Category Archives: traditions

Happy Thanksgiving

Day 22 of the National Novel Writing Month

Daily insights with excerpts from #nanowrimo

National Novel Writing Month.

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and followers around the globe.

As the tension in Europe intensifies with pending strikes in France and Czech Republic, I am deeply humbled by the Thanksgiving feast of hardiness and determination of our predecessors to survive.

I am thankful for this country’s abundance and the free creative spirit. I look forward to spending the holiday with our family from Big Rapids and Hastings. My deepest unfullfilled wish is for our French family to be here with us as well.

In the creative spirit of this free country, I logged in this morning with 42,578 words doing my personal part in the 50K word marathon.

The short story “40 Hunks” is a part of the new collection of short stories “Secrets” (c) 2018 Emma Palova. This is a sequel to “Shifting Sands: Short Stories” (c) 2017 Emma Palova.

It is my clear intention to see “Secrets” to print in 2019 after the revision months of January and February suppported by the National Novel Writing Month.

For more info go to:

http://www.nanowrimo.org

Excerpts from “40 Hunks”

Tracking progress at 42,578 words on Thanksgiving, 2018.

The work guide didn’t respond and turned his head away from Jose. He got immediately on the phone with the central farm.

“We’re heading out,” he said. “I need to count the heads. There’s supposed to be 40 men aboard. I need to count them to make sure I don’t have 50. We already looked in the storage; just fuel containers, no extra men.”

Jose decided to mind his own business and ignored the guide who walked to the back of the bus counting the men.

Antonio got up angrily as the guide approached the back of the bus. His shirt was ripped in the back and he had leather bracelets on his wrists. He grabbed the handle bars below the ceiling of the bus, and swayed in front of the work guide.

“How may I help you, gringo?” said Antonio in broken English. “How many times are you going to count us? There are 40 men on this bus. That doesn’t include you and the driver. I want to keep it that way until we get there.”

Antonio looked at the work guide and ripped off his name tag and threw it on the floor.

“There you go,” he laughed. “You’re nobody. You white piece of shit. Remember that.”

Antonio fell back heavily on the torn seat with white fuzz sticking out. He pulled some of the fuss out of the seat.

“I’ll stick this into your mouth, if you don’t stay quiet,” threatened Antonio.

The guide retreated to the front by Jose, who was now whistling to a tune on his cassette player.

“Man, you got a rough crowd here,” said the guide. “Who is that big dude?”

“Nobody, just like the rest of them,” said Jose. “Leave me alone. I need some rest.”

Sponsors of #nanowrimo

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Creepy feelings

Spooked out by Halloween

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s writings

Lowell, MI – My mixed feelings about Halloween are expressed in the photography below and above. On one hand , I love it because I love candy and masks as well as “doing myself up” one year as  Gene Simmons from Kiss.

On the other hand I don’t know what to think about it. You know, kids dressed up as everything from Disney princesses, fairies, superheroes to brides and grooms as skeletons. Each to his own. Who said that all Spirits of Halloween have to be scary?

But flipping back to the first hand, I totally enjoyed the ghost hunt at Fallasburg conducted by the Michigan Paranormal Alliance for the second time last Saturday. Even though it was creepy to listen to the hardsole footsteps of the ghost of teacher Mrs. Richmond. I was also bummed that I couldn’t go to the Masquerade: With a side of Murder at the Candlestone resort in Belding.

Not to mention that the scary event inspires me.

I missed out on a Halloween themed wedding last Friday. But, we watched a spooky movie “Amityville” last night.

According to newgrange.com, Halloween has Celtic roots in the Samhain Festival. Smahain was the division of the year between the lighter half and the darker half allowing  spirits to pass through at its thinnest.

One of the scariest places I’ve ever been to is the  Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain. The Moor mosque is located inside a cathedral as pictured in the feature photo.

Enjoy the sampling. Get spooked.

Copyright (c) 2018 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

American Dutch couple fits into Lowell community

Happy Independence Day

Watch for more immigration stories, participate in survey about what makes America great

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- In the beginning, leaving your homeland is like leaving a part of you behind; not to mention friends and family.

