In Slovenia, Easter has many colourful traditions and customs dating centuries into the past. It has always been an important feast for the people of Slovenia. This, the biggest Christian feast, brought about the end of a long fast, which started on Ash Wednesday, and on Easter, the table was laden as on no other occasion. The essential ham, bread, horseradish and potica, a special Slovenian cake are accompanied by colourful decorated eggs during this time of the year.
Blessed and coloured eggs are a long-lasting tradition in Slovenia. In some regions, Easter eggs represent real folk art that has its own speech and represents an important part of the local cultural heritage, belonging to the most beautiful in Europe. An Easter egg was a traditional gift from a girl to a boy. A girl who was not allowed to tell a boy with words that she loved him could write of her love on the Easter egg.
In Slovenia, these eggs are called pirhi, pisanice, pisanke, remenice or remenke. Pisanice and remenice are typical of the Slovenian eastern parts in their characteristic geometrical and stylised forms. On the other hand, Easter eggs in the Primorska and Gorenjska region feature mostly nature motifs, usually flowers and plants. In the painting of pisanice, special wooden instruments are used and making an Easter egg takes time. The right tools are required, as are design skills deriving from the tradition.
In the middle of the last century, the leading Slovenian ethnologist Dr. Niko Kuret wrote that `richly decorated Easter eggs are a genuine Slovenian custom that is not found among either the Germanic or the Romance peoples.` Leading Slovenian ethnologist of today Dr. Janez Bogataj classes the making of coloured Easter eggs as a traditional Slovenian folk craft, since today, pisanice are made throughout the year in many parts of the country and sold as souvenirs. Clearly, these decorated Easter eggs are too beautiful to be used as an ordinary Easter dish and eaten as eggs, so they are usually painted as empty eggshells. In this way, a pisanica makes a suitable permanent souvenir.
On Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week, bunches of spring greenery are blessed. The Christian custom of plaiting bundles dates to the 9th century, and probably derives from a custom known throughout pagan medieval Europe. These bundles, of different shapes and sizes, are known by different names in different parts of Slovenia. The most special of all bundles is the ‘Ljubljana Bundle’. They are renowned abroad for being the only bundles of their kind. The easiest way to acquire them is to go to Ljubljana’s flower market, near the Cathedral.
Good Friday remains a strict day of fasting. In some areas, the fast continues on Saturday. Until recently, a special ‘fast dish’ was eaten on Holy Saturday, which was intended to remind people of the times of severe hunger that plagued Carniola in 1529. This dish is called Aleluja and was made from turnip peelings. On Holy Saturday in most Slovenian towns and villages people bless their Easter meals.
While Easter Sunday is a day for solemn contemplation and a time to stay home with family, in Slovenia, Easter Monday is traditionally a day of relaxation. On this day, it is customary to go visiting, hiking, or celebrating. Changing from your old wardrobe to the new on Easter Monday was also an old custom.
Easter is also important in Slovenia in a tourist sense since it brings the feeling of spring and traditionally opens the spring-summer tourist season. Tourist providers prepare Easter packages for this period that are, besides accommodation, activities and relaxation, based on socialising and inclusion of the local cultural heritage in connection with Easter. In other words, holidays are also a time to actively become familiar with and experience the traditional holidays and habits of people who live in the region.