Bobalky--Ancient Slovak Christmas Bread

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Alternate names and spellings for this dish

bobaliki, bobalki, bobalky, boblaky, loksa, and possibly others



The exact beginnings and history of the poppy seed and honey dish is unclear. It may have been part of the Slovak and Central European Solstice and Christmas Traditions for hundreds of years.

Pre-Christian Slovaks believed that the spirits of the dead lingered around after an individual died. These spirits needed to be respected and acknowledged. Serving this bread at Solstice time was a way to communicate with the dead. By leaving a small portion of Bobalky on an open window sill, and having birds or small animals eat some of this bread, the living could communicate with the "dead spirits" and the "dead spirits" communicate with the living. Poppy seeds were sometimes scattered throughout the home to ward off evil spirits. Honey was considered a source of life and vitality. These pre-Christian myths were later included into the Christmas Traditions.


A Very Unusual Tradition

It's an unusual tradition that starts with the disclaimers "Don't try this at home!" and "Use under the supervision of a responsible adult!" One of the foods of the Christmas Eve dinner is associated with a very unusual tradition in many areas of Slovakia and the Ukraine. As Christmas Eve dinner begins the father takes a spoon full of Loksa, Bobalky, or Kutia and throws it up on the ceiling. The more of the mixture that sticks to the ceiling, the bigger shall his crops be the following season. You get best results and the biggest mess if you have a textured ceiling. It does add quite a bit of excitement to your Christmas Eve dinner, but it does raise an additional question. Can the person who agrees to let you do this really be considered a "responsible adult".




Traditional Bobalky or Loksa

Bobalky at home was always made with fresh bread dough, but today, one can use frozen bread roll dough from the supermarket. Either prepare or buy about 1 pound of bread dough. To make Bobalky, pinch off portions of your bread dough into small pieces about an inch in diameter. Place on a greased cookie sheet, set in a warm location, and let rise for for 15 minutes. Then bake at 375-F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. When cool break the bread pieces in half and place in a colander.

Cook 1 1/2 cups of ground poppy seed in 3/4 cup of water for 10 minutes. Bring 3 cups of milk to a boil. Add either 1 cup of sugar or honey or according to how sweet you want the Bobalky to be. Now pour about 2 cups of boiling water over the bread. Mix the poppy seed and milk & sweetening together and pour over the bread. Mix well and you have Bobalky. Can be served either warm or cooled from the refrigerator. It was traditional to have bobalky every Christmas and New Year.


Bill Myerchin family's Bobaliki

This is the pronunciation and technique given for "bobalki" (a Christmas bread pudding) from our branch of the Myerchin family. We suggest preparing at least 24 hours before Christmas Eve.

Ingredients: Amounts are approximate and to taste.

1 to 2 loaves worth of plain white bread dough
1 can of "Solo" brand poppy seed filling (2 if softer result is desired)
3/4 to 1 cup boiling water
1 to 1 1/2 cup honey
dash salt

Form dough into 3/4 inch wide breadsticks.
Arrange evenly on a baking sheet (greased or with parchment paper). Score at 1/2 inch intervals and bake until browned. Cool on a rack.

Break cooled bread pieces into a large bowl. Sizes do not have to be uniform, but should be smaller than 1 inch around. Add salt, poppy seed filling and drizzle in a small amount of hot water. Mix well. Continue to alternate honey and small amounts of hot water while mixing.

Refrigerate one day to allow even distribution of moisture. Serve cold.

Wetting the bread with hot water should be done very gradually. It seems strange to soak soft bread with water, but as the bread is mixed, the pieces take more of a ball shape. The poppy seed filling used to be made by manually grinding many ounces of seeds and including more honey in the recipe. The mixture was made outdoors and stored in a container in the snow.

The bread dough we use is prepared through the first rise in a bread machine. We use a basic white bread and add one egg. We have also made it from scratch using a recipe for 1 1/2 loaves or by using prepared frozen white bread dough from the supermarket. Baking time varies, since the breadstick pieces bake quickly and ovens vary. Watch the baking ­ usually it is about 30 minutes at 350 degrees ­ and try not to dry the bread too much.



