I love May as it marks the beginning of summer according to ancient European traditions. My fondest memories date back to my school days at both the high school and Gymnasium Gottwaldow, now Zlin in the Czech Republic.
International Workers’ Day
We always had the day off, not for ourselves, but for the communist society. The May Day parades were mandatory for both the students and the staff. The working class also had to participate in the parades. We all received patriotic pompoms to cheer the day and the officials seated on the bleachers. If a person didn’t show up for the parade, you got written up.
Opening of the beer gardens
May Day also marked the official opening of the beer gardens. So right after the parade aka the March of Thieves, we frequented the fine establishments such as the beer garden by the Chateau. The parades ceased when the regime collapsed on Nov. 27, 1989, but the custom of opening the gardens prevailed.
May podcast guests
I am excited about my May podcast guest lineup on For the Love of Books Podcast. Tune in for a chance to win a signed copy of your next favorite read.
May 2023 Podcast Schedule
FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS PODCAST with host EMMA PALOVA
Listen in for a chance to win a signed copy in the podcast book giveaway.
Lowell, MI – Celebrate Easter responsibly with a six foot long whip.
Those were the guidelines for Easter Monday from the Czech officials. Social distancing restrictions have also impacted some beloved Easter customs in Czech Republic known as the whipping of the women called “schmigrust” on Easter Monday.”
“How?” you asked.
“The whips just got longer to satisfy the six-foot social distancing requirement.“
On the night before Easter Monday, the men braided the whips from willow branches. The whip consists of eight, twelve or even 24 withies (willow rods.) They headed out early on Monday morning either individually or as a team. Even before social distancing, the leader of the team carried the biggest whip with the most ribbons. The team members had their personal whips and rattles. The noisy procession went from house to house seeking out the loveliest females, who had the prettiest ribbons. This custom is known as “pomlazka.”
According to some accounts, (including my own) the purpose of whipping is for males to exhibit their attraction to females; unvisited females can even feel offended. I wrote about this Easter Monday whipping tradition in my upcoming book the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” Watch for excerpts coming up during the COVID-19 quarantine.
The lashing would take place at the doorstep to the famous Easter rhyme:
“Hody, hody, doprovody, give me a colored egg, if you don’t have a colored egg, give me at least a white one, the hen will lay another one.”
Depending on the household, the lady of the house, tied a ribbon to the whip, handed out eggs and poured shots of the famous plum brandy known as sliwowitz.
The whipping custom dates back to the pagan times. It was meant to chase away bad spirits, sickness and bring health and youth to everyone for the rest of the year. In our Moravian region, we were told that it symbolized the whipping of Christ.
If the women of the household were popular and the Easter team arrived late, there would be no ribbons or shots left for them.
On the other hand, you could see drunken teams in the afternoon out on the streets.
We have always adhered to this “schmigrust” custom wherever we lived in the world, except for this year due to the Coronavirus quarantine. We still have the personal braided whips from Czech and the giant rattle.
As a renaissance tradition, I made deviled eggs or eggs casino style from the dyed Easter eggs.
You just scoop out the yolks into a bowl, mix it with butter and mustard, you can add chopped up ham.
Below is a video of the Czech prime minister Andrej Babis lashing his wife.
Thank you health care workers.
Stay tuned for day by day coverag of the COVID-19 quarantine.
Tomorrow: Hastings woman infected with Coronavirus struggles to get better.
Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
The major difference between Czech and American Easter, is that Czech Republic has an Easter Monday celebration.
On Easter Monday, the custom in the villages calls for “whipping” of the girls and women to commemorate Christ’s whipping before he was crucified. Boys and men braid the whips from willow branches.
The teams head out early in the morning on Easter Monday. The ladies of the house have readied the ribbons to tie to the whips, shots of plum brandy and colored eggs. The leader of the team carries the longest whip with the most ribbons.
The Monday festivities are known as “pomlazka.”
Some boys carry wooden “rattles” that make deafening noises ushering in the jolly “whipping team.” The rattles were used instead of church bells. Legend has it that the church bells left for Rome.
Slovak variation on Monday Easter feature pouring water or cologne on girls and women.
Women color the eggs quite often in onion skins for natural brown look. Depending on the region, the Easter feast features “kolache,” a festive traditional pastry of modest origins. Kolache are common also in Czech communities across the USA; Cedar Rapids, Bannister, West Texas and countless others.
Easter lamb baked like a pound cake with decorated eggs.
The Easter meal, again depending on the region, will be most likely “rizek” which is a breaded pork, veal or rabbit fried steak with mashed potatoes accompanied by home-made preserved fruits.
Roasted goose or duck can be an alternative.
In Moravia, the host will offer a shot of plum brandy to greet you at the doorstep. The plum brandies are a pride of each household, and as such they differ based on the plums. Plum brandies are made in local distilleries with equal pride in their craft.
