Category Archives: Czech heritage

Czech Christmas Traditions II

The live carp in a bathtub

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Among the age-old Czech Christmas traditions that I consider as the most bizarre and “fishy” was the purchase of a live carp on Christmas Eve or the day before for Christmas Eve dinner at the Czech open-air holiday markets.

The carp were transported in barrels with fresh water from the carp ponds in Southern Bohemia such as Trebon. The carp ponds were started in medieval times in the Rozmberk area. Annually in the autumn, the ponds are drained and the carp are netted and kept in large vats before they hit the holiday markets on city squares.

We had to stand in lines for fresh carp at the open markets and the no. 1 tip was not to forget your crochet net bag so the carp could breathe in it before you got the poor fish home, that had already been fighting for oxygen with hundreds of carp in the barrels and vats since November.

If you were lucky to get the carp home live, you had to release it into the bathtub. The next day the men in the household butchered it and it was served for Christmas Eve dinner. Sometimes the head was used for fish soup. We have always used the mushroom soup alternative.

The next hurdle you had to overcome was not to get a bone stuck in your throat. The fried carp always had plenty of bones, fat, and smelled of mud from the ponds, if it was big enough. Yet, it was the fish of choice for the festive dinner accompanied by potato salad, and soup.

If you had something different like fish fillets or fried schnitzel, it was looked down upon.

Fishy tradition modified

This fishy tradition I have modified accordingly since there is no live carp sold on American open holiday markets. At least not that I know of. For years I bought fish at the local grocer’s fish counter, until 2020, the year of Covid.

As I frequented farmer’s markets in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, I discovered fishmonger Dan Sodini from Middleville. He brings fresh and frozen fish from the cold waters of Lake Huron to the markets in West Michigan. Last year, he started the annual winter “fish drop” and I rejoiced.

I knew the Great Lakes Fish annual fish drop was as close as I could get to the Czech live carp tradition. During the first winter fish drop on Jan. 16th at the Ada market, I bought our Christmas fish: lake trout, whitefish, and salmon. And yes, I had to stand in a line. Thank you, Dan, for keeping our “fishy” tradition alive.

Some Czech families feeling sorry for the carp let it loose the next day, which was not recommended.

Back to Christmas Eve; those who fasted all day before dinner got to see the golden pig, signifying prosperity. Also if you put a scale from the carp under your plate or in your wallet, you will enjoy prosperity.

Creative Czechs have been inspired by the live carp tradition for generations; it has made its way into movies, folk tales, legends, poems, new blog posts, and radio talk.

If you see a star made from apple seeds by cutting an apple in half, the whole family will enjoy health for the entire year or there will be a birth in the family. On the other hand, if you see a cross from the apple seeds or the center is rotted, there will be a death in the family.

Single girls threw a shoe behind them at the doorstep, if the tip pointed to the door, the girl would get married next year. If it pointed inward, the girl would stay single for at least the next year.

Sometimes, we each floated a nut shell with a candle resembling little sailboats in a pot; the sailboats that traveled away from the edge, meant travel for their owners, the ones that stayed by the edge, meant staying home.

A major difference between Czech and American Christmas is that gifts are found underneath the tree right after dinner. “Jezisek” brings them while we eat.

This was preceded by a long period of hiding gifts, and hunting for them; finding gifts in unusual places and boxes marked with something else than the content. I picked up this tradition from my dad, Vaclav Konecny. Once in Africa, he put my doll in a box from a train. I remember the tears of disappointment, that didn’t last too long.

Mom Ella found her golden bracelets hanging like ornaments on the Christmas tree. Thanks, dad for this fun tradition.

Then, we play traditional Czech carols on the piano and the trumpet. We usually go for the Christmas mass the next day on Dec. 25th. Now, almost exclusively to St. Pat’s in Parnell.

In the Czech Republic, the day after Christmas Day was known as the Feast of St. Stephen, which we all celebrated by visiting with family and going to church.

Since we have been sharing our favorite Christmas traditions on my “For the Love of Books Podcast,” I would be remiss if I didn’t share my own.

