I love the culture of Slovakia and find many of its customs interesting and fun. But this one is a little unusual even for me.
On the Monday after Easter, men try to catch women to whip them with a small willow branch (named a "korbáč" in Slovak) decorated with ribbons. The men use the whips to hit the women on the legs when they catch them.
But the fun doesn't stop there, the men are also obliged in some parts of Slovakia to pour cold water on the women or even throw the women in a stream.
And after all this, what do the men finally get? A slap on the face? A trip to the local jail? No, the women will then give them a decorated egg (or chocolate egg for a young boy) or alcohol for the adults.
The Slovak Spectator writes in one article:
“Pouring with ice-cold water belongs to pre-Christian habits,” Nádaská explains. “We know, for example, that all Slavonic tribes used to keep this habit. Water from a brook or a river was always considered “water of life”, i.e. that various positive features were attributed to it. In Slovak fairy tales, this water was even able to bring people and other creatures back to life, and this Easter tradition is based on “magic of the similar”; which means that the cold water from a brook or river, when used by a boy or man to pour over a girl, passes on its good features when touching the skin. Thus, women were believed to be made fit, rejuvenated, nimble, beautiful – all characteristics women needed in their lives.”...
Whipping is a similar case, she added. Young willow osiers were always used in western Slovakia to make the special whip, or korbáč. Willow is the first tree to get fresh new “sap of life” in the spring, and in the same way as the water, the good features of the young osiers were meant to transmit to the body of a girl or woman.