Written by Kaja Beton, Febraury 2018
St. Gregory's Eve has long been one of my favourite celebrations. Making little 'boats', which resemble houses, is a pleasant way to keep my children busy in the cold late winter afternoons. Read the blog and find out how to set about making a real little 'boat' all of your own!
As a child I could hardly wait for that day at the end of winter when we could light candles in the little 'boats' made out of paper and cardboard and float them in the stream in the middle of the village. At that time, on the eve of St. Gregory's Day on 11th March, the numbers that gathered at the stream in Kamna Gorica weren't particularly large. We were able to easily head upstream, release our 'boats' into the water (our ancestors also called them 'lights in the water') and then walk alongside the 'boats' all the way to the bridge where the older boys would fish them out of the water. The 'boats' often overturned during their 'voyage', sometimes they even sank, and even some of the children took a stumble into the stream too! But it didn't matter, even though thereafter, right up until summer, everyone was talking about who fell into the water!
Kids at the event in Kamna Gorica in 1987
When we were a bit older we used to jump over the almost metre-wide stream. And some year's later, on the narrow ledge on the other side of the stream, we discovered an excellent place to take the best photos of all the goings on. At that time I was no longer making my own 'boats' but nevertheless every year I still went up to the attic to seek out one of the old ones that my dad or granddad had made for me when I was a child. Those were the best ones. I dusted them off, affixed the odd new tack or changed the roof, which was made from old calendars, and looked inside for the half-burnt candle. I can't even remember whether or not I then took the 'boat' to the stream but I always got it ready – just in case! And I also went to the stream every year – with or without my 'boat'!
The Lipnica stream runs through the village in a large gorge which, centuries ago, was used for the needs of the ironworks in which there was also an ingenious system of artificial water channels which run through the village. The stream mostly runs right alongside houses and gardens, and it is only near Kapus's mansion where there is enough room for visitors to gather beside the stream. In the old days that was where we released our 'boats' along the stream. And this is still the case today. In recent years the crowd has grown somewhat bigger but the event remains as original as ever.
Although elsewhere as a rule new 'boats' are made every year, this isn't entirely the case in Kamna Gorica. In contrast to neighbouring Kropa, where the 'boats' are all set alight once they reach the lower foundry, which creates a wonderful bonfire, in Kamna Gorica this is a rarity. The large majority of them are taken home, where their fate depends on their owner and the amount of work put into them. Some of them remain in the family for years to come. Today there are still some 'works of art' to be found in the attic of which we were particularly fond: a monument of the Kamna Gorica linden tree, the church and a wooden boat showing the year 1960. That was the year my mum's father – my granddad - made it for her.
Nowadays I go with my children to Kamna Gorica on St. Gregory's Eve to float the miniature models of houses and churches - our 'boats' - that we have made together. Maybe this year it's time to make new ones! Not so that they will be the biggest and the best, but because my children really enjoy making them, colouring them, and assembling them. And what does it matter if one of the windows is lopsided and the roof isn't waterproof. What matters is that the children are smiling from ear-to-ear, and that they will proudly carry their little 'boats' through the village and watch as they float along the stream.
When? 11th March at dusk
It's not hard to make a model 'boat', you just need to set aside a bit of time. To make it easier for you, and so that you won't be just a spectator on St. Gregory's Eve, below we reveal a few basic instructions:
Video from the event in 2015, author: Andrej Zupan