Here we go:

Favorite holiday tradition

After a long day of working in the kitchen, my favorite moment was finally sitting down at the festive dinner table, lighting the candles, and seeing all the hungry faces ready to eat after the prayer led by the head of the family.

Check out the “For the Love of Books Podcast” on

http://emmapalova123.podbean.com

Merry Christmas

Copyright (c) 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happy birthday to former Czechoslovakia

The sovereign country of Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic & Slovakia) emerged on Oct. 28, 1918, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. On that day, the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague proclaimed its independence.

Referred to as the First Republic it existed from 1918 to 1938 when it ceded Sudetenland to German as part of the Munich Agreement.

The second republic lasted only half a year until the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in 1939.

Pictured in the feature photo is the 28. rijen 1918 rally of the people on Wenceslas Square in Prague.

Source: Wikipedia

Bannister Carries On Czech Traditions with Dancers

Premier Harvest Dozinky Czech and Slovak event canceled

The YELL group members are also members of The Bannister ZCBJ Czechoslovakian Folk Dancers.  

By Emma Palova

Bannister, MI- With a population of 100 nestled amidst the wheat fields of Mid-Michigan, the little town of Bannister carries on a proud Czech legacy dating back to 1906.

The first Czech immigrants were recruited by the Ann Arbor Railroad to help construct a river channel along the railroad tracks north of Bannister. Later they worked in the surrounding sugar beet fields. At one time, Bannister had two churches, one bar, an auto shop and a trade dealer. All that remains today is the post office.

“The newcomers to the area felt the need for some type of club or lodge of their own,” Tom Bradley wrote in his “Pamatnik.”

Josef Drtina traveled by horse and buggy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Michigan and secured enough members to start a new lodge in Bannister on October 1, 1911.

Today, the ZCBJ Lodge #225 is 1,000 members strong with a signature dance group led by Diane and Tom Bradley. The couple started the Bannister ZCBJ Czechoslovakian Folk Dancers in 1976. The dancers have all been dancing since they were each two years old.

Tom also plays polka music on WOES-FM Ovid-Elsie Community Radio-home of the Polka Palace. The music streams on the following link:

https://www.ovidelsie.org/o/Ovid%20Elsie%20Schools/page/woes-fm?fbclid=IwAR3wswoe8lNdGh3EvmdHs7sr_XdzdfJXPlwIPl122oX_blThFW0TvGGUM5U

Although it’s staple event- the “Harvest Dozinky Festival”- has been canceled this year again due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lodge will have other events such as the upcoming “Walk for Hunger” on Aug. 8th.

“We think we might have our bazaar this year,” said Diane. “I don’t know about the other events. We go day by day.”

Annually, the lodge holds a bazaar on the last Saturday in October. Other events include: a fall dinner, Mikulas and Cert on the first Sunday in December, a mid-winter jamboree in February.

The Bradleys run the temporary Czech and Slovak Bakery in nearby Ashley from mid- November leading up to Christmas during the Polar Express event.

According to the Czech tradition, the bakery offers rohliky and poppy seed rolls.

“We grew up with the tradition, the language, the music and the food,” said Diane.

The ZCBJ Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/ZCBJ-Lodge-225-BetterLife-126739624091965

Feature photo: ZCBJ board members: Bob Ladiski, Sally Stoll, Tom Bradley, Ed Fornusek, Joanne Fornusek, Ruth Malek, Diane Bradley.

Copyright © 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech Name Days

April brings fun with new adventures

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – I am still fascinated with the Czech name days. The  Czech calendar attributes a name to each day year round. This originates in the saints’ names, and it was later expanded as the secular selection of names grew.

I’ve always wondered why the greeting card making companies like Hallmark never used this name opportunity to expand their portfolio. Now, they have their TV channel, so as the French say; It’s passe compose.

The Czechs and many other European countries kept this age-old tradition of celebrating name days on certain dates of the year. For example today-April 8- is Emma’s name day.

It’s sort of like the celebration of St. Pat’s Day on March 17 in Ireland and in the USA. Some name days are the basis for festivals like St. Mary’s in September. Others are totally obscure except for those who carry that particular name.

