Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Czech Christmas

It's Christmas morning in the Czech Republic and I've just been doing a little research. In my years of teaching here, my favorite times were always when students shared their traditions or stories of their lives. The main reason I was here, after all, was to become a part of their world while sharing my love of Jesus, the reason for the season :) The irony here, is that after all those wonderful classes learning about Czech Christmas traditions I just did a blog survey and realized that I never really shared any of them here. Now as a part of being in Europe, I wanted to make the most of the time. Whenever I had a holiday I hit the road. So every time Christmas came around with it's glorious two week holiday, I was outta here! Consequently, that meant I was either too busy getting ready to go, or too bursting with stories of my travels and all those photos, to share very much about what a Czech Christmas is like. Well, this year is different. This year, I'm going to share with you some Czech traditions along with what I actually got to experience. It is very different from the way things go with my family in the US, and naturally different from being on the road as well. So now, I give you, A Very Merry Czech Christmas. As in most European countries, the main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve. The preparations, however, begin much earlier as I have shared my stories of making Christmas cookies. In the morning on the 24th the cookies were put on beautiful plates atop festive napkins, and set in different places around the house to make them easily accessible all day long. Seeing as how we weren't going to be starting things until around 5, there was a lot of day to use up somehow. One of the things Czech's love on Christmas is watching "Fairy Tales." Some of them actually are what we would call fairy tales in the US as well, but others are just old classic movies. They even had "Elf" on in Czech, which I found highly amusing. We watched bits and pieces of different ones all morning and into the afternoon. Then Mark and I spent some time out with some of his friends to greet them for the holiday as well. In the early evening we got together for Christmas dinner. One of the Czech traditions is to buy a live carp and keep it in the bathtub until Christmas time. Then they kill it as can bee seen in this commercial. Really worth watching :) Seems Chuck Norris has a weakness after all. Thankfully, my family here doesn't do the whole carp thing, so our Ri┼żek was either Pork or Turkey. I went for the turkey option since it's closer to my own Christmas meal of choice. This meant that we could not participate in another random tradition in which people save one of the carp scales in their wallet for a year in order to be lucky in money for the year. To begin the meal we had a toast with champaign and strawberries. Then it was time for our feast of breaded and fried filets (turkey for me) and the classic potato salad made by my father-in-law. The meal was delicious, and it was nice to sit around the table with the family. Next we gathered around the tree which Anna and I had decorated earlier in the morning. It was a sparkling vision in silver and white. Very fitting to my mom-in-laws taste. We even put up the decorations in order of kind. First white puffs, then snowflakes, silver balls of different varieties and glass ornaments. We opened presents together, and enjoyed the time of sharing. Then our little Czech Christmas was pretty much finished. We cleaned up the paper mess, put our gifts in our rooms, and spent the rest of the evening watching more "fairy tales" and eating chocolates and Cukrovy (cookies). It was a lovely evening really. We were a bit too tired to go out and find a church having a midnight service (another Czech tradition) but we did watch part of the live broadcast from the Vatican, which was interesting since Mark and I went and saw the Pope when he visited Czech a couple years ago. And so it went. Here are some other traditions I have heard from students in the past: * cutting an apple in half the round way to see the Christmas star * not eating anything all day long in order to hopefully see the golden pig which will signify luck for the coming year. * There's something about dropping molten metal into the bathtub. It actually happened in one of the movies we watched. I'm not really sure what it is supposed to signify, but it makes some interesting shapes. * Naming the carp in your bathtub "Pepa" which is the nickname for Josef That's most of what I can think of for right now. Just some nice things to add to my list of Christmas traditions. But despite all these things, the best part of Christmas for me is thinking of the reason we celebrate. What a miracle to think of how God sent a part of himself into the world to show us what love is all about. How blessed we are, despite our personal difficulties, to live in a time where we can turn to a Savior and be forgiven. Were it not for this silent night a good two thousand years ago, this world would be an even more desperate and hopeless place to live. I am so thankful to God for us indescribable gift. Merry Christmas to All, Peace On Earth and Goodwill to All People, and Oh So Much Love from the Czech Republic on this Christmas Day 2011

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