Lowell, MI – Today is the shortest day of the year with the longest night; it will be followed by a full moon. This occurs only once a year. According to NASA that is all we need to know.
As people head out for their Christmas vacations, and nature unleashes her wrath hampering travel, I am happy to be at home in the country.
And even though, we’re having a green Christmas; “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
It’s dark, raining and I can see the grass from my studio. I haven’t done any Christmas traditional Czech baking yet, because I can’t stand up due to my sciatic nerve pain.
I did get the pretty fir tree decorated before the pain hit after long hours of sitting behind the computer during the #NaNoWriMo 50K word marathon. We got the tree from Horrock’s Nursery in Ionia for $50.
That’s where I found out that this year we had a shortage of Christmas trees.
Since we are an international family, we adhere to both countries’ traditions. We combine Czech traditions with American. In Czech Republic, the main holiday is Christmas Eve; while in the USA it is Christmas Day.
In Czech Republic, we open presents on Christmas Eve, in the USA it is in the morning on Christmas Day. In Czech, the main spirit of Christmas is Jesus; in the USA it’s Santa Claus.
Under communism in Czech, Christmas was the holiday of Winter Solstice.
This is not all that unusual that different countries have Christmas celebrations on different dates with different characters. In Russia, the main holiday is Yolka or New Year’s Day, while in the Netherlands it is St. Nick’s Day on Dec. 6.
But, during the holidays, when emotions are running high, any detail can cause friction. In this case the detail was time.
“How do we do it all in one day? That is between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning in two separate locations?”
Mom with the wisdom of an 81 year-old woman, commented on the issue: “You can’t have two celebrations in one day,” she said. “You have to alternate.”
There’s also a saying that each one of us should start a new tradition; I started the tradition of the Christmas bouquets here in the USA.
It has no cultural origins; we just probably had those cutoff branches from a Christmas tree and I wanted to save them. So, the Christmas bouquet was born.
Christmas to be continued
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Lowell, MI -I am really looking forward to this weekend. First of all, it’s going to be hot again, and I love that.
Contrary to what the promoters of “Back to School” pump out, summer is not over. For me summer is over when I have to swap my flip-flops for closed-toed shoes, usually with the first snow.
Summer always stays in my heart year-long.
Other than my author event at the LowellArts gallery tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. during the Captured photo exhibit, I can’t wait to go to the Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky” in Bannister this Sunday.
This is our annual treat and a tribute to our Czech heritage. Every year, I get my hopes high that I will run into a Czech-speaking person at the festival in the middle of nowhere.
Over the years of going to Bannister, I’ve met probably a total of eight people who knew some Czech. The fun part about this event is that I get to sing three anthems that I know: American, Czech & Slovak.
The third-generation organizers Tom & Diane Bradley of Czech origin have done a fantastic job of preserving the “Dozinky” event as it truly happens in the Moravian and Slovakian villages in the old country. The dancers wear original costumes, the band of accordions plays Czech polka and the singers sing Czech songs.
The Czech & Slovak dance group.
I marvel at this effort, because the festival passes the Czech heritage onto the younger generation. The dance troupe involves kids ages three to unlimited. The festivities open with the shortest parade in the world; it’s even shorter than the parade in Hubbardston on St. Pat’s Day.
The parade route is past the ZCBJ Lodge to the small field with a concrete platform for the dancers. The dancers and singers march in the parade with rakes and scythes, symbolizing the original harvest of wheat.
Usually, a polka band plays inside the hall after the dance troupe is done outside. I’ve never been to that part, because it runs later in the afternoon when we have to head back home for a long drive through the fields.
The best part of the event is the original Czech food. For ten bucks, you get to eat like in a fancy Czech restaurant without leaving USA. The buffet features, ham, chicken, dumplings, sauerkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, biscuits and a dessert.
However, one thing you will not get here, is the traditional Czech “kolache” pastry. One of the editors of the Fraternity Herald asked me to share the origins of this festive pastry.