Since Joseph is such a popular name in Czech, March 19 is a big celebration of that name in the old country. It used to be in villages, that every other man was named Joseph.

After 30 years of living in the USA, I have trouble getting current Czech calendars. However, the big advantage is that the names always fall on the same dates, no matter what year.

April is an interesting month in Czech Republic overall with early blossoms and spring traditions. It’s even more interesting here in the USA with the upcoming outdoors events, that won’t hopefully get cancelled.

I am looking forward to all my new adventures like the podcast show “For the love of books” with Indie and small press authors, as well as my new involvement with the Czechoslovak Landmarks Society or landmarkstrust.org.

Subscribe to the major podcast channels and on YouTube.

Watch for the podcast with authors Jean Davis and Andrew Smith.

Copyright (c)2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Reviews from Americans of Czech origins

Bannister, MI – The following are reviews of the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” by Thomas and Diane Bradley of Bannister, MI. Both are Michigan State Polka Music Hall of Fame 2012 inductees. They are one of the founders of the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival known as “Dozinky” held annually in Bannister on the first Sunday in August. The Bradleys are members of the Western Fraternal Life Association, Lodge Michigan #225.

Thomas Bradley

The “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” truly brought back memories of my trip with my grandmother to Czechoslovakia in 1960 when I was 17. We stayed with friends in one of those grey apartment buildings. The deal was you couldn’t talk to people without them looking around to make sure no one was listening. I knew part of what was going on but this book really provided insight as to what was truly taking place.

Also, I knew about the Charter 77 movement and this memoir helped to provide a bigger picture as to what was taking place. This book provided a great amount of insight into how the citizens of Czechoslovakia actually lived and their struggles during that period of communism. It was truly very informative.

Diane Bradley

I’ve heard many stories from my grandparents and elders in the family who immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia. Arriving between 1900 and 1910; they were from a different time and socioeconomic background.

I so enjoyed reading Emma’s family’s journey to a new and safer life. Their memories were of a new era and different circumstances. “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” truly broadened my perspective of immigrants’ lives and challenges.

About the feature photo: This is the cover of the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

Autumn Virtual Book Festival

Autumn Virtual Book Festival

Follow author readings and interviews during the month of October.

The festival features a variety of authors with diverse genres.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2364082633894256

Copyright (c)2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday mom

Mom Ella turns 83 today

By Emma Palova

Big Rapids, MI – My mother, Ella Konecny, turns 83 on this beautiful summer day. We celebrated her birthday yesterday in Big Rapids with a cookout on the deck. Mom always puts on a feast: juicy ribs, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and her famous nutty cake roll, all preceded by a traditional Czech platter of cheese, salami and home-made pickles Znojmo style.

Dad Vaclav Konecny grills ribs on the deck overlooking my parents’ pretty garden. They grow and can their own delicious pickles.

Together with my father Vaclav, they’ve been living in this small university town, home to Ferris State University, for more than four decades.

Mom was born Drabkova in former communist Czechoslovakia on Aug. 23, 1937 in Zlin to a working class family. My grandparents Anna and Joseph Drabek worked hard to get mom into the university so she could become the future pharmacist.

My mother has inspired the memoir Greenwich Meridian, where East meets west about the family immigration saga. She didn’t want to leave the communist country after the Soviet invasion on the night of August 20-21 in 1968.

The memoir, slated for Oct. 16, 2020 publication is dedicated to both of my parents because they have always inspired me both in hard and good times with their dedication and perseverance. It is available now on preorder on Amazon at:

Greenwich Meridian Memoir is slated for Oct. 16, 2020 publication. It is available for preorder on Amazon. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

Their journey from the Moravian hilly villages of Vizovice and Stipa to Big Rapids in Michigan was tumultuous with many twists and turns.

Some of the milestones included the 1973 return to hardline Czechoslovakia from Texas, and then the escape back into the New World for my dad in 1976. Mom joined him in 1980.

Dad landed the math professor job at the Ferris State University, and that finally anchored them permanently in their new home.

