Hunky Springtime Rituals

As a student at Holy Name School on First Street, I remember vividly, all of the traditions that we followed during the Lenten and Easter season. Most of the activities were initiated by the good Sisters of St. Joseph that taught us each day, however, some were also family traditions that were started by our families.

I remember that having to decide what I was doing to “give-up” for Lent was always one of the most difficult decisions I had to make each Lenten season. Being a picky eater, it seemed that if I gave up any particular food, I was probably eliminating a major food group. I was never able to convince the nuns or my parents that it was a good idea to give up things like spinach, brussel sprouts or kohlrabi was a good idea since I basically would never eat them anyway. As a result, I was more inclined to sacrifice playtime instead. I would typically give up a few hours each weekend to help my mom or dad around the house, doing extra chores. If I felt particularly “saintly,” I also remember giving up cookies or candy, although I tried to avoid such difficult goals.

I recall being given little collection boxes by the nuns at the beginning of the Lenten Mite-Boxesseason. The purpose of the boxes was to sacrifice part of our allowance for the poor. Dutifully, I would keep my collection box in the kitchen and periodically drop pennies, nickels and dimes into it as I earned them. On Holy Saturday, the boxes would be collected at the back of the church prior to the afternoon Stations of the Cross. Every child at Holy Name would bring in their little collection boxes, crammed with change and proudly place it in the box next to their classmate’s contributions.

As an altar boy, I would participate in Station of the Cross services throughout the Lenten season. Although they Stationswere somber services, as mere lads, altar boys were able to derive pleasure, albeit mischievous in nature, from serving at the Stations of the Cross. First of all, it was a sign of altar boy hierarchy to be able to carry the cross to each station. However, that privilege only came with tenure and age. However, the real fun was carrying the candles around to each station. The mission was to see if we could tilt the lit candles in such a way as to allow them to drip down the sides of the candle without getting onto the floor or our hands. If we were successful, by the time Jesus is laid in the tomb at Station 14, we would have a large accumulation of wax at the bottom of the candle from our efforts.

As we approached the end of the season of Lent, I recall visiting by Grandfather’s house on Duquesne Avenue in West Mifflin and watching my Aunt Peggy and Aunt Helen busily preparing some traditional Easter foods. In particular, I remember the smell of freshly baked breads as they made perfectly formed loaves of paska with raisins and my favorite, Hot Cross Buns.

I found the two recipes that my aunts used for their Easter baked goods. The cookbook ofScan_Pic0001 choice, sort of the hunky cook’s bible is the Slovak-American Cookbook that was published in 1952. All of my aunts and my mother used it, and I still do to this day. Both recipes are contained in the book and I am going to be very daring and attempt both of them this year. Both items were always made with raisins, so I too with use them. If I remember correctly, my aunts would always use a combination of white and dark raisins in their paska, and of course I’ll be doing the same.

paska

Paska0001

HotCrossBunsDSC_0263_006

Hot Cross Buns0001

As I was surfing the web, I discovered another entry that describes Slovakian Easter traditions. No matter how often I read about, I still shake my head in amazement over the idea that “whipping” women would be any culture’s tradition. But, leave it to us hunkys!!!!

Posted 12 Apr 1999 – Martina Pisárová Culture & Society

As a native-born Slovak, it never occurred to me that there was anything striking about the way we celebrate one of the biggest of all Christian festivities, Easter. The suspicion that there was something peculiar about some of our customs only came when I was first confronted with the bewildered looks of foreign visitors to our country who obviously could not understand how they had managed to survive. And though these guests did not ask directly, they all seemed to wonder what the point of our ancient practices could possibly be.

It is difficult to understand, I admit, why a young girl dressed up in the national costume should be screaming with apparent enthusiasm while being chased by a bunch of young men who are trying to catch her and throw her in a nearby creek. But such scenes – I promise you- are now rarely seen in modern Slovakia.

An inevitable part of our Easter fun stems from a special willow cane which is hand-woven and decorated with colourful ribbons. Men pursue women brandishing the light branch, called a “korbáč” in Slovak, and use it to “whip” women on the legs when they catch up with them.

