Slovenia’s Old Calendar of the Seasons
13.9.2016 | Fiona Thompson
Is your fruit nodding? According to the old Slovene calendar, they should be.
Before the Slovene language adopted the Latin-derived names of the Gregorian calendar, Slovenians used names of Slavic origin. September was ‘kimevec’ which means ‘nodding fruit’, symbolising the time of year when the trees and vines are full of fruit which is ready to be picked.
These names go back to a time when people lived by the seasons – no strawberries in the market in December in those days – and where agriculture was the dominant industry.
Starting at the beginning of the calendar year, ‘prosinec’ is the former name for January. It has a mean like ‘sun shining through’ which could be more optimistic than accurate for a winter month but it has to be said that you do get the occasional sunny day in Slovenia in the deepest part of winter.
Next, comes ‘svečan’: it is believed that the name means ‘cut’ or ‘dry’ and there’s a theory that this has some connection with the celebration of Candlemas on February 2nd, a Christian festival that comes on the 40th day of Epiphany.
The following month was referred to as ‘sušec’ – the time had come when the earth was dry enough to restart cultivation. Next came ‘mali traven’ – which translates as ‘short grass’ – followed by ‘veliki traven’ meaning ‘long grass’. As we know, no self-respecting Slovenian allows his garden to be full of ‘veliki traven’!
The archaic name for the month of June was ‘rožnik’ which simply means ‘flowers’. July was known as ‘mali srpan’ – a srpan being a sickle – and hot on its heels came August which was referred to as ‘veliki srpan’. As one can see, there was never any need to wonder what tasks needed to be completed on the land when the calendar provided a handy reminder.
October was known as ‘vinotok’ – an evocative name which translates roughly as ‘wine flowing’. This perhaps differs a little from the viticulture calendar as we know it today, which has 11 November, St. Martin’s Day as the day when the new wine is celebrated.
November used to be called ‘listopad’ which refers to the falling of the leaves from the trees, and finally bringing us to the close of the year was ‘gruden’ which has two possible meanings – ‘biting’ which refers to the coldness, or ‘clumped’ which describes the earth.
In some regions, alternative names were used. Prekmurje shared several of the names listed above but had a few of its own too, while in some regions, the names were based on the names of saints. Perhaps most descriptively, some areas of Slovenia referred to March simply as ‘vetrnik’ – the windy month.
The modern names might be much easier to recognise, especially for foreigners, but we think the old names are much more fun.