Mikuláš Day!

A selection of classic Slovak sweets including horalky

A selection of classic Slovak sweets including horalky

My Mikuláš Day presents: Cmmunist-era sweets!

To another flurry of snow (it’s still not really settling yet though) this morning I opened my presents from St Nick… think I’m 19 days ahead of schedule? Uh-uh. Slovakia, along with several other countries in Central Europe, celebrates Mikuláš (aka St Nicholas) Day today in a far more poignant way than I was used to in England (where it gets but a cursory treatment).

Last night my girlfriend (K hereon in to save on characters) instructed me to clean my shoes (ideally a large pair) and put them in the window to see what Mikulás/St Nicholas would bring to place in them. Well, rather foolishly I put out a rather smallish pair of shoes, whilst K put out some big ones. Mikulás, undeterred by the space he had to stuff the presents, managed to get, unobserved by all, no fewer than two massive sacks filled to the brim with almost every imaginable Communist sweet and chocolate! (so much, in fact, as to warrant its own post – to follow). K, meanwhile, got a rather less-Communistic panettone and bottle of Italian wine.

Upon closer inspection, it appears everywhere from the Ukraine to Germany to parts of France to various German-influenced cities in the US like Cincinatti celebrate St Mikulás/Nicholas Day with presents in the shoes. The English are missing out: this has to be a candidate for the first Slovak tradition I’m introducing to England!

Traditionally, however, Mikulás does not appear alone in Slovak homes but with an angel and/or a devil, no less. The angel would appear to bring children small (often sweet-themed) presents to reward them for good behaviour over the last year and encourage them to continue being good over the next one. But, had they been bad (or if they had not cleaned the shoes they left out for Mikulás) then the devil would come to fill their shoes with coal. I guess I did just enough to avoid getting the coal: we’ll see what next year holds in store!

Anyway, I spent a very enjoyable day munching Slovakian sweets and chocolates. My favourite so far? Well, the Jesinka is pretty naughty: it’s thick sweet synthetic cream that you basically squirt into your mouth! The horalky – one of the more common ones, a chocolate-wrapped wafer that no hiker should venture into the mountains without – was of course good. But I LOVED Sójové rezy: a surprisingly delicious sweet but one that looks quite unappetising when you unwrap it (a heavy, colourless, dumpling-like roll). Put it in your mouth, however, and the heavy soya-based Sójové rezy takes on the taste of what I can only describe as that of Baileys! Yet another example of a Slovak food that, whilst not looking that appealing, tastes pretty damned perfect.