Tag Archives: Czech Republic

St. Wenceslas name day in the Czech Republic, a national holiday

St. Wenceslas Statue in Prague.

By Emma Palova

Today is my dad Vaclav Konecny’s name day, and my brother’s as well. Vaclav is the regular modernized version of Wenceslas, which was a royal name for the kings of Bohemia. It is a national holiday in the Czech Republic also known as ‘Czech Statehood Day’ that has been celebrated since 2000.

Sept. 28 is the feast day of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and it commemorates his death in 935. St. Wenceslas was the duke of Bohemia and the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, he was the victim of a murder plot orchestrated by Boleslav, who was his own brother. People celebrate this feast with festivals around the nation.

The main square in Prague is called “Vaclavak” or Vaclavske Namesti. It’s more a boulevard than a square and it is the busiest place in Prague, and traditionally a place for gatherings and manifestations, the site of Christmas markets. The statue of St. Wenceslas adorns the boulevard at the top along with the National Museum.

Throughout the years, “Vaclavak”, originally known as Konsky Trh or Horse Market, has witnessed many demonstrations, both sad and joyful events; invasion of Soviet tanks in 1968, demonstrations against the Soviet occupation, 1989 Velvet Revolution demonstrations and demonstrations on Sept. 3 of this year against the current government.

A big celebration planned for Wenceslas Square on Sept. 28, 2022 has been canceled due to security reasons, as a protest is scheduled to take place on the square. The protest called “Czech Republic First” is taking place right now.

“Vaclavak” is the site of a big seasonal market offering beers, food, and souvenirs.

Happy name day to my father Vaclav who inspired my memoir Greenwich Meridian Memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA.

Copyright (c) 2022. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Author’s stop at Palmer Park in Detroit

Illustrators and caricaturists at the Palmer Park Art Fair last weekend. I love this show in Detroit for its diversity. I met new authors from Ghana, Jamaica and some great visitors to the show. Stay tuned for full story.

Copyright (c) 2022. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happy Easter 2022, Vesele Velikonoce

Czech & Slovak Easter traditions

By Emma Palova

The Czech and Slovak Easter traditions are deeply embedded in the villages of Moravia and Slovakia, and they are not as prevalent in the big cities such as Prague or Bratislava.

Most families color eggs in dyes or onion skins for the deep brown color and polish the eggs with butter and set them on the Easter table to reward the revelers, along with a bottle of plum brandy, desserts, lamb pound cake, and open-faced sandwiches.

Easter egg artists make “kraslice,” which are decorated empty eggshells after the yolks and whites have been blown out. These pieces of delicate art painted on a fragile shell are the mainstay of Easter sold at markets and gift shops, along with hand-embroidered tablecloths and ceramics.

The prevailing tradition remains the mysterious “whipping” of the women of the household on Easter Monday known as “schmigrust.” Men and boys traditionally braid their own whips from willow branches in all sizes. These whips are called “pomlazka” or “karabac” and they can be up to two meters long braided from 24 willow rods. Some use large special wooden spoons with ribbons or branches of juniper.

“Schmigrust is my favorite part of Easter,” said Ludek Pala, a Moravian native of Stipa, now a resident of Lowell, who still practices the tradition in the USA.

The revelers get up at the crack of dawn and head out into the streets in groups of all ages. Depending on the region they also carry wooden carved noisemakers carved by local wood artists.

When the door opens, the women and girls get a gentle whipping to drive away evil spirits, according to old legends. Originating in ancient pagan fertility rites, the practice is supposed to guarantee beauty and good health for women in the coming year.

They cite the following Easter chant:

Hody, hody, doprovody, dejte vejce malovany, nedateli malovany, dejte aspon bily, slepicka vam snese jiny.

Loosely translated as: Give me a colored egg, if you don’t give me a colored one, give me at least a white one, and your hen will lay another.

The plum brandy aka slivovice reward

The plum brandy is made in the stills in Moravia and across the country. People usually bring in their own plum or pear ferment that is distilled.

We decided to bring this tradition to the USA where we live permanently. The fruit is locally sourced from Paulson’s, Hills Brothers, and Mason peaches and apples, with no additives the brandy reflects an age-old tradition of craft stilling started by our forefathers.

Moravian Sons Distillery

In return for the whipping, the revelers get a ribbon tied to the whip, a colored egg, a shot of plum brandy and they help themselves to open-faced sandwiches and desserts, such as festive kolache and lamb pound cake.

“By noon you’re tired,” said Pala.

In some regions, if the group arrives after 12 p.m., they get doused with water. However, in Slovakia, the Easter custom is to douse the women and girls with water or perfume in the morning.

According to a 2019 survey, 60% of Czech households follow the tradition of spanking (or watering) someone on Easter Monday.

In the past, young boys would chase young girls in the village streets with the whips, and vintage illustrations by Josef Lada of people in traditional folk costumes show girls running or hiding as if playing tag.

Copyright (c) 2022. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leaving Czechoslovakia

This is a traveling panel exhibit on loan from the National Czech and Slovak Museum (NCSM) in Cedar Rapids now installed at the Czech and Slovak Ed.Center & Historical Museum in Omaha through Feb. 27.

If you’re in the area, check it out in person or browse through our website to find out more about your roots.

The Museum is open on Saturdays from 10 am to 5 p.m. Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Give us your feedback in the comment section below.

Check out this oral history project “Leaving Czechoslovakia” during the Cold War.

