A Word for Monday – Christmas Fish

2015-12-16 17.00.59If you’ve been following us a while, or if you’ve taken the time to learn about Slovak Christmas traditions, you know about the Christmas fish (watch this video for a refresher).  Each year just before Christmas the family will buy a Christmas fish – usually a live carp – and they keep it in the bathtub for the days leading up to Christmas.  This fish ends up being the centerpiece of the Christmas meal served for the family on the evening of December 24.

It’s a charming old tradition, and admittedly one that not everyone celebrates.  We’ve been asking around this year, and we’ve heard all kinds of reasons people don’t do this anymore (usually because it’s not practical, or because people don’t like the distinct fishy flavor of carp).  But from the number of people buying carp at the outdoor stands these past few days, it’s still a popular part of the Christmas celebration!

Several times the last couple of years we’ve heard a little children’s song about this tradition – it’s called Kúpil otec rybu (“Father Bought a Fish”).  We wish we had a good recording of it sung by some of the classes we’ve heard… instead, we found this sample of the song online.  It’s a whole lot of “words” for our word of the day, but it’s a fun tribute to a unique part of Slovak and Roma Christmas traditions.

Click on the embedded song below to hear the first verse.  The lyrics with translation are below:

Kúpil otec rybu,                       Father bought a fish
dnes na svitaní.                        Early this morning.
Už si pekne pláva                     It’s already swimming
doma vo vani.                           At home in the bathtub!
Sem tam hodí chvostom,       Back and forth goes its tail,
sem tam spraví čľup,              Back and forth it splashes (the last word is the sound “chloop!”).
len sa milý kaprík                    Dear little carp,
len sa pekne kúp.                     Just swim around nicely.

Kúpil otec rybu,                       Father bought a fish,
veľkú ako hrom.                      It’s as big as can be!
Rybinou a sviatkom                The whole house has the aroma
vonia celý dom.                       Of fish and the holidays.
Od rána sa v izbe                     From morning the Christmas tree
stromček ligoce.                      Twinkles in the our room.
Kúpil otec rybu,                       Father bought a fish,
veď sú Vianoce.                        At last it’s really Christmas!

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