The three Sundays before Christmas in Czech Republic were called: bronze, silver and gold. They were the biggest shopping days of the year. I used to go shopping to the open-air market under the giant chestnut trees in Zlin. I always bought mistletoe. I loved the old ladies from Slovakia with their embroidered linens- a lost art.
Greenwich Meridian memoir excerpt:
By Emma Palova
The yellow place mats with brown embroidery traveled with me to the USA for my second immigration in 1989. I bought them at the Zlin market under the chestnut trees. I loved that market with vendors from Slovakia and Southern Moravia. I marveled at their handiwork eligible for Etsy at any given time.
When I went back to Czech Republic in the footsteps of the past in 2013, I hurried to the market. I was amazed all over again at all the wares the merchants had to offer from far and near. Off course it wasn’t Christmas time, so the farmers didn’t have my favorite silver and gold-coated mistletoe. The coveted mistletoe is sold on the three Sundays before Christmas. Those were the only Sundays that merchants opened their doors on a holiday.
I always looked forward to those three Sundays. They were called bronze, silver and gold Sunday. And as the hype build up, so did the offered goods; that all culminated in a shopping frenzy socialist style. That meant loading up on textile durable bags to haul in stuff for the holidays; everything from Hungarian salami, sausages, smoked cutlets to silver-coated mistletoe, and better wines such as “Klastorne” from Slovakia. The most famous monastery wines are located in Kromeriz- the Archbishop’s Wine Cellars. I visited these cellars during the big trip in 2013. The walls of the cellars are covered with rare silver moulds.
Since, it was a custom to bake every Christmas traditional small desserts, I usually went shopping for the ingredients. I always carried the same old bags that were overused with time. Sometimes, the handle on the bag broke and I had to pick up the rolling tomatoes, apples and bottles.
Shopping meant standing in lines forever; sometimes waiting for the delivery of the products. The stores ran out of stuff like whipped cream, butter and cocoa. Nuts have also been an issue, but many families had their own nuts from the walnut trees in their gardens. I remember having to crack them with my uncle before the big holiday baking.
I barely dragged the bags with groceries home to the apartment. I was glad we had that darn escalator that I had to clean so many times to keep Mr. Chromcak happy. The refrigerators back in Czech were small, so we put food outside on the balconies.
“Where do I put all this stuff?” I asked myself. “Well, first I am going to eat.”
I dropped the bags on the floor and scoured the bottom for some nugget chocolate. Sitting down in the kitchen I munched on the chocolate relentlessly like if it was the last day on this earth. That was my problem then and now; I do everything like today is the last day. True, I do get a lot done that way but I exhaust myself to the max.
Needless to say that I’ve had problems with my weight ever since I hit puberty still back in Hawkins, Texas during our first round of immigration in the early 1970s. My first period was a pain. I laid on the couch crying and twisting with spasms in my lower abdomen thinking it would never pass; it did just like most pains in life it was transitory.
I exercised and exercised some more. And I ate and ate, just like that moment when I dragged the bags inside the apartment. Mom was still at work, so I should probably get ready the dough for the pastries and desserts. But, wait first I have to unpack. I looked outside from the living room to the balcony. It was all snowy, and even though I was hot from hauling all that weight, it was freezing outside. I sorted what I needed for baking and put the rest of the groceries still in the bags on the balcony.
We had an interesting class teacher Mrs. Chudarkova at the prep school Gymnasium Zlin. Every year before Christmas, she let us go early from school, so we could bake.
“Yes, girls you can leave early today,” she smiled. “I know you have to bake to help your mothers.”
That came as a surprise from the strict woman who wore a dark reddish brown wig. Mrs. Chudarkova could have been around 45. I considered her an old woman at the time.
To be continued…….
The feature photo is of small Christmas desserts by CJ Aunt Jarmilka on http://jkarmaskova.wordpress.com
You can still order them from her bakery; email firstname.lastname@example.org
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