Owners of Arctic Heating & Cooling Catharine “Kitty” and Evert Bek left the Netherlands in 1977 to pursue their dream in the USA. However, their parents Anna and Gerard Sr. Schuivens left first for Grand Rapids and ended up in Lowell.

Catharina and Evert visited them in 1976 and fell in love with the USA.

“When we came to visit, we loved the openness, the opportunities of having your own business, the freedom and the acreage,” said Catharina.

american flag clouds flag flagpole
Photo by Danne on Pexels.com

The Beks lived close to Rotterdam, a big harbor city, in the Netherlands. Much like the rest of Europe, everything was crowded, tight and overpopulated.

For the first two years, the Beks lived in Kentwood and in Wyoming.

“We wanted some property and found five acres on 36th Street,” Catharina said. “We moved to a different house in Lowell in 1997.”

One of the biggest challenges of immigration is learning the language. Any immigrant can attest to that including Catharina.

At the time, Lowell Middle School was offering English classes.

“I also learned English from shopping and TV,” she said. “Evert had no problems; he learned English at work. He has always worked in the heating and cooling industry.”

Another challenge was finding a job.

Pictured above are Dutch treats: Dutch Rusks, oliebollen fritters. The wooden shoes are now used as decorations.

“I worked in an office since 16,” she said, “and I went to trade school.”

Here, she worked for an insurance company in Grand Rapids.

But, it was friends who got them through the first tough years.

“It’s hard to leave your friends, but we still have friends in the Netherlands,” Catharina said.

It took three to four years to adjust to the new life in America.

“Friends helped us settle best of all,” she said. “This is home for me now.”

Catharina said she managed to combine the good parts from the old country with the good parts from the new world.

However, everything became easier when daughter Kim was born in 1983 at the Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids. Kim went through the entire Lowell Area Schools system.

“I met new people at the school,” Catharina said.

And then finally, the couple’s dream came true when they started their own business, Arctic Heating & Cooling in 1983 in Lowell.

Pictured above: licorice, Dutch pancakes and St. Nick.

Catharina works at the business as a bookkeeper.

“Having our own business and owning a home, was one of our many dreams,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder how we would end up if we hadn’t left the Netherlands.”

There are no regrets about immigration for either Catharina or Evert.

“I wouldn’t go back,” she said. “Evert feels the same way. “I love it here. We met good people and made great friends.”

They speak Dutch at home including their American-born daughter and grandson.

As far as traditions go, the Beks celebrate St. Nick on Dec. 5th.

Kitty cooks Dutch dishes like meat, potatoes and vegetables, pea soup and Dutch pancakes.

She goes shopping for spices for meatballs to VanderVeen’s Dutch store on 28th street.

“You have to have windmill cookies with coffee or tea,” she said.

A typical Dutch tradition for breakfast is a slice of white bread with chocolate sprinkles.

Other Dutch specialties include Gouda cheese, a Dutch Rusk with pink or blue sprinkles when a baby is born.

“Dutch people love licorice in all shapes and forms,” Catharina said.

On New Year’s Eve, she makes oliebollen. They are fat balls or fritters, deep fried with raisins and served with powdered sugar. A typical beer is Heineken and egg nog liquor Advocaat.

They became naturalized after five years.

On the theme of the recent immigration crisis, Catharina said she doesn’t agree with separation of families.

“I don’t agree with mothers being separated from kids,” she said.

Over the years, the Beks have built up their business with repeat customers.

“We’ve been lucky,” she said. “I feel that I do fit in and that I am a part of Lowell.”

Catharina also works part-time at the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.

Both Catharina and Evert are known for their community involvement.

 

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

May Day

This is one of my most popular posts.; back by demand

Happy May Day

May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t got later into trouble at work or in school.

Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.

But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”

The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”

First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.

And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.

I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.

New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?

Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.

Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.

However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.

I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.

I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.

But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.

Majove slavnosti

They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.

It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.

Watch for more upcoming May posts.

 

Copyright (c) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech Easter traditions in 2018

Happy Easter

Czech Easter lasts four days from Good Friday to Easter Monday

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

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 always have ready 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.

Some 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 features 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.

 

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, and my mom Ella is still in Venice, Florida.