1999 Christmas Eve Prague Radio Broadcast, partially translated

Program for the holy evening

Welcomely, listener inside and listener admired, to the Weihnachtsprogramm of radio Prague. In place of the usual messages we begin our transmission with weihnachtlichen thoughts of Svatopluk Karasek, an Evangelist minister. Subsequently, you load Franz Josef Balkhausen , Katrin support and Danilo Hoepfner to a typical Christmas, as the Roma in this country celebrated it in former times and still today celebrates z. T..

Let now, after this weihnachtlichen thoughts of Svatopluk Karasek to one Christmas with the Roma invite itself!


Czech Roma celebrates Christmas

Karacona - in such a way the Roma living in Tschechien calls Christmas. Like most Roma living in Europe also the Czech Christian faith accepted. Some Biblical stories interpreted they in the course of the centuries in their way, so that these became then a component of their narrations and fairy tale world, as for example history over the erschaffung of humans:

"after God the world create had, decided he also humans to create. For this purpose it formed humans out of paste and pushed it into the baking-oven. But God charged itself with the time, and as it humans from the furnace got, was this completely black and angebrannt. And God said itself: "well, nothing makes. Black humans will live, where it is hot and the sun shines." And God formed second humans out of paste and said that it will be this time careful. But God was too careful, and as it humans this time from the furnace got, was this still incompletely and completely knows. And God said itself: "well, nothing makes. This white humans will live, where it is cold and the sun does not shine continuing." And God formed humans to the third time and imagined that it must fold this time however. And indeed: When God got third humans from the furnace, this was perfect: brown burned, like that as it to be should. And God said itself: "this brown humans are perfect, that can everywhere on earth live." And in such a way it came that the Roma is to be found everywhere in the world."

The Roma today living in Tschechien originates to the largest part from the Slowakei. Here also their typical Weihnachtsbraeuche developed, from which some into the today's, consumeroriented time kept. Even if the Roma took over in the meantime customs of typically Czech Christmas and some its traditions into oblivion came, then differ Roma Christmas nevertheless also still today from those of the Czechs.

Anna Zigova, which is concerned for a long time with customs and traditions of the Roma, tells the following about the probably most alive and most beautiful customs:

"there are two things, by which from the Czech differ Roma Christmas. One is gegenseitge assigning. The Roma say that at the latest up to the pc. September Hans day families and friends everything must assign themselves, which they did themselves in the year bad. That is a very sensitive principle, which is always kept.

The second custom unusual for Czechs is the memory of the dead ones in the family. This happened not only by telling memories of these, but is such a ritual. Before dinner in the holy evening a special meal is prepared, the so-called Bobalky. That is somewhat something similar as Gnocci, which are bestraeubt with sugar. This special meal for the dead ones is put on a plate, which is placed on the window board. That is so a seizable memory and victim for the dead ones in the family.

Naturally the children are most curious, which probably passsiert with the meal on the window board. And if any bird the Bobalky it has angeknabbert or mitgenommmen then that is a proof for the fact that the dead ones got their meal."

Even if you should Bobalkys once try or however the custom of the Roma to celebrate want, Bartolonej Ziga betrays the prescription:

"like one Bobalki makes? Now one makes in such a way: One takes flour, yeast, sugar and something salt and forms out of it a paste. One lets these go and forms then out of it small balls. One puts and bakes these on a greased sheet metal her gold-brown. Afterwards the balls are put into a dish and tasted with hot water poured over, so that they become softer, and with butter, sugar and milk."

Another variant of the Bobalky contains also potatoes. Out of the cooked and rubbed potatoes with flour, water and salt a paste is formed. This is formed to cones, which are thrown into cooking water. If they swim above, they are finished.

To the preparation of the Bobalky a further tradition is attached:

"if the mother the Bobalky prepares, then the children watch out, when they can stibitzen inconspicuously and unobserved a bit of the paste. If nobody notices somewhat, then one says, then the children will have so skillful fingers in the next year, how much paste they could stibitzen."

