What man with the bag? He's totally persona non grata around here. Instead it's the Baby Jesus that has the gift-giving honors in the Czech Republic, and I suspect throughout the Slavic Catholic scene. The little fella lives up in the mountain town of Bozi Dar, where their is a post office that processes all the requests. The kids are expected to send Baby Jezisek a list, then, on Christmas Eve during the height of the celebration, the children are gathered up and sent into another room while Baby Jesus sits down with the parents, has a Piva (beer) and a carp sandwich, and they set up the gifts. The Holy Anklebiter then takes off on his little Baby Jezisek mobile, and the kids are invited back in to open gifts. Not a hint of any fat guys in red suits with white beards in sight, though early in December the Czech's usher in Christmas with a St. Nicholas celebration. There's not a trace of jolly old St. Nick now. Imagine. No "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", no two column lists headed "naughty/nice", no belly that wiggles like a bowlful of jelly or stockings hung by the chimney with care or wondering how Santa gets his fat ass down the chimney to begin with. No sleighs - no on Dasher on Dancer on Comet and Blitzen and certainly no red-nosed one has the same name as a great Bohemian king. There is no discussion of elves, Mrs. Claus or the North Pole. As such all sorts of potential psychological damage is avoided, though I'm not convinced that a beer guzzling Baby Jezisek, while perhaps a more logical candidate for Christmas gift-bearer than the jolly old elf, would necessarily eliminate some bizarre Christmas fantasies. Then again it's nice to keep the gift giving subplot consistent with the Nativity so when you're cruising around town here just before Christmas the you kinda get the feeling that they're really not celebrating Christmas but instead are celebrating the Christ's birthday. I
The Bohemian "Santa-Free" Christmas does have it's repurcussions across the global economy, of course. I heard that BMG Music, the massive publisher, attempted to sue the Czech Republic for not including all the Santa-oriented songs on the radio during the season. The Czech's responded with one of their periodic "defenestrations" by throwing the lawyers for BMG out the 4th floor window of the Prague Castle.
Not that the event isn't commercial. Ha! NFW it's totally over the top commercial, at least on the streets if the city. Of course I can' speak for TV, radio, newspaper or the web, but even without Santa, Christmas has permeated every move we've made on this trip. From the gitgo our cab driver from the airport explained that the traffic was bumper to bumper because everybody is out shopping and living it up before the big day, which actually isn't a day..., as in Dec. 25, rather Christmas is celebrated the night before on the 24th with a big fat carp. Mmm Mmm Mmm! Just today as Pie, Holly and I were roaming Mala Strana and there on the sidewalk are the Christmas carpmongers with their huges buckets of live carp. Some folks will buy the carp and keep it in their bath tub so it's still wiggling when they throw it in the fryer. Others get it cleaned, scaled and prepared (not filleted) right there in the little fishmonger booth such that the whole fish can sit there in the middle of the Xmas table. Throw in a little cold potato salad with cubed ham and rub a dub dub bring on the grub!
Thanks, but we'll be having Indian takeout, though I imagine the carp is yummy it just doesn't tickle my tummy, but nobody has invited us to dinner and the town is closed tight on Christmas Eve. But don't let the carping give you the idea that all Czech food sucks, though I have yet to have anything to prove otherwise. But being from Northern California basically cripples you when you step out into the world of more meat and potatoes diets. I ate a third of a pork steak, potatoes and grilled vegies and woke up the next day with potatoes coming out my nose. ugh.
Christmas is happening now in this former seat of the Holy Roman Empire, but it's still Christmas Eve for us. The presents are stacked under the last minute tree with its department store ornies, Vince is bangin' out Linus and Lucy on the iPad and all the ghosts of bishops, knights, kings, princes, princesses will be leaving their centuries-old statues on the Charles Bridge and flying around these ancient cobblestone streets through the medieval, gothic and renaissance buildings singing about their old buddy Good King Wenceslas going out in that crisp, deep, even snow.
I would attempt to wish you a Merry Christmas in Czech if I could just figure out what all the diddlybobs around the letters meant. Caio will have to do!