I cannot make the lamb-shaped pound cake, because I don’t have the form for it. The pound cake is easy to make, once you have the form, but the “kolache” remain a skillfull art.

My brother Vas colored the eggs this year using wax.

Stay tuned for posts about Czech traditions in America including the elusive “kolache.”

 

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.

Plotting new year’s courses

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:

http://www.flains.org

This is my horoscope for today.

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 …

Source: Taurus Horoscope for January 19, 2018

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Traditional Christmas

Traditions alive in Fallasburg

By Emma Palova

Fallasubrg, MI – Old-fashion Christmas in the Fallasburg historical village is reminiscent of a bygone era with only horse-drawn carriages.

First you have to cross the Covered Bridge at the speed of no more than 5 miles into the village with the landmark Fallasburg Schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse is decked out for Christmas. The food buffet features everything from several types of meatballs to casseroles, appetizers and desserts.

The music is by Hawks & Owls band. The featured drinks are wine and spiced grog. The community known as the “villagers” annually flocks to the schoolhouse to celebrate Christmas in style.

A large bonfire caps off the event. Come and join us.

 

via Christmas in Fallasburg

May Day

This is one of my most popular posts.; back by demand

Happy May Day

May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t got later into trouble at work or in school.

Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.

But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”

The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”

First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.

And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.

I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.

New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?

Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.

Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.

However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.

I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.

I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.

But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.

Majove slavnosti

They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.

It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.

Watch for more upcoming May posts.

 

Copyright (c) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Emma’s name day

Emma’s name day is associated with romance

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- Yes, indeed. Today is Emma’s Day, according to the Czech calendar. My mom Ella gave me the name based on a novel she read a long time ago.

The guy in the novel kept writing letters to his love, always starting with:

“Dear Emma, ”

I love you.

Czech name days

Many years later, I would receive letters and postcards from all over the world with that same greeting in Czech:

“Mila Emmo,”

“How are you?” mom always wrote.

I loved the name so much that I gave it to our daughter who is now Doc Emma. Emma permanently lives in romantic Burgundy, France. The romantic name originates in France.

Today is also Emma’s birthday. Every year, she has a double celebration. Happy birthday and name day, dear Emma.

My lifelong friend Eva of Kromeriz loved the name too, and she named her daughter Emma.

When I moved to America,  and started going to St. Pat’s Church in Parnell, I came across another Emma, who sings in the choir, and she also has a matching great last name Darling.

And until this year, Emma was the top name for girls around the world.

And how about poet Emma Lazarus, Emma Watson and Emma Stone?

“We’re losing the first place now,” singer Emma informed me earlier in the year.

Both my husband and son wished me a happy Emma’s Day, earlier in the day. I usually get early spring flowers. This year, I got a purple primrose.

In the Czech calendar, names are attributed to each date. And people celebrate their name days much like birthdays, with family and friends. They get gifts, and a cake.

Due to the recent influx of new names, some dates in the Czech calendar double or triple up on names.

wp-1486390725549.jpeg
Sweet gingerbread wishes

I’ve always wondered why Hallmark never really picked up on these charming name days, other than Saint Pat’s.

Name days are often based on the names of saints. For example Saint Terese Day is on Oct. 15 and Saint Mary is on Sept. 9. The wildly popular name day Catherine falls on Nov.25. Saint Martin is on Nov. 11. Saint Joseph/Saint Josephine falls on March 19.

Mom Ella’s name day falls on Oct. 5. Her real name is Eliska. She has always hated that name, so she changed Eliska to Ella. It is pretty much the same name.

Mom Ella just called me from Venice, Florida as I was writing this post. They’re getting ready with my dad Vaclav to head back up North to Michigan.

“See I gave you inspiration with that name,” she laughed.

“Thank you, mom for the lovely name.”

In many villages in Czech Republic, the Saint Days are big parish and community feasts. People bake for these feasts, butcher a pig, go dancing, and some dress up in traditional costumes. Rides come into towns.
Follow me into Easter traditions in Czech and Slovak republics.

Which traditions do you celebrate, how and why?

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

Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I love Saint Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish

This post is also in response to the Daily Post prompt Luck

Luck

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- I am not Irish by any stretch of imagination, no matter how deep I dig in the Konecny family roots in my immigration saga. But, I love St. Patrick’s Day when everybody is Irish on March 17, no matter where I am.