Before the Roma was resettled from the socialist government to Boehmen and Maehren, they lived in their slowakischen Doerfen, where the families maintained the old Weihnachtstraditionen. We look once, how such one Christmas looked. The preparations for this began mostly already in the summer, because most Roma families were poor, and so one began to save in time for the large celebration. If Christmas then always moved closer, the large Weihnachtsputz began:

"it began with the Advent, even if the Roma does not use this word, with the large finery. Regularly before Christmas the house was really painted again. Each Roma woman could do this and carefully weisste her their house. That were mostly small huts with only one room and loamy soil. Painting was the task of the nut/mother and daughters. The sons collected wood, so that for cooking and heating was sufficient there. Then one went to the farmer and got fresh straw - slama. This straeute one on the clean soil. In some families only symbolically under the table, in others one strewed it everywhere on the soil, carried the table out and ate on the soil, in order to remind of where Jesus came to the world. The straw did not only have this meaning, but brought also luck. After the meal at Christmas eve the spoons with straw were tied together - thus the family also in the next year together-remain become. Still another further custom is connected with the straw: After the Weihnachtsfeiertagen still unmarried girls carried the straw from the house on a hill. From the direction, in which the wind blew the straw, the future bridegroom should come."

The custom of the straw strewing remembers also Milan Cina, which lives for 34 years in Prague. Its childhood spent Milan Cina in a slowakischen village, in which the old Weihnachtsbraeuche of the Roma was still alive.

"I remember still, when I was a small boy, had the whole floor in the room at Christmas eve with straw to be laid out. I believe, this straw laying out am still so an old custom from the Ukraine and am of modest conditions in the stable to Bethlehem to remind. Natural the whole family was together at Christmas eve. My nut/mother prepared the meal. There were herb bags or Skubanky - so a kind Kartoffelnockerln - or plum-accumulate and in addition also sour meals. My father came then into the room, loaded us on the straw and wished us much luck and health our whole life long. In addition praised itself all relatives to always meet also in the future on Christmas. Then - after the meal - we met in a corner of the room, where then the Beschereung before the Christmas tree took place. Everyone of us children received its Weihnachstgeschenk from the hand of our father. Giving failed usually rather becheiden, it gave not these mountains of gifts, how this is often today the case. In former times that was smaller everything a number. We got, a new pair of shoes, new trousers, a shirt or also a teddybaer. It was thus - as said - much, but we children made us happy nevertheless always animal about the gifts."

Finally, waiting for meals in the holy evening began goods all preparations. The gifts failed mostly, like already Milan Cina mentioned, lean.

"natural was eaten all day long nothing, above all however no meat. To the children one threatened, if they eat something before the evening, then comes the Luca, and before that they had fear. Only during the dinner, often in addition, only on 25 December, meat could be eaten. The meal was mostly simple, as in the country usual, beside the mentioned Bobalky gave it to beans or sauerkraut. Always also of the dead ones one reminded, not only to in this year the relative died, but also to other generations. On the table according to more plate was covered. Before one began with the meal, then the oldest one reminded, usually the father or grandfather, to the dead ones, that was like that something like a small prayer. And then they segneten the present ones. Often they took in addition and with this formed them a cross on the forehead of everyone to honey. The meant that one should be also in the next year as sweet and good as honey to each other."

Far common it was in the slowaksichen Roma settlements also to invite to the Christmas eve meal beggar. In addition Bartolomej Ziga:

"that was in each village different. In some the Roma was involved to the church, because before this normally the beggars were, and invited one from them to itself home. In our village that was other one. We welcomed it, if it knocked unexpected on the holy evening at the door and a genuine vagrant or beggar before the door. That was invited immediately. Its place was directly beside the furnace and the nut/mother brought it from what also we ate. To the meal, so against nine, the children went to o'clock in the village and asked, at which family a beggar or a vagrant was to guest. And there then many met and asked the guest out. And this told pieces of news from the villages, by which he came. Later then, against 23, all began to ask o'clock the guest, a history to tell, because they could do that really well. And in such a way the vagrant began with a fairy tale, and those were always very long, sometimes told he to 2, 3 o'clock in the morning. We children fell nauerlich over before tiredness and overslept the end. In the morning we asked then, how it had gone out, and tried, to persuade the guest the fairy tale again for us to tell."