Leaving Czechoslovakia

Copyright (c) 2022. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Miss Bookseller: An English-Language Indie Bookshop Returns to Krymská – Prague, Czech Republic

A new bookshop devoted to English-language titles—and wonderful coffee—opens on Vršovice’s most bohemian street
— Read on news.expats.cz/prague-shopping/miss-bookseller-an-english-language-indie-bookshop-returns-to-krymska/

I love this article from Expats.cz

Stay tuned for news about my upcoming new book, the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” I had to sold off on publishing it due to the COVID-19 situation. But since we’re going nowhere with that, I am moving forward with publishing the memoir in August.

It is now available for preorder on Amazon. Just click on the link below:

Memoir on Amazon

Day 46: COVID-19 quarantined birthdays

Happy birthday to all the people who are celebrating their birthdays in the COVID-19 quarantine in 2020.

Alright, I caved in and decided to celebrate my birthday tomorrow on zoom at the Pushkin’s Bar.

All you need is the free zoom app from the app stores to join in. I will send the link and the password tomorrow to join. You don’t need to wear a mask unless you want to. BYOB

The band of choice is Twisted Sisters with their “We’re not gonna take it.”

Thanks to graphic artist Jeanne Boss for creating the perfect me in the featured photo.

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

Day 14: COVID-19 quarantine brings us back to home farming

Uncertain food supply raises need for self-sustainability

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Since farmer’s markets and greenhouses may not open until the COVID-19 quarantine is lifted, many are turning back to home farming and small garden plots are popping up around the neighborhood.

Altough farmers like Visser Farms are getting creative selling online and packaged fruits and vegetables for a standard price of $5 a bag to prevent direct contact.

We’re lucky enough that we each own at least three acres in Vergennes Township. Coming from Europe, we’ve always had our own veggie gardens due to the constant shortage of fresh produce on the markets. See excerpt below from the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.”

We’ve staked our small garden approximately 15 years ago. It started out first as as an herb garden, inspired by my friend herbalist Betty Dickinson of Ionia. Whenever I walk into the garden, especially after rain, the herbs smell of a thousand fragrances. Later, we added cherry tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons.

Last year, we planted cucumbers to can our own sweet and sour pickles aka “Znojemske okurky.” We take pride in this product that reminds us of our Czech homeland. I also love my ever bearing strawberries and currant bushes. I use the red and black currant to make pies.

But it is getting late to start growing plants from seeds. My favorite Snow Avenue Greenhouse usually opens around April 20 and sells decent size plants that can go directly into the garden.

COVID-19 quarantine brings us back to home farming.

Tips

If you live in an apartment, you can still do container gardening. Many seeds on the market are specifically good for containers.

Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Self-sustainability in Czech villages

Other homemade products included sausages and smoked meat. The butchering of the family pig usually took place in winter and before the holidays, so there was plenty of meat on the table. Socialism with its chronic lack of basic goods, drove the need for self-sufficiency specifically in the villages and craftsmanship as well. People were forced to be more creative in many different ways. They grew their own produce; everything from onions, carrots to cabbage and cucumbers. Then they made saurkraut from the cabbage, that went well with the pork and the sausages. Cucumbers were used to make the famous “Znojemsky pickles” aka “Znojemske okurky.”

Many households in villages and towns were self-sufficient with everything homemade or home grown. National artist Joseph Lada illustrated the traditional festivities: The Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, the butchering of the family pig in the yard with onlookers, Christmas by the tall tiled stoves, autumn campfires with fire-roasted potatoes and summer fun by the ponds with the willows.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the coronavirus crisis and quarantine in the U.S.

Today the death toll reached a grim 10,000 milestone.

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 19

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – I continued to work on the Greenwich Meridian memoir this morning for the NaNoWriMo 50K word challenge. I logged in 2,948 words for a grand total of 43,485 words.

Mom Ella left for the U.S. for the second time on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1980 after a long battle for emigration visa from Czechoslovakia.

It was a sad farewell at the Ruzyne Airport in Prague on a rainy day.

Excerpts from chapter “Without mom”

I actually honed my writing skills on letters to the USA long before the Internet, mobile devices, keywords and hashtags.

Magistra Ella Konecny at the main pharmacy in Zlin in late 1970s.

Calling from Europe was expensive, so mom and I wrote to each other letters mailed in thin transluscent Air Mail envelopes with red and blue border. It was a celebration when I received a letter in the mail. It was mostly good news coming from the west side of the Atlantic; mom getting a job or new furniture for the house.

I can’t say the other way around. Eastern Europe was still under the grip of hardldine socialism in 1980, and it would stay that way for another long nine years. Letters were censored and the phones were bugged. Lines for food grew longer.

Living under the oppressive regime meant constant search for life’s necessities. 

Once mom left for America so were gone her connections from the pharmacy on Main Square in Zlin. Mom had a long arm and she used it to get what we needed from meat to toilet paper. 

I had to start living like millions of other people. That meant standing in lines on Tuesdays for bananas and on Thursdays for beef. On weekends at 2 pm a truck came with Prerov beer. Grandpa Joseph wouldn’t drink any other beer.

On the other hand, life was more social in every aspect, because we had to use public transportation. There weren’t enough cars made, and there was a waiting list for them. The only brands available were a standard Skoda, and the lesser Trabant dubbed as Hitler’s vendetta because it was made in East Germany. That was before the wall went down. 

However, most people didn’t have money to buy either the Skoda or the Trabant. We used public transportation choosing between buses, trains and trams. They were all equally uncomfortable and dirty. 

Everyone carried a bag full of groceries every day, because the refrigerators were not big enough for longer storage. And then of course there was the issue of different days of deliveries of different groceries, not to speak of fresh produce and meat. 

In the heat of the summer, people smelled of cheap fragrances. The better perfumes were imported from the West, and available only at Tuzex stores with fake money called bons. 

Submit your questions about what was it like living in socialist Czechoslovakia.

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All right 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.

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