The Czech-born Catholic theologian Tomas Spidlik is a specialist on Eastern and Slavic Christian spirituality and also a prolific author. Even though he has not lived in this country since 1951, many Czechs know his voice well from his regular appearances on Vatican Radio. Cardinal Spidlik spoke earlier to Radio Prague on the line from the Vatican about the significance of Christmas.
"They always ask me if Christmas is a family or a religious holiday. And I say both. Because we don't believe in a god - we believe in God that became Man. That's the big difference between Christianity and other religions. That's why Christmas is a Holy festival and also a celebration of Man. If it did not celebrate humans it would not be Christian and therefore there is no wonder that Christmas has evolved as a family holiday. That's what is nice about it."
Although he has lived abroad since the 1950s, Cardinal Spidlik still holds fond memories of Christmas back home.
"What was nice about our Czech Christmas was that there was always a lot of singing. Speaking is not enough - but singing involves our whole personality. It is nice when people get together to sing. That's why there are so many Czech Christmas carols. The Czech word 'koledy' comes from the Latin 'calendae' - the first days of the month. Teachers in the old times had to earn money at Christmas by singing and so they composed many, many carols and they became a typical Christmas feature."
"I would like to wish my Czech homeland all the best. I have never felt as a foreigner here but I have never felt as an Italian either. What I learnt in my homeland, I have been able to expand abroad with the help of others. I am grateful to my motherland for everything. I wish all Czechs to be able to gain all the best from their own homeland - and have a Blessed Christmas."
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