Thoughts of leaving and homecoming at Christmas

Christmas Eve is the most important and enjoyable holiday of the year for Czechs. It is a time spent at home with the family, exchanging presents and enjoying a big Christmas meal together, said Jaroslav Dolecek, Representative of the Czech Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei.

“I think one of the greatest thing about Christmas celebrations is that family members are united,” said Dolecek, “what is important (during Christmas) is the sense of family and the fact that people are getting together to celebrate the holiday.”

Also, Christmas is the only time there are so many traditions and customs, and even superstitions, that the Czech people have to follow. And many of them are connected to the important Christmas dinner, Dolecek said.

For instance, the Czech representative said that when he was a child, he was not allowed to turn on the lights in the house until the first star came out during the Christmas Eve.

Also, traditionally on that day people are only allowed to eat sauerkraut soup during the day in order to see the “golden piglet”. This also lasts into the evening when the star rises and Christmas dinner is served at around 6 p.m.

One of the most interesting and even scary customs during the Christmas dinner, however, is that no one is allowed to get up from the Christmas table before the dinner is finished. Doing so may bring bad luck or even death in the family.

“If anyone leaves the table, he or she will not be with us in the next year,” he said.
“You can imagine how terrifying that custom was to me when I was only a child.”

Carp is the central ingredient in a traditional Czech Christmas dinner. The fish is purchased live from sellers on the street, then cooked and served with potato salad.

When dinner is served and everyone has finished the big meal, the family then moves to the beautifully-dressed Christmas tree where they will find presents which are said to have been brought by the little baby Jesus, Jezisek. Then the evening is spent chatting or playing games with each other before the whole family attends Christmas midnight mass at the local church.

This year, Dolecek said he will be spending Christmas this year in Prague as he is about to leave his position here and return to the Czech Republic in mid-December after serving three years in Taiwan.

“On the one hand, we are sad to be leaving the country, but on the other hand we are happy that we can be back with our family after all these years stationed aboard.”

The outgoing CECO head said that he will always cherish his great memories in Taiwan, especially the heartwarming Taiwanese people.

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