Nationality: Slovakian, American
Residence: Willowbrook, Illinois
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/16/2016
Primary Language: Slovak
Other Language(s): English, Russian
Background: A.J. is a 65-year-old woman who was born and raised in Poprad, Slovakia. She relocated to the United States from Slovakia 20 years ago, while her son was attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A.J. holds a degree in child development and since coming to the United States has worked as a nanny. She is married to her lifelong sweetheart and has one son and three grandchildren. She often talks about her home and family in Slovakia – about the beautiful mountains and the culture. Although she is now a US citizen, she incorporates many Slovak traditions into everyday life, and enjoys telling stories about her family and her family traditions.
A.J.: On first May, boys went to the wood, cut, made tree nicely decorate and they built in front of house their girlfriend and then they were singing very nice song like we built May or very nice song. They were walking during the whole village – they were walking through the whole village with the tree – every boy what her girlfriend built this tree in the front of house they his girlfriend – yeah. And they have like cart like with horses that was pulling this cart. This tree was on the cart and they pulling this cart across the village and they build in the front of girlfriend house and they were singing.
Q: How did they decorate the tree?
A.J.: Decorate with nice colorful ribbon.
Q: Did you only do it for girls you were dating or was it somebody you like and you want to date?
A.J.: Yeah – exactly – was when somebody like this girl it was building this tree for her. If she like him they would start dating. If not, they would just forget about this tree.
Q: And this was in the villages – not in big towns?
A.J.: No in big town NO – only in village. In big town we have big houses like apartments you cannot build that. That was not tradition for towns more for villages.
Performance Context: The ritual of creating a May Tree would occur on May 1st in the small villages of Slovakia.
My Thoughts: The idea of “May Day” or the celebration of the spring season is common in many cultures. In the United States and Great Britain, for example, many people partake in making a maypole, in which ribbons are braided around a tall, wooden pole to create a pattern. Creating the maypole is usually done by children, which may symbolize the freshness and youth of spring.