Easter customs and ceremonies especially festive this year

Ljubljana – Easter is the biggest holiday of Christianity but apart from religious ceremonies, it is mainly about traditions handed down for centuries that are still observed both by religious and non-religious people in Slovenia. This year it will be especially festive with in-person events returning after two years of Covid restrictions.

Days immediately after Palm Sunday are spent cleaning up, tidying and decorating the home in preparation for Easter. Some will have started preparing dishes typical for this time of year, which have not changed much for centuries.

Good Friday is more of a quiet day as believers remember Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross. It is the only day on the Catholic calendar that masses are not celebrated. The believers observe a strict fast.

Meanwhile, the smaller Protestant community, centred in the north-east of the country, will hold their main Easter service on Friday. The altar will be covered in black cloth with a thorn crown placed on top.

All Easter dishes need to be ready on Saturday to be taken for blessings in wicker baskets and many a home will be sprinkled with holy water and blessed with holy fire.

A typical Easter basket includes “pirhi”, the elaborately decorated hard-boiled eggs, ham, horse radish, the potica cake, and selected local specialities.

These have not changed much since the times of the celebrated polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor. In his 1689 Glory of the Duchy of Carniola he lists smoked ham, salted beef, hard-boiled eggs and a wreath-shaped cake weighing up to 17 kilos as the dishes that were taken to blessings at the time. He also describes regional variations of the basket.

Evangelical Bishop Leon Novak says their community does not bless Easter dishes. Instead, kids hunt for Easter Bunnies.

The culmination of Easter for the Catholic community will start with Easter vigils at churches on Saturday evening. Sunday morning will start with resurrection masses with Easter processions, accompanied by bell-ringing.

Anton Jamnik, the auxiliary bishop of Ljubljana, says that the rich and festive liturgy, involving a lot of symbolism, singing as well as silence, attracts more people than usual to churches.

This year will be the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that Easter ceremonies will be held in person. Moreover, churchgoers will no longer have to wear facemasks.