Week Eighteen: Veselé Vánoce! Merry Christmas!

It’s hard to believe that my next post will be in the New Year! Time really has flown! Since I just celebrated Christmas here in the Czech Republic, I thought I’d let you know about my experience. There are a lot of Christmas traditions here in the Czech Republic, and as in any country, not every family will celebrate each one. Therefore, I can only really speak about my experience in my host family!

 

There are several differences between Christmas in North America and the Czech Republic. For example, it is celebrated on the 24th instead of the 25th. There is no such thing as Santa Clause here, but instead, Baby Jesus or Ježíšek. For dinner, families will eat Karp. Before Christmas, on the square of each town, there will be people selling Karp in big tubs. It is common in many families to keep the Karp in their bathtub then kill them to eat on Christmas. This didn’t happen in my family, but I can imagine how surprised I would have been by walking in to the bathroom and seeing a fish!

 

Christmas Day: I woke up early because I thought that we would be exchanging gifts in the morning. When I went downstairs, I was informed that we open the gifts in the night after dinner! In the morning, we decorated the tree. This year, there was a plastic tree, which was my first plastic tree ever! We just put up ornaments and lights and some tinsel. In my family, all of our ornaments have something like sentimental value. They often have a story behind them or were a gift from someone. Here, they were just ornaments that look nice, but they were just from the store, with no story. Regardless, the tree still looked very beautiful (although lacking the smell) and I was very happy. It was a surprise for me that there was no tree until Christmas or in the case of some families, they will put up the tree on Christmas Eve. During the rest of the day, we just hung out and watched some Czech fairy tales and ate Christmas sweets. Afterwards, my host dad and host brother and I went on a walk in the forest to this sandy hill. We walked a very steep hill then we ran back to the car. Afterwards, we all cleaned up and got ready for dinner. For dinner, there was potato salad, which had ham, pickles, egg, onion, peppers, and potatoes in it. Then there was Karp as well. Before sitting down at the table, we said cheers and wished each other health. Then everyone shook hands and sat down to eat. It is common in this meal that no one leaves the table until everyone is done. The entire time, Kuba wanted to go faster because it was almost time for presents! It was a very nice meal and we were all very full. We then did a typical Czech tradition. We got a big bucket of water. We also had some chestnuts with the insides carved out with some candles inside. We set the candles on fire then put the chestnuts into the water. It is said that if your chestnut goes to one side then you will stay at home, and if it is at the other side, then you will travel! Afterwards, it was time for Ježíšek to come. My host dad, Kuba, and I went outside to do sparklers while my host mom stayed inside. We did an entire thing of sparklers outside and watched some people try to set off fireworks. It was very fun and not so cold. Afterwards, we went inside and after hearing the screams of my host brother… I knew that Ježíšek had come!! The presents were all spread out under the tree and we all took the piles of our presents. As usual, I loved watching everyone open my presents. My host brother often leaves a few presents for the next day so that he is the only one that has a present! Afterwards, we all just sat around and talked for a bit! Overall it was a very nice day.

 

I was expecting to feel a lot more sad during the holiday season. It is true that in Canada, Christmas is really over the top. For example, the stores are playing Christmas music and selling everything that is Christmas related. Here, the stores had practically nothing and barely any Christmas decorations. Also, there were no lights outside the houses. Another big thing was that there was no snow. Of course, where I am living it is a bit warmer, but it just didn’t feel the same! Although there were many differences, I truly enjoyed seeing and experiencing Christmas traditions in another culture.

 

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you all health and happiness for the coming year and to enjoy your time with your family and friends! Thank you for reading!

 

-Cass

 

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