If you visit Slovakia in January or February, the chances are that you’ll get to see one of our Fašiangy carnivals. They take place all around the country, but their form may vary from region to region, sometimes even from village to village.
Despite the low, often sub-zero temperatures, most of these winter carnivals are held outside, in the streets, so that everybody can come and join in the festivities. They stem from a centuries long tradition of celebrating the sun’s return to our lives after the December Solstice.
Naturally, warmth-giving drinks and fatty meats are part of the Slovak diet in the cold winter months. During the Fašiangy season, which starts after 6th January, home-bred pigs are usually slaughtered in rural households and the meat is shared among the family members or with neighbours.Fašiangy carnivals concide with the main ballroom season, which officially opens on the second weekend in January with the most prominent ball taking place in Bratislava’s Opera House.
In Kežmarok – a glorious historical town under The High Tatras – the ballroom season is enhanced by a traditional, family-style Fašiangová zabíjačka or Fašiangy Pork Feasts organized by the Hotel Hviezdoslav staff.
In line with the new EU regulations, the actual killing of the pig happens out of visitors’ sight. The carcass is then butchered and the meat is cooked or processed into sausages, black pudding and headcheese, most of which is done in the hotel’s kitchen.
A marquee is put up on the terrace to welcome members of the local community, as well as guests who come for a feast of pork soup, roast ham, pagatche and pickled vegetables.
Of course, there’s always a traditional folk ensemble playing to add to the general merriment, and freshly-made meat products can be bought from the stalls in the courtyard.
Four adjacent houses from the 17th century make up today’s Hotel Hviezdoslav. The houses were renovated between 2009 – 2014 and interconnected to create a small, but unique historical complex. The hotel is named after a great Slovak poet who lived in one of the old houses during his studies at Kežmarok Lyceum in 1865 – 1870.