So, I asked my mother Ella, while she was still in Venice. Growing up in Moravian small town of Vizovice, she could trace the humble origins to the villagers.
“They used all the ingredients available to them in their households,” she said. “This included the cottage cheese they made themselves, butter or lard and eggs. The only thing they bought was sugar and flour. They had everything else including the plum butter.”
The popularity of “kolache” as a signature pastry at all events and festivities, skyrocketed over the years, as the city folks discovered them while touring villages.
“Kolaches” are to Czechs what pizza is to the Italians,” mom said. “They too use the ingredients available to them; olives, pasta sauce and such.”
There are hundreds of recipes for traditional “kolache” varying according to the region.
However, they all have in common the following: golden crust topped with plum butter with sugary crumbling and filled with cottage cheese mixed with raisins.
Lowell, MI- Neil Simon’s dinner theater-Rumors at Larkin’s Other Place is a step back in time into a distant possibility of imagination gone wild.
Presented by the LowellArts Players, the play is fast-paced with characters emerging on stage one after another.
First guests who arrive to the 10th anniversary party find out that one of the hosts attempted suicide-unsuccessfully.
What ensues are hilarious cover-ups and deceptions, lies and twisted truths.
Although funny and ludicrous, one expects that the main characters Charley and Myra will appear on stage anytime.
The four affluent couples know each well from other social gatherings. And are quite critical of each other.
When the officers arrive, someone has to play Charley to cover-up for gun shots.
Who will it be?
The play, which is actually a farce, is directed by Kim Miller. The beautiful set was designed by Ron Wood and Dan Kantorowski. Costumes were designed by Marcia DeVos. Peggy Parrish was in charge of stage management and sound.
“Last year, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding chronicled the ‘wedding from hell,” Miller said. “This year with Rumors, we are putting on the 10th wedding anniversary ‘party from hell.”
The show dates and times are: April 28 at 2:30 pm, May 3, 4 & 5 with dinner at 6:30 pm and show at 7:30 pm.
The tickets are $16 – $20, dinner is an additional $13. Advanced tickets required for dinner theater, show only tickets also available.
I have just glanced at my Jan. 19 Taurus Horoscope to see if I am on track. Without the Blink of an eye this is what I found out.
I have enrolled in Spanish classes together with Ludek. I will be teaching ESL English as a Second Language and writing classes in the Grand Rapids area. My new column about Czech heritage is coming up in the Western Fraternal Life Herald, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
My next book signing of Shifting Sands Short Stories will take place at the LowellArts downtown gallery on Main Street on Feb. 3 from 1 to 4 pm. I will be offering tips on how to start and finish your book in 2018. Sign up on Facebook @emmapalova to win a free book.
For more info on the Western Fraternal Life Association and the Fraternal Herald monthly magazine go to:
You may be intrigued by the prospects of enrolling in a course of study today, but you’re determined to specifically learn something that can contribute to your material success. Although your practical …
Washington D.D. – Growing up, you were always told that it’s impossible to be in two places at once, especially two different countries that are oceans apart. But what if that’s not true after all? What if I told you that I was in eleven countries during the course of one day and eight countries the following weekend?
On the first two Saturdays of every May, a large number of foreign embassies in Washington, DC open their doors to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. This year had 42 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe participating in the Around the World weekend and all 28 countries of the European Union for the EU weekend.
Since you couldn’t possibly fit in seven per hour one weekend and almost five per hour the next, planning ahead is the best approach. Thankfully, a majority of the countries are within easy walking distance of each other on or near a section of Massachusetts Avenue known as Embassy Row.
Pictured above are dancers from Estonia and a stamped passport from the cultural tour around the world embassies in Washington D.C. in May.
The enormous German Embassy is considerably off the beaten path, but the EU weekend had shuttle buses to make it easier to get there and to other groupings of embassies that are several blocks away from Massachusetts Ave.