To this day, mom says she loved her bio lab technician job also at the university.

Their true story has also inspired my fiction in my first Shifting Sands Short Stories book. “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” contains some bits and pieces from the early years of immigration.

I wrote that story shortly after  my immigration to the USA in 1989. When I compare some of the elements of the short story to the memoir, I consider them Visceral in character, coming from a gut feeling.

The main character in the story is professor Martin Duggan obsessed with his own quest for perfection.

May you both enjoy many more years of love, good health and optimism. Thank you for all your love and support.

For chapters “Prague Spring, Part I” & “Prague Spring, Part II from the memoir click on the following links:

https://emmapalova.com/2020/08/20/prague-spring-1968/

https://emmapalova.com/2020/08/21/prague-spring-1968-part-ii/

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech “dozinky” Festival on Radio

Listen in today at 2:30 p.m. to radio WOES-FM 91.3- Ovid-Elsie Community radio- home of the polka palace.

Costumed dancers at the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, MI.
The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

Tom Bradley, one of the co-founders of the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, will be talking about the “Dozinky” festival. The festival always held on the first Sunday in August was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We could not take the risk,” said co-founder Diane Bradley.

The festival takes place at the ZCBJ Lodge in Bannister. in Cenral Michigan. It features a parade, costumed dancers, a festive dinner consisting of ham, chicken, dumplings, saurkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes and traditional Czech desserts. The dinner is followed by a dance.

https://www.ovidelsie.org/woes-fm

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czechs in Bannister, Michigan

Czech tradition lives on in the new country

Updated on July 27, 2020 in Lowell, MI

Note: I also write about preserving Czech traditions in the U.S. in my new upcoming book–the Greenwich Meridian Memoir. This year, the festival always held on the first Sunday in August, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Enjoy the story and make the Czech traditional fare at home and listen to the WOES radio program this Sunday at 2:30 pm.

What is the flagship Czech dish? It is pork, sauerkraut and dumplings washed down with Pilsner beer and complimented by a kolache dessert. I deeply admire both the women and the men of the ZCBJ Lodge for keeping the Czech traditions alive.

Harvest Festival on radio WOES 91.3 FM on Aug. 2

There will be a program about the Harvest Festival in Bannister this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on WOES 91.3 FM. Chairman Tom Bradley will talk about the festival and play Czech music. Both Diane and Tom are co-founders of the Harvest Festival in Bannister, although the festival started in Owosso.

By Emma Palova

I went to a traditional Czech costumed wedding called “veselka” approximately 30 years ago. It was in a castle in the small town of Holesov. The bride Miroslava was 17 and the groom was 27. His name was Vojtech and he was from the region where these customs originate right on the border of Moravia and Slovakia.

Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.

By Czech standards it was a huge wedding of close to 100 people. They had a classic polka band with accordions and trumpets. The acoustics in the castle were amazing.
The men wore hats called “burinka,” embroidered vests with ribbons on them. The women had festive costumes and small caps on their heads. After years I finally remembered the significance of the cap as opposed to a wreath from fresh flowers on younger women. The cap signifies that a woman is married, while the women with fresh flowers are single.
Many years later, as I watched the dancers in Bannister this past Sunday, listened to the accordions, enjoyed Czech food, and checked out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admired the people behind this event. Most of them have never been in Czech Republic let alone at a classic “veselka.”

The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

What they have recreated, preserved and continue to carry on to next generations is more than triumphant. I can safely say that most people in the old country don’t know how to dance polka, czardas, or mazurka. The Czech Harvest in Bannister is a testimony that human spirit will always prevail.

According to  the chairman of the festival Tom Bradley’s “Pamatnik” published for the 100th anniversary of the ZCBJ Lodge in 2011,the Czechs and Slovaks immigrated to Central Michigan around 1904 from Chicago and Cleveland. They were recruited to work the sugar beet fields. Eventually they worked on their own farms. And the recruiters had to look for different workers from big cities.

