What expats say: My Czech Christmas

A few weeks ago in the December issue of the BEC Newsletter we asked our expats to share their experiences and tell us more about their (not only Czech) Christmas. We received a very hearty reply from Ms Camille Erskine-Kafka – an Australian from Sydney who worked as a professional ballerina in the National Theatre of Prague for 7 years and in the National Theatre of Brno for the last 3 years.

As her Czech husband Radim is a ballet dancer too, for Camille Christmas time has often been closely connected with dancing – especially the traditional Nutcracker beloved by Czechs. It is pretty special to be able to be doing what I love on such a special day of the year and to share our joy of dance and the spirit of Christmas with others – especially for the children, she wrote.

On the 24th, my husband and I usually go to Prague to his parents for a traditional Christmas dinner. The first year that I was invited to my future husband’s for Christmas I did have to succumb to eating carp, but that was my first and last time! Now I usually take my own salmon or sea bass and roast it in the oven along with roast veggies. However his Mum and Aunty do make amazing ‘vánoční cukroví’ so that first year that was pretty much all I ate all day!!

As for the traditions, at the beginning of Advent we make an advent wreath and decorate our flat and as a regular church goer, I always attend mass at Christmas which is a beautiful service. The Christmas carp is usually bought fresh and left to swim in the bath. We also have the tradition of piling up 7 fish scales from the carp under our plates before we start the meal and then when we finish eating we lift off the plate and hope that the scales haven’t moved otherwise it’s bad luck. We then put the scales in our wallets as it’s supposed to mean we will have money all year! Hasn’t quite worked in reality yet but there’s always the next year!

A Czech Christmas is in one way very similar to an Australian one: families come together to share a Christmas meal, open presents and spend time together. This is why for me it is the time of year that I most miss all of my family in Australia. However, on the other hand, for me Christmas in the middle of winter is strange because in Sydney it is often very hot, we sit outside, have a BBQ and swim in the pool! Christmas is also different because in Australia we have Santa Claus and he arrives down the chimney on the 25th Dec in the morning rather than Ježíšek on the evening of the 24th. I guess when my husband and I have children perhaps they’ll be lucky enough to have both Santa and Ježíšek!

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