Category Archives: baking

The scents of Czech Christmas

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.

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Czech mountains Radhost.

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.

Hohoho.

A sincere thank you to all my friends and fans.

Merry Christmas.

Emma Palova

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Traditional Czech holiday baking

Traditional Czech holiday baking is a lot of work, but the tiny desserts are delicious. They are not too sweet, and quite often they are filled with apricot marmalade & cream, chocolate or vanilla.

My cousin Marta Krajcova made these. Kudos to Marta.

For recipes and more info go to CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Desserts at http://jkarmaskova.wordpress.com

You can find both on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs LLC. All rights reserved.

Spring equinox

Spring sojourns

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- Watch for a story on spring sojourns in Venice, Florida on the Gulf Coast, locally in Michigan, and globally in Europe.

Today, March 20th, is the spring equinox. It is called equinox because the length of day and night are nearly equal.

Spring equinox signifies new life.
Spring equinox signifies new life.

It is also the day of the total and partial solar eclipses depending on location, according to timeanddate.com

The first day of spring is traditionally associated with many customs like Easter and Passover. It is also a time for new beginnings and new life. Thus the symbol of the rabbit, a lamb and eggs.

Easter lamb baked like a pound cake with decorated eggs.
Czech Easter lamb baked like a pound cake with decorated eggs.

In many Christian cultures, Easter eggs are synonymous with Easter. Also known as Paschal eggs, these are usually decorated chicken eggs that symbolize fertility and rebirth. They can be quite exquisite, and in many cases are considered an art.

Many Easter related events feature the Easter egg as the central theme. Traditional games like egg hunts, where colorful Easter eggs are hidden for children to find, egg rolling, where eggs are rolled down a hill, and egg dancing, where eggs are laid on the floor and people dance while trying to not damage them are held all around the world.

related links http://www.timeanddate.com

Copyright (c) 2015. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Silver Sunday traditions

Silver Sunday ushers in Christmas

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Silver Sunday is the second Sunday before Christmas that literally makes the Christmas holiday fever rise by several degrees even though it is usually cold outside at this time of the year. It is also the third Sunday of the advent in the catholic religious year.

Outdoor Christmas markets in most European cities on major squares, are in full swing by now, and they will be open until Dec. 23rd & some on Dec. 24th. The rush is on for everything from nuts and poppy seeds for baking purposes, wooden toys and other crafts, apples and dried fruits, ornaments and keepsakes.

Christmas markets in Czech Republic
Christmas markets in Czech Republic. Photo by Adela Kobylikova

It’s also time to get a Christmas tree. Although back in Czech Republic most families decorated their tree on Christmas Eve, here in US our family has adapted to the custom of putting up the tree at least two weeks before the magical day.   Christmas Eve is a magical day, but a lot has been lost in the translation of the feast of Adam&Eve that falls on Dec. 24th in the Czech name day calendar.

In Czech language, that magical day is called “Stedry Den” which translates exactly as Bountiful Day. Families open a bounty of presents in the evening. I will write more about the customs of that day next week as we draw closer to Christmas.

And even though, I miss deeply some of the customs in Czech Republic, I have replaced them with new ones here in USA.

We cut our Christmas tree early and decorate it before Christmas Eve. Last year we took Ella with us to carry on the new tradition.

Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery
Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery

I couldn’t remember where the tree farms in the area are, so I looked it up on Google Christmas farms in Ionia County and found Horrocks Nursery Farms just north of the city of Ionia.

This year we don’t have our tree yet and I haven’t baked yet either. But my daughter-in-law Maranda Palova made our traditional nutty baskets with filling. I plan on baking chocolate flutes and chocolate mini Ischel cakes. Some Czech and European recipes come with a history. This one comes from the spa town of Ischel in Austria. The story has it that the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef used to frequent the bakery that made them in Ischel.

As with many recipes there are many variations of the mini Ischel cakes. My grandma Anna used to love them, so I always made them for her. I like to keep that tradition going.

Czech nutty baskets
Christmas nutty baskets

Now is also time to send and get cards even in the era of the web. Over the 20+ years here on the American continent, I’ve received hundreds of them, but kept only a few.

One of the few precious ones, a definite keepsake, is a card from Brno with a nativity scene and a score to a Christmas carol. One of the most precious cards that I had sent out was made from a photo at the Meijer store in Cascade.

Although I can’t find it now, I remember precisely what was on it. We were picking blueberries as a family on a farm near Ludington in the 90-degree heat. We’re all holding blue pales and shielding our heads from the scorching sun with funny hats. My daughter Emma was wearing a t-shirt with a Polar bear on it.

“Happy holidays,” the card with mistletoe clip art and snowflakes said.

Speaking about passing on traits and such; both my daughter and I have the same sense for juxtaposition.

For more information on Horrocks Christmas Tree farm go to http://www.horrocksnursery.com

To be continued with Golden Sunday

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Festive memories

Festivities, wedding create memories

By EMMA PALOVA

Lowell, MI- I feel like I have a writer’s block after all this festive pomp. I am still finding memorabilia from the Pala Ruegsegger wedding in October. Each thing I find brings back a memory.

I find things like frozen dough in the freezer for the wedding desserts, Pebbles cereal that no one wanted, taquitos, tops, panties and pantyhose. Samuel’s blue onesies “Star Baby” brought a smile to my face, as well the Barbie doll and sister-in-law’s hair color. Then, there are tons of souvenirs and gifts that I have received from my guests.

And of course, the greatest of all are photos.

Common Gentry Carriage Rides
Now newlyweds Jake Pala and Maranda Palova last year on sleigh ride in Sparta.

I told a friend at the local Meijer store while shopping for Thanksgiving that we survived the wedding.

“And now you’re moving right into the holidays,” he laughed.

Yes, it’s all going by quick. We spent a quiet Thanksgiving at my parents Ella & Vaclav Konecnys in Big Rapids. We had the traditional fare with bonus cream puffs from CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s.

“I am not baking for Christmas this year, mom,” I said with the wedding abundance still in mind.

I did teach my son Jake Pala and his wife Maranda Palova how to make traditional Czech Christmas desserts such as filled baskets covered with chocolate and vanilla crescents.

Horrocks tree farm in Ionia
Ludek & Ella at horrocksnurseryfarm.com

“I’ll let them bake this year,” I said.

“I can’t blame you after all that wedding turmoil,” mom said.

So, I guess in a big way I already had my Christmas in October. I made new friends, strengthen old bonds, gained a new daughter-in-law and a few pounds, but created sweet memories.

Traditional Czech desserts
Famous vanilla crescents.

Watch for my stories about the “Three Sundays of Christmas,” a traditional Czech shopping custom on the three Sundays before Dec. 24th.

I will also include some recipes for Czech desserts.

For more baking ideas go to http://jkarmaskova.wordpress.com

and to http://ehealthbeauty.wordpress.com

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