For the Around the World weekend, the best starting point is Dupont Circle where the friendly folks from Cultural Tourism DC will give you a map showing the locations of all participating embassies, and you can also buy an official Cultural Tourism DC Passport for $5 to have stamped at each country you visit. For the EU weekend, the European Union Delegation building is within sight of Foggy Bottom Metro, and they’ll be happy to give you your map, free passport, and various other “I Love EU” goodies.
The moment you step through the door of any of the embassies, you have legally departed the United States and are in Sri Lanka, Morocco, Latvia, or whichever country owns the site. Many of the buildings are posh Beaux Arts mansions constructed during the Gilded Age by contemporaries of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers.
Colombia and Chile both have lavish grand staircases that you can’t help but imagine a woman in a turn of the century ball gown with long gloves gracefully descending. They’re showing off a lot more than extravagant architecture and furnishings though. This event is all about exposing visitors to their culture, music, art, history, food, and people.
South Korea could be heard from a block away as the DJ blasted K-pop while visitors from all over the world grooved on the dance floor. Meanwhile, children in Botswana had the opportunity to make a colorful paper windsock before having a chance to sample a traditional Botswana’s snack. While the ginger infused pineapple juice there was delicious, most Americans were probably not adventurous enough to sample the dried caterpillars, regardless of how much protein they may have. The Portuguese Ambassador himself greeted many of the visitors to his country before they watched an informational video, snacked on delightful custard tarts with Port wine, and were given t-shirts with the statement “Portugal: 900 Years Young.”
Travelers who dropped by Morocco truly felt transported across the Atlantic. Their courtyard was transformed with large cushions placed on beautiful carpets under tents. Ladies in attire quintessential to West Africa offered small pastries similar to baklava and hot tea from a gorgeous silver teapot while live music was played. Henna tattoos were also available there for a fee.
A top destination of the Around the World Embassies for foodies was Chile. They offered samples of bread dipped in olive oil with herbs, red and white wine, mussels flavored with cilantro, several types of fruit, and pisco sour cocktails. Lovers of dance particularly enjoyed the Kyrgyz Republic. A trio of ladies periodically performed choreography typical of their country. Elements of Bollywood integrated seamlessly with movements similar to those used in belly dance with a hint of Russian influence.
In Estonia, dancers were not only performing, but inviting members of the crowd to participate and learn how to do something a little like a mix of English Country Dance popular in the 19th century and Polka. The Latvians got some entertaining reactions from sharing samples of their traditional beverages. To be fair, they did warn innocent victims that the herbal liquor called Black Balsam was very strong. Many Americans still were a little unprepared for the 90 proof liquid blending spices and pure vodka. Those visitors who are familiar with the Czech Republic’s Becherovka, on the other hand, found it to be delightful.
For those who are intrigued by a particular region but are hesitant to travel there due to safety concerns, this is a perfect alternative. As a single woman, I would not feel comfortable traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan, but I found the embassies to be charming and the people exceptionally friendly. Notably, in the Iraqi Embassy, a woman in a stunning traditional dress was selling paintings of her homeland. When she’s not painting, she’s a forensic toxicologist here in the United States. She loves the country of her birth, but she is very excited about soon receiving her permanent Green Card.
Traveling around the world gives a unique opportunity to expand a person’s horizons and help them appreciate the beauty in our differences and in similarities they may never have imagined previously. Passport DC gives the opportunity to get a bite sized vacation to countries that many people would not ordinarily think of when planning their next trip, and in some cases, countries that most Americans have never even heard of. Want to see the world but don’t want to spend hours on planes or trying to recover from jet lag? The first two weekends of May in Washington, DC make it simple. This is your chance to prove your physics teacher wrong because thanks to this event, you really can be in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and South America without ever leaving the capital of the United States.
The featured photo: The Luxembourg Embassy in Washington D.C. Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg stayed after the Nazis invaded her country in WWII.
Now this was a brassy happening Brassy in Washington D.C.
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