"Christmas starts in early December" - personal account


The Czech Statistics Agency has just produced a report about what traditions people still observe at Christmas time, how many of them eat fried carp as their main Christmas dish, how many sing Christmas carols and how many bake their own Christmas cookies. But in order to give you the whole picture I asked Lenka Slivova, one of the agency's employees, to simply tell us what her own Christmas is like:

"Well, Christmas in our home usually starts at the beginning of December when we go and get a real Christmas tree from the market. We usually pick a pine tree. It is stored on the balcony and we wait until Christmas eve to decorate it. We naturally bake all kinds of Christmas cookies -about ten to fourteen different kinds and then leave them because when you store them for a few weeks they taste much better, they have more flavour and are softer...Before Christmas we also do a lot of cleaning. We clean the whole household, go through our wardrobes and give some of the old stuff to charity, that kind of thing. And on Christmas day itself we start with preparations early in the morning. We decorate the tree and the whole house. One tradition which we do not observe in my family is the one that tells you to fast all day so that you can see a golden pig on Christmas eve. It is generally country-folk and older people who still observe that. In the evening we usually sit around the table, listen to Christmas carols and eat carp soup and the traditional meal for Christmas eve /fried carp with potato salad /. And when the meal is over we sit around the Christmas tree."

Do you attend Christmas mass or go for a walk or something?

"No we do not attend mass but we usually go for long walks. We visit exhibitions, nativity scenes in particular. My family loves those. Or we go down town and especially if there is snow then it is beautiful, lots of lights and Christmas decorations. We visit the Christmas markets where they sell hot wine and special cookies. So we walk around the city and I really enjoy the mood, the atmosphere."

Can you tell me what you love most about Christmas?

"The whole atmosphere - when the family gets together and people are very nice to each other. We visit family members so it is a time that you spend with others. I love the overall atmosphere - people are very happy or when you see children with their eyes getting bigger and bigger as they open their presents. That's what I love most about it."