The Czechs go all-out for Christmas Eve, so Christmas Day is low-key,. We went to church at the United Methodist Church on Vilova street, where Czech television crews were broadcasting the service. It was a lovely service. Here's a link to the video.
We had a Czech family Christmas with our friends Jirina and Vilda. In the afternoon, we met with some friends at their flat and sang Christmas carols in Czech. I got some compliments on my Czech pronunciation (my strong suit in Czech, as I can't conjugate verbs or form the proper cases of nouns and adjectives. But I can read aloud!).
We had dinner in the evening. Carp soup, potato salad and fried carp comprise the traditional Czech meal. We then had cookies while the presents were distributed from under the tree, where "Jezicek" (little Jesus) put them. No Santa Claus on Christmas here!
We had fun opening presents! The neighbor from across the hall joined us. What a wonderful Christmas we had!
Last night was my last Czech lesson till after Christmas. Our teacher gave us some expressions and customs for having a Czech Christmas (Veselé Vánoce!)
Here are a few customs:
1. A piece of lead is melted over fire and then poured into a container of water. The resulting shape will tell the pourer's destiny (according to my teacher and my husband, this custom is dying out, as it's dangerous and difficult to do).
2. The Cutting of the Apple: After Christmas dinner, every person present at the table cuts an apple in half (crosswise, from the stem down). Both halves are shown to everyone around the table. If the core is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year. (I've never seen this; I found is on a website. But it's a lot easier than the lead thing).
3. In the Czech Republic, there is no Santa Claus. Instead there …
Jarda and I just returned from Bad Schandau, a German resort town on the way to Dresden. The original intent was to use the town as a base, traveling from there to Dresden for day trips. But Bad Schandau was so peaceful and friendly that we stayed there all week.
It's one of Prague's main charms that it's so easy to get out of town! Kaja drove us there and stayed one night, then we took the train back. Both going there and coming back were fun and interesting rides.
The town is small, a summer spa town that's the gateway to the "Saxon Switzerland" national park that's half in Germany, half in Czech Republic. We ahd so much fun there that we're already planning our next trip.
Not turkey, but carp. Czechs eat carp for Christmas Eve dinner, the big celebration meal. They buy the carp live on the street, take it home, put it in the bathtub and knock it in the head when they're ready to cook it. Or they let the man at the sidewalk carp stand knock it in the head when they buy it and take it home ready-to-cook.
It's been snowing off and on since Saturday night. The first major snowfall was only a couple of inches, and turned into slush quickly. Then it froze and was tough to walk on. But today we got at least 4 inches of beautiful crystalline snow, the powdered sugar kind. Klaus and I took a walk around the block. He was as frisky as a puppy. We enjoyed the brisk air (even the wind that blew snow into our eyes) and the cheerful Christmas atmosphere. People on the streets here are positively merry in the lovely, pristine snow.