold and rainy, summers will be very hot and dry. If it is the other way around – summer will be rainy and miserable. No wonder we all want that rain to come down as strong as possible. We even say that Saint Sophie blesses the soil with all the rain. Farmers and gardeners usually wait up until May 15th before they start planting anything, so the cold would not destroy the produce. In the past they put fires up in vineyards to preserve the vines against the frost. Housewives usually put flower pots on the window shelfs and balconies after her name day. Believe me, my mom is very excited when May 15th passes. 
Decorations like this will appear all over the country in the next days.
Further more we are all very aware of our health. We connect it a lot with months of the year and act accordingly. In Slovenia you should never sit on the ground if a month’s name has a letter R in it. So that is pretty much all months with the exception of May, June, July and August. An old saying told to me by my grandmother was: “Tina, get up the floor, otherwise wolf will crawl into your butt….” Hmm, I don’t even know what to think about this today – but I still respect the rule. And if I sit on the ground by any chance on those scary months with a letter R, I have something to sit on. My grandparents and even my parents also believe in the deadly forces of draft –  as in breeze that comes when two windows opposite one another are open. Every time that would happen my mom has a serious expression of disapproval on her face and she always adds “don’t come down to me when you catch a cold or pneumonia because of it”. To keep peace in the house we try to avoid having windows open… and I must admit that with my age going up, I don’t like those breezy winds either. There must be something about it, I guess. Same is with our clothing – throughout  the deadly and dangerous R months we should have tights and socks on, our undershirts must be tucked into our pants or skirts. Just to beat the odds of getting sick. When the new fashion of uncovered bellies and ankles-out came to Slovenia, I think most of our grandparents were rolling in their graves.  Fashion is one thing, but don’t mess with the health!
Since in Slovenia a lot of us share the same house with our parents, family ties are extremely strong. Many people ask where do we usually end up living – in the house of the husband or wife? Traditionally it is always easier for a woman to move into your parents home – it is easier to fight with your mom regarding the education of your kids than with a mother in law. When we live in the same house, lots of compromises need to be taken. If you are smart enough, you build a separate entrance – according to the old saying “mom or mother in law should always change their shoes before coming for a visit”. So guess what – in our house we built it right away and truly there is more peace for both included parties. Although we noticed that our kids and my parents get along really well – maybe because they have a common enemy?
When we talk about our life we live according to an old saying “do not live beyond your means”, this one is extremely handy especially in these days. “An apple a day sends the doctor away” in Slovenia translates also to “a schnapps a day sends germs away”. Even though we know apples are healthy, we all believe also in the healing powers of schnapps – this is a strong alcoholic beverage of above 40% alcohol and can be made with grapes, pears or plums. Once you get sick, instead of taking pills right away, schnapps can be used: when you get a fever – try to take a hot shower and drink a glass of schnapps and sweat it out; with feminine cramps –  a little shot of schnapps soothes the pain; any toothache can be cured with schnapps – just rub it on the affected area and it will help;  yo find a thick in your skin – rub schnapps on it and the little creature will immediately crawl out of your skin; you fall and get a scratch –  disinfect it with schnapps; bad hair day – rub schnapps on it;  you don’t have a toothpaste – easy, just have a shot of it in the morning…. and on it goes. No wonder schnapps is one of the things you will always find in everybody’s fridge. We use it also when we have house guests – if a host doesn’t treat you to a shot of it, it means you are not really welcome.  And whenever we go on hikes – we always bring it along in small bottles that we like to keep close to our heart – a Slovenian kind of bypass. So beware. And just a hint: when you are offered to drink it, it is always bottoms up. It hurts only once that way. 
We have a very strong affection to bread in our country. For us bread always represented wealth and well-being of the family. It is hard to see a Slovenian who would throw it away or not respecting it. Together with other germanic countries, our bread is among the best in Europe and it is present with all of our meals. Some people like it so much that they eat it even with the desserts. An old saying goes: “If you see a bread on the floor, pick it up and kiss it”. And even when it gets old we try to re-use it or re-cycle it. Some goes into breadcrumbs or meatloafs, some goes to horses and chickens. And the cycle goes on. 
Observing cycles for us is important especially in nature. As you learned from previous posts, Slovenians love nature and we like to go into it and enjoy its fruits. From healing flowers and herbs, to spruce needles, to mushrooms, chestnuts and blueberries, every season brings something good to us. Respecting nature is important. Without respect there will be nothing left for the future generations. And all of us have some kind of knowledge on what nature brings to our health as well. An old saying goes “that for every illness a flower grows” and that is very true so we would all rather seek health in nature than in modern medicine. Probably right now there are rare houses that don’t have a jar of something being dipped inside for the winter months. 
Other common sayings used in Slovenia are also “after rain, there is always sunshine” meaning when the times are harsh, they won’t last forever. This one we used a lot in the past few months. When we talk about relationships, especially among friends, Slovenians can be very closed. It is hard to make a friendship here, but once you do, it lasts forever. No wonder that my best friend is the one that I met when I was 10 years old. Being a good person is important and  saying “who digs a ditch for others to fall in, will most likely end up in it as well” just tells you that if you want to hurt someone, most likely the misfortune will find you first. So live according to “a nice word always finds a good place”. Most likely people who threaten you or say they will harm you, are just like “barking dogs that seldom bite”, but beware “appearances can be deceptive”. When a fight appears usually “there is no smoke without fire.” So when the damage appears, there is “no use crying over spilt milk when it is spilt already”. Usually everything looks worse at first to how it turns out at the end or in Slovenian “no soup is eaten as hot as it is cooked”. When you are having an amazing start of the day and all is going in line you should not celebrate yet or “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”. All things in life should be done “slow and steady to win the race”. But once you become successful you should “strike while the iron is hot”. Mornings are the most precious parts of the day in Slovenia when  “an early bird catches the worm”.  This is also a reason why breakfast is our most important meal of the day – you “should eat as a king in the morning, as a normal citizen for lunch and as a poor person for dinner”. This kind of eating habits and some exercise will make you “strong as a horse” and “healthy as a fish.” And “without pain, there is no gain”, since for everything in life you need to work hard to get it.  My grandmother’s favourite saying was “what goes around, comes around”- whatever you give or do in life, either good or bad, the same you will receive back. So we try to stick to this one in all of our lives endeavours. And when good things start to happen “our axe probably feel into a pot of honey”-  the axe can always be pulled out, the honey will stay on it and so will our luck stick to it as long as we are not tempted to lick that honey away.  

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