Families get together from far and near to duscuss the latest news; who died, who got married or divorced and to gossip about neighbors and friends.
When we transferred Czech customs to North America in the 1990s, we kept the Easter “whipping”, the plum shots, while adding the American egg hunt and having a leg of lamb with herbs for Easter dinner.
We do miss the “kolache” pastry, since I do not know how to make kolache.
Stay tuned for posts about Czech traditions in America including the elusive “kolache.”
Czech Easter traditions and symbols.
Pictured above: Easter lamb pound cake, colored eggs called “kraslice”, braided whips and a wooden rattle.
The feature photo: Gentle whipping on Easter at the Pala household somewhere in Midwest America. Pictured are: Ludek Pala, Jakub Pala & Maranda Palova.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
Coyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Bannister, MI- No matter how long I’ve lived in North America, I still sometimes miss my home country, the Czech Republic.
It’s hard to pin point what exactly am I missing? My whole family, except for daughter Emma Chavent, lives here in Michigan. Although, we don’t have family reunions, we often visit with each other. We all speak the Czech language including our youngest granddaughter Josephine Marie Palova. She was born in Kalamazoo in 2013 to American mother and to son Jake.
So, it isn’t just the language that I miss. Sometimes, I think it’s the food. But, that can’t be right, both my husband Ludek and I can cook any Czech meal. We usually cook Czech food on Sundays.
The perfect Czech Sunday meal are either schnitzels or pork, cabbage and dumplings.
Every August, we go to the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival held in Bannister, MI. ZCBJ Lodge #225 in Bannister organizes the annual event.
We do this to remind ourselves, our kids and grandchildren of our Czech origins. French-born Ella Chavent enjoyed the festival for the first time. She has never seen the traditional Czech and Slovak festive costumes or the dances.
Ella marveled both at the dances and the music. She loved the full Czech fare that consisted of ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, dumplings, cabbage, cucumber salad and Czech desserts.
As in most countries, the food and the desserts are the pride of that particular nation. The ZCBJ Bannister lodge volunteers have cooked the delicious spread since 1976. Although somewhat modified, the food carries the Czech staples of dumplings, cabbage and cucumber salad.
The dance troop celebrated 40th anniversary under the leadership of Diane and Tom Bradley. Another group played the accordions, a common instrument for the Polka music.
Every year, I am flabbergasted by the dedication of the organizers to the Czech culture. Although, they are of Czech origin, most of them have never visited Czech or Slovak republics. Their meticulous research has brought them closer to the country located in the heart of Europe, thousands of miles away from the American shore.
The dedication also shows in the compiled recipes in the Czech anniversary cookbooks. Most recipes are in memory of loved ones.
A Polka brass band accompanies the mass at the Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church. The dance troop also dances polka and other Czech dances.
What makes the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival even more special is the fact that such events are dying out in the old country as the older generation passes on.
“Lodge Michigan #225 has been fortunate to have members who willingly give of themselves, who live not in the past, but rather use the past to build for the future,” the festival program reads.
“Vitejte holka na Dozinky,” Tom Bradley greeted Ella in Czech.
I used to worry about the future of this Czech event that annually takes place in the middle nowhere, not close to Lansing and not close to Grand Rapids.
Since yesterday, I don’t worry anymore. I saw young blood everywhere; from the dancers to the accordion players. Among the visitors were a lot of young people, who probably have never seen anything like the traditional costumed dances.
The event closes with a dance for the public inside the ZCBJ Lodge. The lodge itself is a feast for the eyes. It has a traditional stage for the Polka band. Paintings from Czech history decorate the walls of the 1916 hall.
Thanks to all the volunteers for keeping the Czech tradition in Midwest alive.
The next Czechoslovak Harvest Festival in Bannister will be held on Aug. 6th, 2017.
Lowell, MI-In my memoir “Greenwich Meridian,” I write about Czech and Slovak traditions that I have witnessed while living in Czechoslovakia with a touch of nostalgia. Some of them disappeared along with the old regimes, but most have survived mainly in villages and small towns preserved by enthusiastic small groups of people. The traditions are reflected in festive costumes for the holidays and special events, in music, dance, food, and customs specific to each village and town.
We lived in Zlin, Moravia, which is the central part of former Czechoslovakia embedded in traditions. Both as a child and an adult, I lived and visited with my grandparents in Vizovice, a treasure trove of traditions.
Easter celebrations in Czech and some other European countries are longer by one day, and that is Monday.
We have always indulged in lavish preparations for the long Easter weekend. That meant having enough meat, desserts, eggs, and beverages for three days. There were long lines just like before any major holiday. I spent a lot of time standing in lines and listening to what the old broads had to say.
“I am not going to tell him how much I spent,” a woman wearing a scarf and a fluffy skirt shook her head defiantly.
