When visitors Travel to Slovenia, it is immediately clear that this is a nation that is passionate about celebrating its artistic heritage. From the baroque structures that line the river Ljubljanica, to street performances and a mélange of inspired cuisine, Slovenia more than makes up for relatively small size with a big personality. In fitting fashion, Slovenians honor their artistic community each year with a national cultural holiday; Prešeren Day.
Though the modern Republic of Slovenia is technically only 20 years old, Prešeren Day dates all the way back to the mid-20th century. The holiday was first celebrated in 1944, and was born out of an imposed “cultural silence” on all Slovene art. As Slovene territory slowly became liberated in the early 1940’s, celebrations sprung up to honor the contributions of Slovenia’s vibrant artistic community. Given the nature of the holiday, the Slovene government saw it fit to link the celebrations to the nation’s beloved Romantic poet, France Prešeren. Thus, the national celebration would take place on the anniversary of his death, February 8.
Raised in Ljubljana, Prešeren left to study in Vienna in 1821. His work began being published as early as 1827, but it wasn’t until the 1830’s that his poetry became widely read. Masterpieces such as Sonetni venec (A Wreath of Sonnets) and Krst pri Savici (The Baptism at Savica Falls) launched his illustrious literary career. And in fact, it was his work, Zdravljica (A Toast) that would eventually be adapted into the country’s National Anthem.
Prešeren’s influence extended well beyond his words; his poetry as well as his impact upon politics and the Slovene language assured his place in Slovene culture for years to come. Since 1947, the national poet’s legacy has been honored each year in the presentation of the Prešeren awards. On the night before Prešeren day, writers and artists whose works have made a sound impression upon Slovene culture are recognized with the highest of accolades, the Grand Prešeren Award. Citizens of Slovenia celebrate the day by taking part in cultural festivals or by visiting centers for the arts, keeping the spirit of Slovenia’s creative heritage very much alive.
Though the official holiday takes place in February, Slovene culture is fervently celebrated throughout the year. Get a sense of Slovene culture, art and cuisine for yourself and join VBT for biking vacation through Slovenia, Austria & Italy this year!