I totally disregard news media claims that it costs $38 to celebrate Saint Patrick with green beer, corned beef and cabbage.

Believe it or not, the Czech calendar has this saint down for February 19, by the workings of some troll in the pre-press department of the Balousek Tisk.

I have to laugh at this mistake without evil or spite.

Below is a poster for local St. Pat’s celebration in Smyrna still going strong tomorrow on March 18. Same time, same place, same Irish fare.

smyrna saint pats
St. Pat’s at Smyrna still going strong on Saturday, March 18.

I was born in Czech Republic (old Czechoslovakia), and we vaguely knew of Saint Patrick, because it was completely overshadowed by the Feast of Saint Joseph on March 19.

As I permanently started adopting American traditions as part of my new life, I came across Saint Patrick more and more. I definitely cemented the Irish tradition when we moved next to the communities with Irish legacies that is Parnell and Canonsburg in northeast Kent County, Michigan.

My journalism trek through the regional media helped strengthen the tradition as well. My first official Irish story was in Plainwell for the Union Enterprise. It was a lighthearted story about a woman of Irish origin, who each year celebrated her Irish heritage with Bailey’s, and by baking soda bread and making some Irish stew. She invited me for some Bailey’s and cake in her Irish decked out house.

I wrote about the Irish tradition again for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard. I drove my jeep in a snowstorm 30 miles northeast into the Irish community of Hubbardston, and wrote about the Irish pub, Shiels Tavern and the Irish store owned by Pat Baese, The Celtic Path. Shiels used to be a “speakeasy” during the prohibition.

On several Saint Patrick’s Days we tasted the tavern’s version of stew, soda bread and green beer. The Irish Dance Troupe under Baese’s tutelage has always danced at the tavern and at the regional fine establishments.

For the Ledger in Lowell, some fun-minded individuals sent me over to the Irish Larkin’s pub next door to get a photo of the owner Mike toasting with green beer. It worked out excellent for all sides. Mike still has the pic from the Buyer’s Guide.

One of the most shocking St. Pat’s events, was the Saint Pat’s parade in Chicago in 2002. We drove to Chicago for the Czech celebration of the Feast of Saint Joseph. It was a big deal, because in Czech, every other man’s name is Joseph.

Since, we were already in Chicago, we decided to go the annual Saint Pat’s parade.

Wow, speaking about coincidences. Not only was the Chicago River dyed green, but among the green ubiquitous hats, I spotted tall metal frames and people pressing against them. Then, I noticed snipers on the rooftops. We had to go through security to get to one section of the parade.

“What’s going on?” I asked my husband.

Well, it was nothing less than the former president George W. Bush marching in the parade with firefighters. That was the only time I saw a sitting president, shortly after 911.

When I think of it today, other than the fact that the sales of green beer were limited, it was quite brave of W. to march out there, among the Chicago liberals and freethinkers.

Back to the reality of 2017, and its precipitating circumstances in view of tomorrow’s Saint Pat’s party in Parnell, hosted by Knights of Columbus.

We became members of Saint Pat’s Church of Parnell in 2014. Our son Jake got married at the church in 2014, our grandson Samuel was baptized there and granddaughter Ella went to Saint Pat’s summer school in 2016 with the hopes of going back this year.

Like many families in the area, we have become a part of the Saint Pat’s greater church family located in the tiny unincorporated village of Parnell.

And what I love even more about the Irish, and being catholic, is that we got pardoned from Friday’s Lenten abstinence from meat and drinking.

“Saint Patrick is our patron,” explained Father Mark Peacock apologetically last Sunday.

So, let the Luck of the Irish ring

And  to hook my Saint Pat’s Day post to the Daily Post prompt Luck @luck.

It only occurred to me, after I had submitted my resume for the position of volunteer manager for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park about three hours ago, that it is a sign of luck.

I first submitted the app and resume to the human resources yesterday, but it came back with, this message could not be delivered.

I worked on it some more today, and I hit the send button on my screen today around noon.

And I am in luck of the Irish today.

For info on Saint Patrick go to wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick’s_Day

Copyright © 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.