Slovak Easter traditions are abundant, varied, and… weird. As many other cultures around the world, we decorate eggs, bake traditional sweets, and feast on ham. Bring it on, there’s nothing wrong with stuffing your face in the name of tradition, right? The custom I’ll let you in on, though, takes place on Monday after Easter, when the actual Easter holiday technically ended. It’s widespread all around Slovakia and for someone who didn’t grow up in Slovak culture may seem rather odd at best, and bordering on abuse at worst. On Monday morning Slovak men go from door to door visiting their favorite girls and women, and they don’t come empty-handed. No, no. Visiting somebody empty-handed would be rude, and all the Slovak men know that. So they have a hand-woven willow whip in one hand, and a bucket of icy-cold water in the other, and cheerfully knock on the door. When the poor female lets them in, they whip her and drench her in water. The rationale behind it is that by doing so, the girl would keep her health, beauty, and vitality for the entire next year. In exchange for the cold bath and the privilege of being whipped, the girl gives her manly visitors a decorated egg, and ties a colorful ribbon around their whip. As a bonus, the men almost always get a bite to eat and a shot of spirits as well. And off they go, because another girl from across the street is already waiting – schizophrenically hoping they’d stop by so she’d have something to brag about the next day, and praying their water won’t be so horribly cold as she remembers it from last year.
Easter whips and water have deep roots in Slovak culture. In the past, young men from Slovak villages used to throw the girls into a nearby creek, or pour water pulled from a well on them. The whipping, pretty eggs, and ribbons were a constant, as was the alcohol. The modern Easter traditions are somewhat different, maybe because majority of folks live in cities nowadays, and they don’t have a water stream running through their living room (and if they do, they have a bigger problem than thinking about bathing young girls in it!). The men still come, but instead of buckets maybe carry only a big glass of water, and their whipping is more moderate as well – at least in the early morning, when they haven’t had too many shots to drink. As the morning progresses, they become a lot less sober and a lot more insistent in their whipping. They want their favorite girls to be gorgeous and healthy, after all!
I have to say I don’t remember this Easter tradition with great fondness, and am now the only female in our family of four. So even though keeping traditions from back home is very important to me, I’ve decided I’m pretty and healthy enough and don’t need any Easter help from my men in this regard. Given the male – female ratio in our household I think that was a smart decision on my part. I stick to what I enjoy the best – I cook, decorate some blown-out eggs, and most of all, I bake. Everybody’s happy, nobody gets beaten, and in the evening I take a nice hot bath on my own.
Happy Easter, everybody. May we all be healthy and happy for the entire next year!
Easter Egg Cookies with Boozy Vanilla Buttercream
- 300 g (10.5 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temeperature
- 500 g (17.5 oz.) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 120 g ( 4 oz.) powdered sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 5 egg yolks
- 150 g (5 oz.) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 200 g (7 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoons rum
- To make the cookies: Cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Lastly, mix in the flour and combine until the dough forms a ball. Chill the dough, wrapped, for at least an hour, so it is easier to handle.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to less than ¼ inch (6mm) thickness. With a rectangular cookie cutter with scalloped edge, cut out the cookies, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the cookies on the baking sheets for about 20 minutes, and then cut out the smaller egg shape from half of them.
- Bake the cookies at 350 °F (175 °C) for about 10 minutes, until light brown around the edges. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a while, and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- To make the vanilla buttercream: In a water bath, whisk the egg yolks with powdered sugar until the mixture begins to thicken. Add vanilla and cornstarch, and continue to whisk until the crème is thick. Set aside and let cool.
- Cream the butter, gradually add vanilla and rum. Add the cooled egg yolk crème, one tablespoon at a time, and combine.
- To assemble the cookies: Spread 1 tablespoon of frosting on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the cut-out cookies with powdered sugar and press them onto the filling.
- Chill for about 30 minutes to firm up the filling, and then decorate the cookies with melted chocolate and/or sprinkles if desired.
(makes about 20 – 25 sandwich cookies)