"Nach dem Abendessen ging man ins Dorf, zu Verwandten und Nachbarn zum sogenannten Vynsovani - dem Weihnachtswünschen. Meistens war es dann schon nach Mitternacht. Das Vynsovani war sehr poetisch. Meistens waren es so vergleiche wie, seien wir zueinander so wie das schwarze Brot zur schwarzen Erde ist oder so ähnlich. So poetisch und gleichzeitig war es verbunden mit dem gegenseitigen Vergeben und dem Bemühen, sich mit jedem wieder gut zu stellen. Vergeben und um Vergebung bitten - und alle hatten ein offenes Herz an diesem Tag. Alle waren offen zueinander, und mit viel Geweine und Emotionen wurde alles vergeben und vergessen. Das war die Tradition, dass man bis zum Sankt-Stephanus-Tag alles vergeben musste."

Vergebung und Versöhnung sind für die Roma von beinahe existentieller Bedeutung. Denn zumindest früher, als die Roma eine isolierte Gruppe darstellten, mussten sie unter sich sehr solidarisch sein. Sie waren abhängig von der Roma-Gemeinschaft, in der sie jeweils lebten. In Unfrieden mit den eigenen Leuten zu leben, wäre demnach auf lange Sicht untragbar gewesen. Die Roma nutzten das Weihnachstfest daher, die zwischenmenschlichen Beziehungen in ihrer Gemeinschaft oder innerhalb der Familie noch mehr zu festigen. Denn schon in alten Zeiten hieß die Devise: Wenn wir Roma zusammenhalten, können uns weder Hunger noch Armut noch andere Unbilden des Lebens etwas anhaben. Beschwört wir dieses Zusammenhalten der Roma-Gemeinschaft durch Sprüche wie diesen:

"Roma vergeben einander
Roma bitten sich gegenseitig um Vergebung.
Roma, wie groß der Unfrieden auch untereinander gewesen sein mag, vergeben einander an Weihnachten und vertragen sich wieder.
Wie könnten wir überhaupt leben, wenn wir wir einander nicht vergeben könnten."

Auch Milan Cina erinnert sich, dass die Männer gemeinsam mit ihren Söhnen an Heiligabend zu fortgeschrittener Stunde noch einmal aus dem Haus gingen:

"Nach der Bescherung gingen die Männer so gegen 8, 9 oder 10 Uhr noch einmal aus dem Haus - genauer gesagt: Sie besuchten sich alle gegenseitig. In unserem Dorf lebten ungefähr 40 Familien, oder besser gesagt - unser Dorf bestand aus ungefähr 40 Häusern. Am Abend zogen die Leute also buchstäblich - wie man so schön sagt - um die Häuser. An jedem Haus wurde angeklopft. Jeder wünschte jedem Frohe Weihnachten, und dabei wurde dann natürlich das eine oder andere Gläschen getrunken. Das ganze Dorf hat sich so also gegenseitig besucht und Weihnachtsgrüße ausgetauscht. Das Singen der Weihnachstlieder war damals viel schöner als heute. Denn die Musikanten standen jeweils unter dem Fenster, wenn sie ihr Weihnachtsständchen brachten.

Und am letzten Haus versammelten sich dann alle Männer des Dorfes und blieben dort bis zum Morgengrauen. Es war aber keineswegs so, dass die Leute alle besinnungslos betrunken waren, denn die vertrugen eine ganze Menge. Man trank, aß ein paar Happen dazu und lauschte den Musikanten auf ihren Akkordeons und Fidelkästen."

Zum traditionellen Weihnachtsfest gehört für die gläubigen Christen der Gang zur feierlichen Messe natürlich dazu, dieses gilt auch für viele Roma.

"Sicher sind die Leute an Weihnachten auch in die Kirche gegangen.Allerdings nicht in der Weihnachtsnacht selbst, sondern erst am ersten Weihnachtstag. Die Roma damals auf dem Land waren zumeist sehr religiös. So hielten viele von ihnen damals noch den Brauch ein, an Heiligabend vom Frühstück bis zum Abend auf fette Speisen zu verzichten. Manche Roma in der Slowakei machen das übrigens noch bis heute so."

"Wenn sich Mitternacht näherte, so steckte man in eine Buchtel oder ein Brotende eine Kerze und legte diese in einen Eimer. Mit dem gingen die Jungen zum Bach oder zum Brunnen. Denn man sagte, dass das Mitternachtswasser die Kraft hat, dass der Mensch gesund bleibe. Wenn man in dieses Wasser noch Geld werfe, so werde man im kommenden Jahr reich. Die Jungen trugen also in dem Eimer das Mitternachtswasser nach Hause und mit diesem wuschen sich dann alle und glaubten, dass sie im kommeden Jahr gesund und reich sein werden."