The other one with an apron over her dress smelled of burnt dough.
I thought, she must have burnt her kolache, a traditional festive pastry with plum butter.
The broad leaned closer to the first one and whispered something into her ear. Then they both laughed, until their bellies and chests were heaving up and down. I learned a lot standing in lines. The longer the line, the more I learned.
So, the culmination of it all is Easter Monday known for its “schmigrust,” an old whipping custom.
On that day, early in the morning ,large groups of boys and young men head out into the streets with their braided knot-grass whips or oversized wooden spoons decorated with ribbons. The day before, they spent many hours skillfully braiding their whips out of willow twigs or scouring the house for the biggest wooden spoon.
The boys go door to door, reciting traditional Easter carols like “Hody, hody doprovody,” asking the lady of the house for painted eggs. Then, they whip all the present females in exchange for decorated eggs and ribbons. Single women, and girls tied ribbons on top of the whip. I always wondered about the whipping custom, long before I ever set my foot out into the world. One day, grandma Anna finally explained it to me.
“It is supposed to resemble the whipping of Christ before he died,” she said.
“But, grandma that’s evil,” I cried.
Grandma just shrugged, and turned away. Later in life, I knew better than to question a tradition.
The elders in the group were offered shots of plum brandy, usually home made or acquired through bartering. Even family members took part in this ritual. Uncles and cousins were invited inside for coffee, festive desserts such as kolache, shots and meaningful conversation.
On a good year, and especially when I was a teenager, we got anywhere around 100 passionate revelers. Sometimes, I ran out of ribbons. The boys and young men, competing against each other, took pride in the number of ribbons they got. The craft stores had to stock up with meters and meters of ribbons, plain or embroidered. The hens, of course, felt obligated to produce more eggs.
A note to my regular readers. I am participating in a Content Writing challenge by Learn to Blog. The posts show my views on today’s world including my own. I hope you enjoy all of them as part of stepping up my blogging.
Hastings, MI- Today we celebrated my girl’s second birthday. Josephine Marie Palova was born to a multi-cultural family. My son Jakub Pala is Czech and he is married to his American sweetheart Maranda Palova.
I am in awe how much they respect each other’s cultures. Maranda took on the Slavic name Palova instead of Pala. Jakub wants to keep the Czech language for his daughter Josephine. He speaks to her in Czech every evening after work.
He asked me if I could give her a book in Czech. Now, that’s a problem here. But, I am a problem solver. I got up this morning before the birthday party and started working on a simple book in Czech for Josephine.
I firmly believe that Josephine will be fully bilingual, which is my son’s dream. I used simple sentences and clip art and I will keep adding pages to the core book and growing paragraphs as she grows.
I was most definitely inspired by the blogging challenge to do this. The group pulled me out of my depression. Thank you.
We had a great time at this multi-cultural party. Maranda and Jake were awesome hosts in their new home. I am so proud of both of them. They represent the best in the millennials.
Thank you for being great hosts and great children.
Copyright (c) 2015 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
May Day is not only known for the International Worker’s Day to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, but it is also a Northern Hemisphere spring festival.
It was an official holiday in former Czechoslovakia, complete with parades. But, most importantly, it was and it is a celebration of spring called Majales accompanied by the opening of the beer gardens. Majales are dances around May poles decorated with ribbons.
The first day of May is known as the day of love immortalized by many artists, poets and writers. It was mainly the work of Czech poet Karel Hynek Macha who attached love to this day and the entire month with his poem May.
Here are the first few verses from the poem translated by Edith Pargeter:
Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses frail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose’s fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven’s clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.
A haze of stars in heaven hovers—
That church of endless love’s communion—
Each jewel blanches and recovers
As blanch and burn long-parted lovers
In the high rapture of reunion.
How clear, to her full beauty grown,
How pale, how clear, the moon above,
Like maiden seeking for her love,
A rosy halo round her thrown!
Her mirrored image she espied,
And of self-love, beholding, died.
Forth from the farms pale shadows strayed,
Lengthening longing to their kind,
Till they embraced, and close entwined,
Coiled low into the lap of shade,
Grown all one twilight unity.
Tree in the shadows writhes to tree.
In the far mountains’ dark confine
Pine leans to birch and birch to pine.
Wave baunting wave the streamlets move.
For love’s sake—in the time of love—
Anguished goes every living thing.
The poem takes place by Doksy and the castles of Bezdez, Pernstejn, Holska and Ralsko point toward east and west, noon and midnight.
Czech parks and castles invite to romance many designed in classical English style with strict hedges and groves.
Typical flowers for May are lilacs. Some have grown into trees and have been cross-bred into different colors. Some Czech customs have carried over to the USA. In the photo below, Americans of Czech heritage are dancing around a May pole easily recognized by the ribbons.
Copyright (c) 2015 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.