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Preschool children learn about a Slovak Christmas

Courtesy photo of Zuzana Wiseley during a Slovak Christmas presentation.
Zuzana Wiseley in a traditional Slovak holiday outfit.

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Amy Downer and Zuzana Wiseley for the information in this story.)

The Chelsea Community Education Preschool had a special visitor on Dec. 6 – Zuzana Wiseley, the parent of a student in the school, who told the children about a “Slovak Christmas.”

Wiseley, from Slovakia, made the presentation as part of the children’s multicultural education.

“This helps our students learn about other families and their cultural traditions at holiday time,” Downer said.

Wiseley wore a traditional holiday outfit for the presentation and everyone tasted traditional holiday foods, listened to a traditional children’s story and music, and saw special toys made from Slovkia, Downer said.

“Slovak Christmas traditions vary greatly from region to region,” Wiseley said of the country with 5 million people. It’s located in the heart of Europe surrounded by Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary.

Each Dec. 6, Slovakia celebrates Saint Nicholas Day and follows a custom of leaving cleaned children’s winter boots on a windowsill on Dec. 5, in the hope that “Mikulas-St. Nicholas” will leave a present.

Albert and Greta Wiseley found a large chocolate Santa and a clementine in their boots on Dec. 6. In addition, Albert also found a basket full of treat bags for his classmates.

A child checks out a doll.

Slovak Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24 and is tied to Christianity, Wiseley said. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas morning, and it used to be hung from the ceiling above the table and decorated with apples, nuts and gingerbread cookies.

From the kitchen, smells of delicious specialties fill the house.

Albert’s classmates tasted “Oplatky,” paper thin wafers, which are served as a starter at Christmas dinner and served with honey and raw garlic cloves.

Depending on the region, a sauerkraut, lentil or mushroom soup is served next, followed by a potato salad and fish, Wiesley said. Dinner is served after a visit in church.

“Our family always walked home and stopped at the neighbor’s house to sing Christmas carols,” she said, adding, “And only then did everyone sat around our Christmas tree and open presents while my mom offered full trays of her baked Christmas cakes and cookies,” Wiseley said.

For the preschool presentation, she wore a traditional festive costume called “Kroj” from the Northeast part of Slovakia.

Children checked out some of the traditional presents — like hand-carved wooden toys, a doll dressed in Kroj, and walnut shell bee wax candles that are used for a traditional Christmas game played at a dinner table.

Wiseley sang a Christmas Carol called “Nesiem Vam Novinu.”

“My children are very fortunate to be able to enjoy traditions of both their Slovak and American family and I am so grateful to have been able to share it with Albert’s class,” Wiseley said.

Courtesy photo. Zuzana Wiseley shows the children a book.
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