Cultural Spotlight: Slovakia

 

Jenny Goldade

 

Written by Jenny Goldade

 

 

Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.

 

But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.

 

This article looks at Slovak funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Mongolian funeral traditions and Irish funeral traditions, among others.

 

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

 

Slovak Death Beliefs

Many Slovaks believe in ghosts, witches, and other supernatural beings. Some even believe witches can cause illnesses by giving people “the evil eye.” They also believe a deceased person’s spirit can come back and cause misfortunes for their family.

 

Traditional Slovak Funeral

Traditionally when someone died, their family washed and prepared the body for burial at their home. Then, they placed the body in a wooden casket. During the overnight vigil, loved ones came to pay their respects to the deceased.

 

The next day was the funeral ceremony, usually at a Catholic church. As of 2011, 62% of Slovaks are Catholic. Most Catholic Slovaks also believe in the afterlife.

 

Afterward, there was a funeral procession to the cemetery for the burial. Many times, the cemeteries were next to or near the Catholic churches.

 

Slovak Funeral Today

Today, a Slovak funeral hasn’t changed much besides the preparation of the body happening at a funeral home. Embalming also wasn’t introduced to many Slovak villages until the 1980s. Most Slovaks still choose embalming and burial over cremation. A traditional burial with a viewing and ceremony is most common, but some choose direct burial with a graveside ceremony.

 

Mourning Period

The mourning period typically lasts for about one year. During this time, adult daughters and widows wear black and dark colors. Some widows may even choose to wear black clothing for the rest of their life.

 

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