According to the traditional ritual, the ribbons on the cane, one of which is added by each victim, testifies to the number of girls and women a lad has managed to soak or whip. In turn for the happy bath and the enjoyable whipping of legs, girls give away hand-painted eggs, or chocolate eggs to young boys. The adults are usually offered a drink of spirits. While some parts of the genuine ritual are no longer observed, the drinking still remains on the list of inevitables nationwide. If you are lucky you can see the traditional Easter in villages. But even there the tradition has been adjusted to a more modern approach. In the cities, of course, people have always had the tendency to neglect folklore.

If I could speak for the women of this wonderful country, I would definitely say that if some progressive national assembly suddenly decided that the Easter Monday craze would be dropped forever, we would all be for it. Just imagine that you have spent the whole weekend shopping for food to be able to prepare all the necessary dishes for Easter. Common throughout Slovakia, for example, is the dish of potato salad and smoked ham, which is cut in thin slices and served on a plate. Every good housewife also bakes at least three sorts of cakes or pastry. When all tasks are done and finished on early Monday morning, women are usually simply too exhausted to resist the water violence effectively. They feel lucky if they manage to sneak out of the bed while the males of the house are still asleep because by male standards it is thought to be the greatest fun if they can attack the unwary victim with a bucketful of cold water in her bed. During the morning, the male relatives and friends ring the doorbell and repeat the ceremony of splash-and-whip again and again. As a woman you have to make sure that you have enough dry things to change into because you never know how many visits you can expect.

One variety of late 20th-century “whipper” has gotten, thank God, a bit more practical. He no longer carries a bucket of water with him. Instead he asks the lady for a cup, fills it with cold water, and then splashes it in her face. The whipping is culturally in retreat as well. Originally thought to keep women fertile, healthy and fresh for the rest of the year, our men are not so sure about that anymore.

In most areas of Slovakia to be a fully equipped whipper you have to have a small bottle of perfume in your pocket. To spray a few drops of perfume on the hair of the fairer sex is considered the final phase of a successful whipping turn.

Easter in Slovakia is loved by men and hated by the women. Never in my life have I met a woman who would praise this tradition. If possible, some women even choose to leave their homes for Easter weekend, and spend it in peace with friends who also find traditional Slovak Easter a little too much to handle.

So, if you need to make a decision about which tradition you’ll be honoring, I would suggest attending the Stations of the Cross and tackling a wonderful loaf of paska! It sure is something that you will enjoy AND it will keep you out of jail for whipping and drenching some poor unsuspecting hunky young lady!!!

This entry was posted in Church and School - Holy Name, Holidays - Non-Christmas and New Years, My Hunky Family, Springtime. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Hunky Springtime Rituals

  1. My mother and I (Doris Ignat Brady) were the only ones that would eat the Easter cheese, my dad or brothers never liked it. my grandmother always use to make it, then when she passed away my aunt carried on the tradition, sad to say that Gram, Aunt Jeanie, and my mom have not been with us for quite some time so I no longer have the pleasure of enjoying the Easter Cheese. Although I can make a lot of great hunky food, I unfortunately never learned how to make the, Easter Cheese 😦

  2. Bob Dougherty says:

    I don’t recall any “whipping” of the fairer sex during the Lenten/Easter season as I was growing up but I do remember that the day after Easter (monday) was “girl dunking” day (check it out on Google). I always thought it was a German tradition but after doing some research I learned that it was an Eastern European tradition. In our family (3 girls and 3 boys) my brothers and I enjoyed the day catching our sisters by surprise and throwing water on them

  3. Kathy Dobransky Hudak says:

    Today is not my day, I see !! The Paska pic is soooo awesome looking, I guess I will try and make this also(basic). But the 9 in tube pan they are talking about, is that the same as a cake pan?? If anybody knows, please let me know!! Thanks Jim, and good luck on making ur Paska. And my sister has that cookbook too.

    • debbie kuchma says:

      Kathy…….the pan they talk about is a round pan not a tube pan …i inherited my mother-in-law’s…..i have since found a few at antique shops for my sister’s…they kinda look like silver dog dishes……if you can’t find them you can use a pie plate it works pretty good…..have fun hope this helps

  4. Jack Schalk says:

    Thank heavens the male populace isn’t switching girls anymore.
    However, having a drink with the ladies in lieu of the physical torture makes very good sense to me.
    My Hungarian lineage is showing itself.

