Parish Festivals


Parish festivals bring families together

Much like in the USA, many festivals in Czech Republic are tied to churches and their patron saints. We’ve just experienced a great St. Patrick’s parish festival here in Parnell last weekend. For the first time we could all enjoy it together as a family. It was a family reunion at its best.

My daughter Emma Palova-Chavent arrived from France on Tuesday prior to the festival with her daughter Ella. And my parents Ella and Vaclav came from Big Rapids. To my big surprise even my brother Vas peddled on his bike 75 miles from Paris, Michigan to Lowell for the festival. My son Jake came for the chicken dinner from Kalamazoo.

Polka dance at St. Pat's Parish Festival last Sunday.
Polka dance at St. Pat’s Parish Festival last Sunday.

I was also mildly surprised by the $3 admission charge to play in the Las Vegas tent. My daughter and I always lose a lot more than just $3. We all went Sunday to the festival to enjoy the chicken dinner and mainly the polka music by the Diddle Styx Polka Band.

It felt almost like back home in Czech Republic during the Saint Mary’s Pilgrimage days in September that will now be held on the brand new Marian Square in front of the medieval church. Both Czechs and Germans love to listen, sing or whirl a polka.

We always came to visit with my in-laws for the Marian festival in Stipa, along with other family members.  I write about this in my memoir “Greenwich Meridian,” because the church has quite often inspired me for its opulent baroque interior with a beautiful organ. My uncle Tony used to play the organ. I was married in that church, and funeral masses for most family members were held there.

The Pala and Konecny families enjoy chicken dinner at the parish festival.
The Pala and Konecny families enjoy chicken dinner at the parish festival.

Most women in the village including my mother-in-law Julie baked and cooked up a storm for the Marian festival, as the families got together from far and near. We usually had schnitzels, which are breaded pork chops, and mashed potatoes with home canned compote. For dessert, we had the traditional “kolache” pastries filled with plum butter and cottage cheese.

There was a dance on the night before the festival Sunday, much like here in Parnell. I can think of only a minor difference between the two events. Carnival rides always accompanied the Marian feast, while classic car and antique car show embellish St. Pat’s festival. We didn’t have raffles or auctions, but we had colorful paper roses on wires from the carnival caravans as souvenirs from the Marian festival.

Saint Mary's church in Stipa, Czech Republic during Marian pilgrimage days.
Saint Mary’s church in Stipa, Czech Republic during Marian pilgrimage days.

The Marian event in Stipa is officially called a pilgrimage, because originally people made pilgrimages to a small chapel with one of the oldest statues of Virgin Mary in Moravia that stood in place of the church. We made a pilgrimage once from our Zlin apartment to the Marian church in 1978 when I was pregnant with my daughter. We walked approximately seven kilometers across the Southern Slopes and along the narrow roadway to Stipa.

Pilgrimages are still common in Europe to places like Fatima in Portugal and Lourdes in France, as well as Hostyn in Czech Republic.

Copyright @2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

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