Let me just start with the most hilarious Czech tradition--Christmas carp. Here’s what they do: they walk to a central neighborhood market where they find a couple men standing around big plastic tubs on the sidewalk. The tubs are crowded with fat, gray carp. They pick out a carp, the men put it in a bag (just a bag, no water), and they walk home with the carp in their bag. They then fill their bathtubs with water and dump the carp in. They enjoy the live, swimming carp for a few days, allowing their children to play with it in the bathtub. Then on Christmas Eve they slit the poor sucker’s throat, fry him up, and eat him for dinner. Merry Christmas. There you go.
Two other traditions, easier to stomach, involve baking. We were gifted “vanocka,” which is a large, braided bread with nuts, dried fruit, and plenty of butter within. We’re told that the woman who made ours, Maria, doesn’t use a recipe. She’s so good that each one is an original masterpiece. And let me tell you, it IS so delicious. Our family is now on the opposite of a no-carb diet--it’s the eat only awesome Czech bread for three meals a day diet.
Sweet Maria not only greeted us with vanocka, but also kisses on the cheeks, and a massive box of homemade Christmas cookies. These cookies put every cookie in the US to shame. I’m sorry, it’s just true. They are teeny and perfect and intricately decorated. They are soft and sweet and taste like heaven. When we’re not eating the Christmas bread, we’re eating the Christmas cookies.
The final Czech Christmas tradition that we have participated in thus far is going to the Brno Christmas Market. It was a festive night out and even snowed on us, which actually put us all in a very Christmasy mood. We ate fried potato pancakes, drank hot chocolate (really like a melted chocolate bar in a cup), sampled hot honey wine, put the two littlest on the Chistmas choo-choo, and allowed the girls to buy some locally made ceramics and candles.
Internationally relocating a family of six plus a dog just one week before Christmas was sort of neurotic. But we’re so glad we did. We are seeing a sweet side of Czech culture, as Christmas draws near. Additionally, businesses around us are closing, life is slowing down, and we Oshmans will be able to rest together and celebrate Immanual--God with us--in Brno.