Traditional Slovak games are mainly related to nature. Children, young people, and adults have spent a lot of time in nature in the past and therefore various games were created in this environment for their fun and pleasure. Below you will find a list of well-known traditional Slovak games.
Traditional games for childers and youth are:
- Kolo kolo mlýnské (Ring a Ring o’ Roses)
- Bača a ovečky (Shepherd and sheeps)
- Slepá baba (Blind-Man’s-Buff)
- Zlatá brána (Golden Gate)
- Hra na skovávačku (Hide-and-Seek game)
- Vadí nevadí (Truth or Dare)
Traditional games for Adults are:
- Dancing and Singing
- Hra v kolky (Skittles)
- Hra v kostky (Crabs)
- Adult Card Games
You may already know some of these traditional Slovak games, but I believe some are completely unknown to you. And so I will be happy to explain their meaning to you in this post.
- What are Traditional Slovak Games
- Traditional Slovak Games for Children and Youth
- Traditional Slovak Games for Adults
What are Traditional Slovak Games
In the past, nature played an important role in human life. People in nature worked, but also had fun. Especially Slovaks were (and still are) known for their close relationship to nature.
As adults worked on their fields, children ran around them and invented various games. These games were based not only in folk customs but also in everyday activities.
As I wrote in the introduction, traditional games should be divided into two groups: for children and youth and for adults. Most of these games, especially children’s games, took place in nature.
So let’s start with the introduction of traditional Slovak games for children and Youth.
Traditional Slovak Games for Children and Youth
Slovak children and youth spent most of their free time outside their homes in the past. Whether at school, after school or after housework, they spent their free time playing and having fun.
Most of these games took place in meadows, forests, or in the courtyards of their homes. Of course, the list of traditional games below is not complete. However, these were among ones of the most popular and therefore I would like to show you how they were and how they were played.
Kolo kolo mlýnské (Ring a Ring o’ Roses)
Kolo kolo mlýnské is a playground singing game for smaller kids. A literal translation of this Slovak game is “Wheel, the Mill Wheel”. And do you know why?
There were many mills in Slovakia in the past and the spinning of this mill wheel was like spinning around during this game. During this spinning around, kids are singing a song about the broken mill wheel and how to repair this wheel to continue singing and spinning around.
To help you understand better, let me show you some example of this traditional kids game.
Bača a ovečky (Shepherd and sheeps)
The traditional game for kids, Bača a ovečky, is a typical Slovak game from the past. It comes from Central and Eastern Slovakia and is inspired by everyday life.
This game is played by smaller but also older children and the principle is as follows:
Children create two equal groups. Each group has its own shepherd. The other children are sheep. One of the boys determines the target, the sheep hut, where both groups of sheep with their shepherd must get in.
The boy, who knows this goal only, draws with a stick path for each group separately. This path is winding and full of obstacles. The shepherds must remember the drawing and lead their sheep to the sheep hut. The shepherd who brings his sheep to the sheep hut first wins.
Slepá baba (Blind-Man’s-Buff)
Slepá baba is a well-known children’s game all over the world. The English name of this game is Blind-Man’s-Buff. The principle of this game is probably well known for many of you but for sure let’s remember it.
One of the children is blindfolded and sings the introductory rhyme together with the other children. Then, the blindfolded kid starts chasing other children, and when one of them is caught, he guesses who the kid is. If he guesses correctly, the “Slepá baba” becomes a caught child and the game continues.
Watch this video with English subtitles to better know this traditional Slovak game:
Zlatá brána (Golden Gate)
Zlatá brána belongs to traditional Slovak games for kids for many centuries.
Two children face each other, grab each other’s hands and lift them over their heads. Below this symbolic gate is a snake of children who are also holding hands (but not over their heads). The couple holding the gate renounces the nursery with the text:
Zlatá brána otvorená
zlatým kľúčom podoprená.
Kto do nej vojde
hlava mu zojde
Či je ona, či je on
nepustím ho z brány von.
At the word “von” (the last word of the nursery and it means out) the pair put their hands down and “trap” the one who was just crossing the gate. Trapped or falling out of play, or substitutes for one of the two who makes the gate. The game continues until everyone falls out.
Check this video as an example of this game (it is a bit different but very similar):
Interesting fact: Zlatá brána isn’t just a traditional game for children but also a very popular TV show from the 1980s in Czechoslovakia.
Hra na skovávačku (Hide-and-Seek game)
I think “hra na skovávačku” game was played by almost every child in the world. It is a simple and catchy traditional game, called hide-and-seek in English. And Slovak children also spent a lot of time playing this game.
The principle of this game is simple. First, children designate one child to seek for the other children. Then they choose a place from which the seeker will count down the time for the other children to hide.
The game continues by looking for each child and if any is found, the seeker runs to the selected place where he “discards” the found child. When he finds all children then they change the seeker and game continue.
Vadí nevadí (Truth or Dare)
Truth or dare? This game was very popular, and I bet it still is, among youth. Each one of us certainly experienced some awkward moment during this game, which he now recalls with a smile.
And how to play this traditional game for youth? In the group, the order is selected and the players ask each other the question: Does it matter?
If the player replies that they do not mind, he will have to perform the following action. If he replies that he is mattered, he has to put something in advance and he will be able to get it after the questions have been met for a certain condition.
The deposit is also handed over to those who do not fulfill the task despite saying I don’t matter.
Traditional Slovak Games for Adults
Honestly, Slovak adults in the past did not have much time for fun because they spent most of their time working on the field and caring for the cattle and the household.
On the other hand, if they had some free time, they could enjoy it properly. Below are some of the well-known and popular traditional games that adult Slovaks spent their free time with.
Dancing and Singing
Dancing and singing were the most popular traditional Slovak “game” in the past. They spent long evenings after work and dancing and singing at various celebrations or social events.
Social events such as weddings, birthdays, Shrovetide or annual hops were full of singing and dancing. Each of these events had its own distinctive songs and dances.
Watch this video with Slovak traditional folk dances:
Adult Card Games: Mariáš, Sedma, 21 or Farár
The cards were mainly entertained by guys. The card games took place mainly in local taverns where in addition to drinking adult guys spent their free time in the evenings.
Hra v kostky (Craps)
Kostky was another traditional game that was mainly entertained by men in taverns. The number of craps of each game often varied from one to six craps. The craps games played in Slovak taverns were different than the US version of craps.
The most common and also the most interesting game was a game called “ones and fives”. It was played by six craps. During the game, the value of the dice roll is added according to predetermined rules.
Kolky (Nine-pin Bowling)
Kolky is a traditional Slovak game that is very similar to bowling. This game is popular especially in Europe, including Slovakia.
The main difference between kolky and bowling is the number of pins when kolky is played by rolling a ball down an alley towards nine pins and bowling by ten pins.
The other difference is the size and the holes of the ball. The ball for kolky is smaller than for bowling and has no holes. The game is played in 120 throws of four lanes.
Interesting fact: To illustrate how kolky are popular in Slovakia today, there are currently 5 male leagues and many other youth and female leagues.
I hope you learned how traditional Slovak games looked like and you try some of them at home. All countries have a lot of traditional games for kids, youth and adults but these ones are or were popular in Slovakia.
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