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

Happy Birthday Dad

Vaclav Konecny emanates inspiration

By Emma Palova

Whenever I seek inspiration for my writings, I look up to my father and I know I will find it. My father, former math professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, turned 86 on this lovely summer day. He is active, loving and most of all inspiring by his words and actions.

On any given day, you will find him either solving or proposing math problems for math journals or doing simple things like canning, picking blueberries and making jams and marmelades with mom Ella.

Dad is a typical Leo, strongly independent and likes to take charge of everything with great enthusiasm. Behind these character traits lies the fact that dad doesn’t trust anyone else would do an equally good job.

My father Vaclav Konecny (second from the right, first row) at the Archbishop Gymnasium-Boys’ Seminary in Kromeriz, Czechoslovakia in 1948.

And he is right. No one can beat his solutions to any problems, be it maintenance issues around the house, cars or plumbing. He is logical, rational and precise, always a step ahead of the game.

Dad has a good sense of humor and knows how to start a conversation at a party with strangers.

“How do you do it, dad?” I asked him.

“Well, if I know the guy is a dentist, I start talking about teeth,” he laughed.

Like a good Leo, he is always prepared for anything that might come his way.

He was born in Brest, former Czechoslovakia in 1934 as the second oldest child out of five. Due to the lack of finances, his parents, who were also educators, enrolled my dad and Uncle Tony in the Archibishop Gymnasium-Boys’ Seminary in Kromeriz right after the end of WWII.

To this day, my dad credits all his accomplishments to this renowned institution led by priests. Although he was bullied for his height, it didn’t leave any marks on him.

“I’ve learned discipline that stayed with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “I even got beaten up by other kids.”

It was discipline that carried him through the tough times of twice emigrating from former communist Czechoslovakia to pursue his dream of independence and teaching in the USA without the fear of being persecuted for his religious beliefs.

Dad is a true self-made man, not overly embellished with medals or honors, but with degrees from various universities in Czechoslovakia and the USA, achieved by honesty and hard work.

However, his solutions to math problems were published in Crux Mathematicorum of the Canadian Mathematical Society in the 1990s. Dad received an Honourable Mention for participating in the solutions.

Love you dad. May you continue to inspire all of us. We wish you many healthy and optimistic years ahead.

My father and mother are the main characters in my upcoming book- the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” now available for preorder on Amazon.

Day 35: COVID-19 Waste, wait & help

CZECH STAROPRAMEN WASTED

Lowell, MI – This morning I found out from the Expatriots.cz newsletter, that Prague’s Staropramen Brewery will dump hundreds of thousands of liters of beer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coming from this country, that holds monopoly on both beer production and consumption, I find this sad and excessive. Staropramen, a subsidiary of Molson Coors, could export the beer.

For more info go to:
news.expats.cz/czech-food-drink/pragues-staropramen-brewery-will-ecologically-dispose-of-hundreds-of-thousands-of-liters-of-beer/

The media reported earlier in the pandemic, that the US farmers will be dumping milk because the schools and the restaurants didn’t need it due to the shutdown. However, the cows still had to be milked.

Helping out Lowell, Canfield’s matching program until May 1

You can still buy a gift certificate to the local hair/nail salons or restaurants and Canfield Plumbing & Heating will match it up to $50 per household. We went for Sneaker’s.

THE FESTIVAL WAITING GAME 2020

Festival news from the Lakeshore Art Festival in Muskegon

We have heard from a number of exhibitors and guests and are so thankful for the outpouring of support for the Lakeshore Art Festival and would like to provide an update for this year’s event. We are closely following the status of COVID-19 within our state and throughout the country. Our number one priority is the health and wellbeing of our community, artists and guests. We also understand the extreme financial burden that is being placed on artists, businesses and employees. Taking all of that into consideration and the fact that our event is in July, we have decided to wait until mid-May before we determine how to proceed with the festival. By the end of May we will provide another communication with details on the status of Lakeshore Art Festival 2020. Please note: Status may change based on new directives put forth by the Governor of Michigan.

Thank you all health care and essential workers for keeping us alive and fed.

Stay tuned for day by day quarantine coverage from Michigan.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.