  5. Lynn Ivaska Kostelnik says:

    Thanks for the recipes. I think I will try these this year. I would love to get a copy of the Slovak-American cookbook. Do you think it might still be available online somewhere? My mother-in-law used to make the” easter egg”. Made with lots of cooked? eggs and left to drain in cheese cloth hanging over the sink. I also remember on Good Friday between 12 and 3 we were either at a community church service or at home sitting outside doing nothing because we were not allowed to play or watch tv. Also Hi Eileen Moses. I was a friend of your sister Jeannie.

    • Jim says:

      Lynn,
      I found several copies for sale on eBay. There apparently are different versions. The one that my aunts used was the “Anniversary Slovak – American Cookbook.” Good luck and happy bidding! – Jim

    • Jim says:

      Lynn, you may want to check out some previous posts that I did last year about Lynn, be sure to check out some previous posts from last year regarding sirecz, a.k.a. Easter Cheese. In the right hand column of my blog, you’ll see a section where you can “Search the Blog.” Just type in SIRECZ, and it will allow you to see previous posts about the subject. – Good luck!

    • John (Jack) Berta says:

      Lynn,
      Try this, to order the Slovak-American Cook Book. This information is from Fraternally Yours, the monthly magazine of the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association also known as Zenska Jednota. I’ m not sure how current it is. We don’t have our latest issue, only a recipe page we saved from an older issue The reverse of that page had the following information.

      No books are sold or delivered C.O.D. All are sold for cash.
      The cost of each book is $9.00. A carton of 18 books is $144 ($8.00 per book).
      Canada residents $11.00 per book.

      Send only money order or check payable to:

      First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association
      ATTENTION: Cook Book Department
      24950 Chagrin Boulevard
      Beachwood, OH 44122

      Include:

      Name:
      Address:
      City:
      State: Zip Code:
      Amount enclosed $ By: Check Money Order for: copies
      of the Slovak-American Cook Book

      I hope this helps. Mmmmm smells good!

    • debbie kuchma says:

      Lynn ….we have a party every year and make the easter cheese …..everyone brings their eggs and milk….we usually have 3 going at once ….come on down. down and bring your eggs……

    • John (Jack) Berta says:

      Lynn,
      I can now confirm the info above for the Slovak-American Cook Book is correct. We recieved our March issue of Fraternally Yours from the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association yesterday. Also they are on line at http://www.fcsla.com

    • Rosemary Green says:

      Contact here for cookbook: First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association 24950 Chagrin Blvd. Beachwood, Ohio 441225634 Phone 800 464-4642…Fax 216-4649260…E-mail info@fcsla.org…..www.fcsla.org

  6. Alice Harris says:

    Thanks for the great story, memories, and recipes.
    Happy Easter!!
    Alice Harris

  7. Jennifer Pastrick says:

    My sister Kirsten Pastrick sent me the same cookbook Slovak-American Cookbook (the anniversary edition) and I use it alot. Many of the recipes I have made and brought to traditional Alaskan potlatches. My native friends always mention how much they love OUR food. So I eat the smoked salmon and Mr Akpuk eats the stuffed cabbage rolls. He always brings a tupperware with him to make sure he can take some home too !!!!

  8. Beth Pastrick Keane says:

    How about the pastel colored Peeps (live baby chicks not the marshmellow ones!)from the 5&10 on First Street? THey use to have wooden playpens set up in the store loaded with the “peeping” baby chicks! New Shoes from the stride -rite store (or was it Buster Browns). I went to Holy Trinity and we always had stations on Friday afternoon…bonus for us since it was a shortened afternoon and we walked down to church from the school (two by two of course with 8th grade safety patrol at the corners where we had to cross!) and then we got to go home after stations. Pierogies for Lunch were sold from the church(not sure what the name of the church was but it wasn’t a catholic church) across from our school. Thanks for the nice memories, Jim.

  9. PLESCIA103 says:

    I want to thank you for these recipes.  Although I’ve since retired and moved to Cape Coral, Florida, I too am from Duquesne.  I graduated in 1968.  There are not enough words to use, to express how much I miss these 2 baked items at Easter time.  My previous mother-in-law and I would trek to Minerva Bakery every Easter for these 2 things.  She is no longer alive.  I miss her as much as I miss our tradition together.  I think I need to try my hand at these.  Wish me luck!  Thanks again and Happy, Blessed Easter to you.

    Eileen Moses (Huwalt) Plescia

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