Gold Sunday ushers in Christmas
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings Journal
Gold Sunday is the first or last Sunday before Christmas which this year falls on Dec. 22nd. By then all good housewives have their baking & cleaning done according to Czech traditions. Before I started writing and blogging, I could make up to 10 different Christmas desserts including vanilla crescents, “nutty baskets” and chocolate “rohlicky.”
As a student at the prep school Gymnasium Zlin, we would even get time off for baking.
“As long as you’re keeping the tradition going,” Russian professor Chudarkova used to say.
That reminds me of the opening day of the hunting season here in Michigan where some schools get the day off. I always baked long into the night, and I filled the pastries on Christmas Eve. Back in the old Czechoslovakia I had no helpers. Many years later in the USA my son Jake assisted me by rolling out the dough from a stool.
Silver Sunday is time to get your Christmas fish for the big evening feast known as “Bountiful Eve.” The town squares in Czech Republic are home to merchants with live carp. For years during Christmases of the past I went shopping for the best carp ever sporting a net bag, so the carp can breathe.
Large wooden vats carried carp from ponds in Southern Bohemia. The carp trade dates back to feudalism and to the royals who granted the rights to do this. I regret that I’ve never seen the carp ponds in Bohemia.
The live carp and then the butchering of it on the morning of Dec. 24 have been the subject of stories, legends, photographs and calendars much like the day and the evening itself.
I will remember one carp story forever. One family got so attached to their live carp, they could not bring themselves to butcher it. They took the live carp to a nearby brook and released it into the shallow water. The carp probably didn’t make it, but they felt better and from then on they purchased fish filets from a well-know store in hometown Zlin and that was Rybena.
I think my uncle John butchered ours. The family usually placed the carp in a tub. One year I put the tub outside on the apartment balcony. When I went to check on the fish next day, it almost froze. I had to smash the ice and resuscitate the fish.
So, the Christmas Eve menu in Czech Republic consists of breaded fried filet of carp, potato salad, mushroom or fish soup and the great cookies.
In later years, non-carp lovers substituted the carp for salmon filets. We stick to the tradition and I buy either cod or other white meat fish. I make tons of potato salad with our own pickles.
Watch for more Christmas Eve traditions
Copyright © 2013 story and photo by Emma Palova, lead photo courtesy of the Internet