A Czech Christmas in America
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI – I landed at JFK on this day 28 years ago to live permanently in the USA with my family. We had two days to get from NYC to Big Rapids to be home for Christmas. My dad Vaclav Konecny, former math professor at Ferris State University, did all the driving through New York City and on the treacherous turnpike to Michigan.
I will never forget this road trip in mom’s station wagon with frozen formations on the windows across five states.
My mom Ella in anticipation of our arrival from former Czechoslovakia did all the prep work in the kitchen. This included the traditional Christmas Eve dinner that consists of a mushroom soup, fried fish with potato salad and traditional Czech pastries.
I knew immediately what I missed. Since everything was ready, there were no smells in the suburban house, no scents of Christmas. I associate Czech Christmas with the aroma of vanilla crescents, hot chocolate that tops all filled pastries and browned mushrooms from the soup.
Since the Czechs put up their Christmas trees on Christmas Eve, you also get the smell of a fresh-cut pine tree.
After 28 years, I try to keep up with all the traditions of a true Czech Christmas. The only one that I had permanently dropped is putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. Other than that we adhere to the ritual of fasting on Dec. 24th in order to see the golden pig on the wall according to an old legend. Mom bakes kolache for the Christmas Day breakfast, daughter-in-law Maranda and “recreate” traditional Czech pastries like chocolate covered “baskets” and Linzer cookies. We open up gifts on Christmas Eve and we go to the midnight mass with carols.
Our son Jake plays Christmas songs on the saxophone, I accompany him on the piano. On Christmas Day, we mostly eat and drink, just like everyone else. around the world. We do the visiting on Dec. 26th which is the official second holiday of Christmas known as St. Stephan Day in the old country.
With this rather brief account of a traditional Czech Christmas, I would like to wish everyone a truly peaceful holiday season.
I have to run to bake some vanilla crescents, so I have the scent of a Czech Christmas in the house. Plus Jake called that they ate all the Christmas cookies Maranda had made.
A sincere thank you to all my friends and fans.
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