Sunday, December 6, 2009
And now for something completely different
Today we're switching gears a bit to talk about Czech holiday traditions. We're doing this because they have some interesting and downright weird traditions.
An example of this is the celebration of the Christmas season. First, Santa Claus does not bring presents on Christmas eve. The baby Jesus does. Children write Christmas lists and mail them to the baby Jesus who makes present appear miraculously on Christmas Eve. No big red sacks or reindeer here.
Presents are opened on the evening of the 24th after eating the traditional Christmas fish (carp) for dinner. Christmas day is for visiting family. The 2nd day of Christmas is for visiting friends.
But fear not, St. Nicholas is not forgotten. He is celebrated on December the 5th. To honor him, people get dressed up as St. Nicholas, angels and devils. In trios, they go door to door and all around asking children and their parents if the children have been good. If they have, St. Nicholas gives them a treat or small present which he gets from the angel. If they haven't, St. Nicholas tells them that the devil will put them in a sack and take them down to hell (unless they start being good). Until recently, people were very dedicated about pretending to act on this threat. However, this has been curtailed lately because 3 years ago one devil went so far as to pick up the child and put him in a sack and closed the top while the parents watched. The child was so scared he screamed for an hour and was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome. Amazingly, this did NOT result in a lawsuit (just one of the reasons I love the Czech Republic)
But my favorite crazy holiday tradition is yet to come. For Easter, the men and boys here (especially boys) go out and break off the branches of pussywillows. They take these branches and twist them into a kind of whip. Then they proceed to hit (or beat or spank) every women they know (including neighbors) with it and the women in gratitude give them painted Easter eggs, ribbons to decorate their whips and food. In addition the boy has to sing or recite a special Easter carol that can be very funny.
So what do you think of all these?
Oh, and the reason the last tradition was my favorite was not because I want to beat women but because it is SO different from anything in the States.