Learning How to Make Potica and other Slovenian Easter Traditions

slovenian easter traditions

One of my favorite parts of traveling and living abroad is learning about new holiday traditions. Whether it is new traditions for familiar holidays or entirely new holidays! Easter traditions in Slovenia are vibrant and some have become iconic to the country.

I wanted to share my personal experiences over the holiday weekend and pair it with other traditions around the country. I realize that this is a religious holiday and not practiced by everyone in Slovenia. There are Orthodox Christians who will celebrate on the following Sunday, and others who do not celebrate either.

Read about my Guide to Pust, the Slovenian Carnival that kicks off the Easter season.

Ljubljana Butarica and Good Friday

colorful Ljubljana butarica

On Friday, while out to eat at Odprta Kuhna I saw several tables full of butarice (or butara). The best way to describe them is sort of like a bouquet in English. They are often referred to as bundles. In different parts of Slovenia, they use different flowers, branches, or greenery in them. The most common being olive branches. They are meant to be taken to church on the Sunday before Easter, called Cvetna Nedelja (literally Flower Sunday or Palm Sunday), to be blessed by the priest, a custom dating back to the 9th century in Central Europe. Ljubljana’s butarica is my favorite with all of the colors painted on dried wood shavings.

In more traditional parts of Slovenia, Good Friday is a day of strict fasting. It is also sometimes referred to as Big Friday (Veliki petek) and many people refrain from eating meat and church bells are silent.

Making Potica on Holy Saturday

My Saturday began with my mother-in-law, Nada, teaching me how to make potica. Potica is probably one of the most famous Slovenian desserts. It is a rolled dough with filling, most commonly walnut, but there are around 50 recognized variations around Slovenia. She made the entire process super easy to learn, having much of the ingredients measured out and ready to go.

making potica

First, you make the dough, because it needs around 2 hours to rise.

slovenian easter tradition

Next, you mix the ingredients for the filing, in our case, we used walnuts, egg whites, rum, cocoa powder, sugar, and butter.

potica for easter
making potica

Once the dough is ready it is rolled out on a tablecloth. Then you spread the filling and add some rum soaked raisins.

potica
Nada soaks the raisins in rum throughout the year!

Then you bake and wait for the finished product! You can make them in different shapes depending on your pan. Typically they are done as a rolled log, or round like you see above.

Coloring Eggs: Slovenian Style

While we waited for the dough to rise Jaka arrived and we all colored eggs together. Trying different dyes, mixing colors, using different stickers, and topping them off with an oil rub to make them shiny. You can also use a piece of fat to rub on the eggs to give them a glossy look.

decorating eggs in Slovenia
pirhi Slovenian eggs

For some in Slovenia, Holy Saturday is the day to end their fast. An old tradition is to eat a dish called Aleluja which has is made from dried turnips, water, and flour or porridge. This tradition dates back to a famine in 1529.

Another tradition which I find very fascinating is called žegen. A custom from the 16th century that is still practiced today where women carry a basket with food for Sunday’s meal to the church and a priest blesses it. It is usually full of ham, potica, horseradish, and painted Easter eggs (called pirhi).

Read | Do Slovenians Celebrate Halloween?

Decorated eggs for Easter in Slovenia have many names, depending on the region. It is really interesting that they have a completely new word for the eggs once they are colored and decorated. The motifs and techniques vary around the country but are all very elaborate and is a specific feature to Slovenian culture. Previous years I learned to use flowers and greenery and natural coloring techniques.

potica
Completed potica!

Easter Sunday in Slovenia

Slovenian easter eggs
Working hard to fill our baskets with beautiful eggs.

In Slovene, Easter Sunday is called Velika noč which translates to The Big Night. For those who participated in žegen, the blessed basket full of food is now presented to the family for Easter Sunday breakfast. It contains ham, horeseradish, eggs, potica, and sometimes other items.

Traveling to Slovenia? Here are 20 beautiful day trip you can take from Ljubljana.

In our home, we had a semi-traditional breakfast. We made ham wrapped in bread and paired it with our decorated eggs. For lunch, we went to Jaka’s parents and had a typical Slovenian Sunday Lunch with the addition of some ham and horseradish.

To end the festivities there is actually a work-free day on the following day, which they call Easter Monday.

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Easter Traditions in Slovenia

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