Well, I promised everyone a real email, about all the traditions and things for the holidays here in the Czech Republic. I ask you all to forgive my typos, because I'll be writing really fast so I can fit everything in. :)
CHRISTMAS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC:
Christmas is mainly celebrated on December 24th. Czechs fast all day long, so that they can eat lots at dinner, and one tradition is that if they fast, after dinner they will see a golden pig on the wall, or in their dreams, and if they see it, it means they will have good luck and fortune in the next year.
For dinner on Christmas Eve, they usually have carp and potatoe salad, and some kind of soup, we had pea soup.
After dinner, the parents ring a bell, letting the kids know that Ježíšek ("Little Jesus") has come and brought them presents, so they run into the room where the tree and the presents are to open them.
Traditions: (different families tell them differently, so bare with me)
1. Cutting of the Apple
This happens usually on Christmas Eve, you slice an apple in half (cross-wise/horizontally) and look at the two halves. If the seeds in the middle make a star (five seeds) then you will be happy and healthy in the new year. If the seeds make a cross (four seeds), you'll have bad luck and die.
2. Leaving the dinner table
No one can leave the dinner table during dinner. Once everyone is ready to eat (including going to the bathroom, washing your hands, and having everything you might need during dinner within reach) everyone sits down at the table together, and once the meal is over, everyone stands up together. If someone stands up before everyone else, they'll have bad luck in the new year and die first out of the group.
3. Money under the plates
At the dinner table, everyone recieves a few coins under their plates. The family we had dinner with had put them there before we got there, and we couldn't look at them until after dinner was over. Some of us got 20 crowns, some of us only 2.
4. Carp scale in wallet
From the carp that they use for dinner, everyone takes a scale (usually laminates it/protects it) and keeps it in their wallet. If they do this they will never run out of money. (I have one in my wallet right now!)
Cukrovi are little cookies of various shapes and sizes that Czech women make each year around Christmas. It actually gets pretty intense and is like a competition. You'll hear Czechs asking each other how many different kinds of cukrovi they made and try to one up each other. And it takes entire days to make cukrovi. The most I think I heard was one woman made 40 different kinds of cookies. Some are really good, some have alcohol in them, you just have to be careful. ;)
Our Christmas was spent with the Kolkovi. We got there and sang hymns and carols until the food was ready, they we all sat down and ate together. We had pea soup, fried carp (fried chicken was available for those who didn't like the carp) and potatoe salad. We also had some cukrovi and pastries for dessert. Under our plates were some coins, and then we spent the rest of the evening singing Czech folk songs. It was so fun, and such a joyful atmosphere!
Another thing we did, just as missionaries, was we bought, and killed (by ourselves) a carp. Around the city, before Christmas, you can find street vendors with giant tubs full of live carp. And then you can have them kill it for you, or you can take it home and kill it yourself. We, of course, wanted to try to kill it ourselves. So a few days before Christmas, we bought a carp, took it to the elders' apartment, and tried to kill it. Elder Breyman was put in charge and it was kind of a slow and painful death. But eventually it died, we got some scales off of it, and the elders finished filleting it. So that was our adventure. :)
NEW YEAR'S IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC:
For New Year's, I don't know as many traditions, sorry. I can only share with you our missionary experience. :) As missionaries, we had to be inside by 5:30pm on New Year's Eve, which means inside the church, or inside anyone's apartment for dinner or something. And then we had to be home at our own apartment by 7:30pm.
Fireworks started I think around 6pm on New Year's Eve, and continued at a steady rate all the way until midnight, when there were thousands of fireworks going on all around us. And then I think they continued to die out, but still go, until around 1am. Then every night since New Year's Eve there have been fireworks going on around 6pm. I still heard them last night, so I have no idea how long that will last.
Funny story: Ses. Hale and I were watching the fireworks from our apartment window, when a man went to light a firework in our front lawn. We got excited because we were definitely going to be able to see it. A few go off, and we're watching them, and then BANG! something explodes right next to our window! Turns out, the arial firework the guy had lit, had fallen over, shot our building, and then the force of that shot caused it to fall the other way, and a few seconds later it shot the building accross the street from us! And to make everything better, I caught it all on video! If it's not too long, I'll try to send it home. :)
Well, I hope that this email kind of makes up for all the shorter ones I've been sending lately. I promise I'll try to be better. :) This email pretty much explains everything we've been doing for the past couple of weeks, amongst street contacting and visiting members.
This gospel is true, and Christ is our Savior. My testimony has really grown over the past couple of weeks. God lives and loves His children everywhere, and He wants them to have His gospel. He also really loves His missionaries, He even protects them from being killed by fireworks. ;)
I love you all, and I hope that this new year brings lots of health, happiness, and joy to everyone. Thank you for your love and prayers, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
PS - I'll try to send pictures and videos :)
I FORGOT ONE!!!
Tradition #6: Candle on the water
You take a walnut shell, only one half, and you but a candle inside of it. Then you light the candle and float the shell on water. Everyone does this at the same time, and if two peoples' shells go together, then they will be together some way in the new year (married, business partners, etc.). The last candle still burning will have the most luck in the new year.
Elder Hanis and the carp. Before dinner at the Kolkovi. Our Christmas tree from Bro. Moravec. :)