Category Archives: traditions

In observance of Veterans Day 2019, nano day 11

Thank a veteran today for service to our country.

NaNoWriMo continues with Day 11 with excerpt from Greenwich Meridian

By Emma Palova

As I look outside my writing studio window on this Veteran’s Day, I see a white blanket of snow covering my beautiful garden.

NaNoWriMo 2019

According to the Czech calendar, it’s also St. Martin’s Day or the Feast of St. Martin. Tradition has it that if it snows on Nov. 11, then St. Martin has arrived on a white horse and there will be snow on Christmas Day. However, if it doesn’t snow on this day, then St. Martin came on a dark horse and Christmas will not be white, but muddy.

So, it’s looking like we’re going to have a white Christmas in Michigan.

I’ve been working since 9 a.m. on my NaNoWriMo project- the completion of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA, spanning two generations.

I logged in 1,707 words for a total of 25,404 words. I spent a good deal of time on revisions. Revisions are more time encompassing than creating brand new content.

I wrapped up my NaNo writing about 30 minutes ago with chapter “Sad homecoming.” Just like the title hints, it was a sad homecoming in June of 1973 when we returned from USA to former Czechoslovakia.

Here is an excerpt:

When we got off  Boeing 747 in London to change flights to Prague, I cried and cried. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, as I realized that we were back in Europe. But the main shock was yet to come at the Prague Ruzyne Airport. We arrived sometime in June of 1973, so it was hot. At the airport customs, we were immediately rushed to the side into a peculiar enclosure, a cell-like structure.  Other people were waiting in the small room as well. 

“But my parents are waiting for us,” mom argued in vain with the custom officials who took away the passports and other documents. At the time, my parents had three passports, and a female custom official took them away from mom. 

“You’re going to Trebotov,” the official said with a rigid face. 

“Why? What is in Trebotov?” she asked. “I don’t know anything about it. And my parents are waiting for me,” mom said as she struggled to free herself from the official who grabbed her by the arm. 

“Let me go,” she said. “I need to talk to them.” 

“No, you’re going to the quarantine,” the female official said firmly. 

I looked at mom. She was scared, and confused not knowing what was going on. There were more immigrants from different parts of the world waiting to be transported to the so called “quarantine” in Trebotov. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other. 

“What quarantine? We’re not sick,” mom raised her voice. “We just returned from the USA for the presidential amnesty.” 

The female official was uncompromising, and she was like most officials very unpleasant. She was dressed in a uniform with a rigid face. After endless checking of documents and luggage, we were escorted to a black 603 Tatra government car. The driver took us on what seemed to be an endless tour through the countryside of the Central Bohemia region west of Prague. Mom cried the entire way, while we had no idea where we were going. The car was moving fast on narrow country roads, and it all just turned into a blur. We finally stopped in front of an old austere building with a gate and a fence. 

To be continued…

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

May Day 2019

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 anthems were blasting from the loudspeakers including the Soviet anthem “Coyuz Nerusimij.”

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t participate 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 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) 2013-2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Up North

Shanty Creek Resorts

The day after Christmas we headed Up North 150 miles into Antrim County, an outdoors lover’s paradise. We made our base in Mancelona with its proximity to the Shanty Creek mountain system: Summit and Schuss mountains.

We stayed at a chalet in the Lakes of the North community; a sprawling development in the woods complete with an indoor pool inside a clubhouse.

A network of trails weaved through the entire area making it ideal for snowmobiling, Nordic skiing or snowshoeing.

Shanty Creek Resorts near Bellaire were approximately 20 minutes away. Schuss Mountain with 450 feet of vertical drop offered downhill skiing for both kids and adults. The “Bunny Hill” was serviced by a Magic Carpet; moving escalator on the ground. The Cedar Creek Lodge at the foot of the hill offered respite from the brisk wind. A shuttle communted between Schuss and the lodge.

The ski school was in full swing with people falling all over tied to their skiis. We wanted to do dog sledding on Saturday, but due to low snow cover, it was postponed.

Any winter sport including mountain biking on a fatty bike could be spotted here. We ate our lunch at the River Bistro inside the lodge beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Jake with family explored Summit Mountain which brough back memories. Back in the 1990s, it was only known as Shanty Creek. That’s where Jake learned how to ski. Coming full circle, he was now teaching his own kids, Josephine and Dominik, the old skiing tricks.

As the saying around Shanty Creek Resorts goes: “Teaching new pups old tricks.”

Little town of Bellaire

Bellaire is probably best known for Short’s Brewery, Bee Well Meadery, Hello Vino and stores like Little Treasures and the Flying Pig. When the snow conditions are not good for skiing, Bellaire provides a back-up plan.

“We call it Halloween here, when the slopes are deserted,” said the clerk at the meadery.

Some of the sweet mead creations here were: Apple Pie and Cherry Vanilla.

Central Lake

The town of Central Lake is home to Bachmann’s General Stores and Mammoth Distilling; both are great sites to explore.

“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” read the storefront.

Truly, you could find here anything from hardware to books, and everything in between.

The “Cherry Bounce” bourbon was one of the many hand-hewn products at Mammoth with the actual still in the back.

Discoveries “Chain of Lakes”

Our team’s biggest discovery was the “Chain of Lakes,” a natural waterway traversing 80 miles across 14 lakes and rivers. The chain starts in Elk Rapids and ends in Ellsworth.

Recently, it was designated as the first water trail in northern Michigan to encourage water preservation and engagement with nature. According to the DNR, it will positively impact local economies of towns along the water trail and encourage healthy lifestyle.

The water trail was designed for non-motorized watercraft and fishing. The water trail has 81 access sites managed by 16 governmental jurisdictions and non-profit organizations that stretch through four counties: Antrim, Charlevoix, Kalkaska and Grand Traverse.

“We’re coming back in the summer,” was the consensus of our team.

For more info on Paddle Antrim go to http://www.paddleantrim.com

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

Winter Solstice

Czech American Christmas preparations

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

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.

Christmas bouquet with cutout ornaments.

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

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

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.

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.

Easter Monday in Czech & Slovak republics

Czech Easter extends 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 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.

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.”

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.