Jarka Pajk is a Co-founder of Energetic Awesomeness
and a Certified Yuen Method™ Master and Instructor
As I am about celebrate my 31st Christmas in Canada I would like to share some of the customs and traditions practiced in former Czechoslovakia during the Christmas season. The Christmas spirit was not commercialized at all there. In fact under the Communist Government we didn't have much advertising of anything. The decorations in our homes during this holiday were kept very simple. Evergreen tree branches where put around the doors and windows and a spruce or pine tree would be decorated with traditional homemade decorations like paper chains, stars made from straw, sweets and real candles. Now that was a little risky as I do remember the tree catching fire often.
Our major celebration day was December 24. We celebrated the Birth of Jesus (without a Santa Claus) giving very practical gifts like clothing and books etc, all carefully chosen for a particular person so no money would be wasted on unwanted gifts. We were very happy and everyone felt the magic of giving and receiving. Christmas carols filled our place during the Christmas Eve dinner as my family dressed in their best clothes sat down to enjoy the evening meal. It started with a toast of red wine for the adults and mineral water with raspberry syrup for the children. The first course was fish soup followed by potato salad and deep-fried breaded fish (carp). The meal was topped off with a large assortment of Christmas pastries made from family recipes passed down for many generations. After dinner the gifts were opened and then some of us went to church for midnight mass even though this tradition was discouraged by the Communist government.
On Christmas day my mother would cook a small turkey while we watched our favourite fairy tales on TV, or read and snacked on Mandarin Oranges and Bananas that were only available at that time of year.
For me getting the carp was a big event. These fish were farmed in ponds just for the Christmas celebration. The Carp was purchased alive and brought home in a bucket and kept alive in the bathtub until time for cooking. When I was young I looked forward to spending time with that carp, it was like getting a pet for a few days as I would talk to it and play with it. When it was family bath time we would use a towel to catch the fish and put it in a basin then wash and disinfect the tub before using it. When we were all done we filled the tub with fresh tap water and put the carp back in the tub.
Another interesting thing I remember was the silence everywhere. During the holidays all businesses were closed and public transportation was sparse. Christmas was the biggest celebration of the Year and anytime I hear a familiar Christmas Carol it brings back memories of that simplicity and magic.