15. A Collection of Slovak Winter Sayings

By Vanesa Djibrilova

Each culture and each language present their own practical and moral guidance to the human experience. This wisdom is often summed up into catchy short phrases – sayings and proverbs.

The authorship of Slovak proverbs is largely unknown. Most folk sayings likely predate the 19th century. However, perhaps many would be forgotten if it wasn’t for the efforts of Záturecký, whose compilation of Slovak proverbs, sayings and phrases was published in the 1890s. It has been reprinted and treasured as one of the most valuable sources preserving this part of 19th-century Slovak culture.

Here are some mindful reminders from 19th-century Slovak folk wisdom about the winter season:

Whatever you do on a festive day will come back to you.

(Čokoľvek robíš vo sviatok, to všetko ide naspiatok.)

This was originally a superstitious proverb. It actually advocates for enjoying festive pleasures. While the phrase can be understood differently, the focus is on regulating the ratio between work and pleasure. If you celebrate and rest on holidays, you will be rewarded in the future. However, if you work hard even on a festive day, you are likely to have only more work come back to you.

How it is on New Year’s Day, that way will be the rest of the year.

(Ako na Nový Rok, tak po celý rok.)

This phrase remains in the collective memory of Slovak-speaking people and is still used in the present day. What you do on New Year’s Day will come back to you for the rest of the year, or what you prioritise on this symbolic day is likely what you will tend to all year round. Commonly, Slovak people try to surround themselves with their friends and family on this festive day, if for nothing else, then at least to let their loved ones know that they choose to spend time together with the promise of pleasant, shared moments in the year ahead.

I wish you all the best during this holiday season. May the winter holidays be good on you and the New Year’s Day as pleasant as the new year ahead.


Image Credit: Landscape in Winter. Oil painting on canvas by Ladislav Menyánsky. Ca 1900. Slovak National Gallery. Image from: https://www.slovakiana.sk/kulturne-objekty/cair-ko1izkf/stiahnut

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