Vieles hat sich in den letzten Jahren verändert. Viele Roma sind umgezogen und leben nicht mehr in ihren Dorfsiedlungen in der Slowakei. Auch das Verhältnis zwischen Roma und Nicht-Roma hat sich in den letzten Jahren verändert, wie Frau Zigova zu berichten weiss:

"In der Slowakei war noch so etwas Interessantes. Im Unterschied zu heute glaubten früher die Bauern, dass die Roma ihnen auch Glück bringen. Und so wünschten sie sich ausdrücklich, dass sie auch zu ihnen zum erwähnten Vynsovani kämen. Sie bestellten sich direkt die Roma, die während des Jahres auf ihren Höfen und Feldern bei der Arbeit halfen , und baten sie, sie bei den Weihnachtswünschen nicht zu vergessen. Denn sie glaubten, dass das Glück bringt. Das Vynsovani war eine Angelegenheit der Männer und Jungen - denn die, so glaubte man allgemein, bringen von sich aus Glück. Mädchen und Frauen durften nicht von Haus zu Haus ziehen und Glück wünschen, sie hatten das Essen vorzubereiten und aufzuräumen. In einigen Gegenden gab es auch sog. Jaslikari. Das waren Männer, die auf so kleinen Tragen Krippen trugen und mit diesen von Haus zu Haus zogen und Weihnachtslieder sangen. Das waren fast überall nur Roma."

Mit Roma verbindet man zumeist auch Musik, ihre Lieder und Musikalität sind bekannt. Erstaunlich ist, dass es kaum typische Roma-Weihnachtslieder gibt. Zu allen Anlässen singen die Roma ihre Lieder, nur zu Weihnachten singen sie hierzulande die tschechischen bzw. slowakischen Weihnachtslieder. Nur einige Lieder haben einen Text in ihrer Sprache. Dies hängt damit zusammen, dass die Roma die Weihnachtslieder zumeist für die Bauern sangen, für die Gadzo - die Nicht-Roma also - und dieses dann auch in deren Sprache.

Wie sieht das Weihnachtsfest der Roma heute aus? Zum Heiligen Abend speisen die meisten von ihnen Kartoffelsalat und Schnitzel, die bei den Tschechen beliebten Karpfen sind nur selten auf dem Tisch von Roma-Familien zu sehen. Und sonst? Hören wir noch einmal Milan Cina:

"Wir Stadt-Roma haben die ganzen Sitten von damals eigentlich schon alle vergessen. Was z.B. das Essen angeht, so besteht unser heutiger Speisezettel an Heiligabend fast ausschließlich aus Fleischgerichten. Was noch genauso ist wie früher, ist das, dass auch heute an Heiligabend noch alle Familienangehörigen zusammenkommen. Es wird zwar kein Stroh mehr ausgestreut, aber wir machen es uns gemütlich und lassen es uns gut gehen. Die gegenseitigen Besuche beschränken sich heute natürlich nur noch auf die unmittelbaren Familienangehörigen. Ich besuche die Familie meines Bruders, und die wiederum besucht uns. Ansonsten gilt: Die Roma in Prag und anderen Städten feiern das Weihnachtsfest wie alle anderen Tschechen auch. Das Schlimme ist, dass unsere Kinder die Roma-Sprache zwar teilweise noch verstehen, sie selbst aber nicht mehr sprechen können. "

Zum Abschluss unserer Weihnachtsendung wünschen wir Ihnen so Weihnachten, wie es unter Roma Brauch war und z.T. immer noch ist.

Zum Weihnachtsfest wünsche ich euch und euren Kindern, Dass ihr alle gesund bleibt und dass das Leben euch allen noch viele glückliche Stunden bringen wird.

Wenn ihr was zu trinken und etwas Brot gebt, dann danke ich euch dafür ganz herzlich und wünsche euch allen noch einmal Glück und Gesundheit - Gaben, die der Herr uns geschenkt hat.

Und damit wünschen wir allen Hörern von Radio Prag ein Frohes Weihnachtsfest!

Frohe Weihnachten!

Slovak and Christmas Traditions

Christmas Eve Holy Supper or Svjatyj Vece





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