23-12-2006

The town of Ustek enjoys its annual Angels' Mass, a nativity scene in a poppy head and what does Jezisek look like? Find out more in a Christmas edition of Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

For six years now the villagers of Ustek have enjoyed a very special Christmas mass. "Angel mass" it is called because angels descend among the crowd from the thirty meter church spire - to the sound of bells and Christmas carols. It is all organized by the local association of mountaineers and the "angels" in question are for the most part their own daughters and daughters' friends. "I was a scared to let go the first time - but my dad's a mountain climber and I knew he'd keep a firm grip on the rope" ten year old Petra Horynova said later. The angels are aged ten to fourteen and every year more of them beg their parents to be allowed to try.

 

Nativity scenes are an important part of the Czech Christmas tradition. Many people have their own nativity scene, often one handed down from generation to generation and there are many nativity scene exhibitions held around the country. One of the finest this year is in the town of Vysocina where you will find nativity scenes placed in an unusual environment - such as in a coconut shell, walnut shell and even in a dry poppy head! The figures are tiny and the hardest bit is not fixing them inside the poppy head - but hand painting them. It took the artist 10 hours to make the poppy head nativity scene. Another unique exhibit is a nativity scene placed inside a bottle - made in 1972- courtesy of the Czechoslovak army! One of the soldiers spent every minute of his spare time producing it - to send home for Xmas.

 

Another very special nativity scene belongs to the Cipryan family from the town of Chrudim. The father and son are both woodcutters and they made the 20 life-size statues out of wood using only an electric chain-saw. The nativity scene took several months to make but now it graces their country home and attracts a great deal of attention. "It is something that we will hand on to future generations," Josef Cipryan says with pride. The blade of his saw is severely taxed - and needs replacing every month, but Josef is determined to make the nativity scene bigger still. He says the figures he carves are people which he sees in his dreams - and the villagers are already looking forward to seeing what next year's dreams will bring.

 

The town of Morasice decided to try for the Czech Book of Records this year with the longest Christmas paper chain ever made in this country. The entire village helped and the end result was impressive - a paper chain that wound its way fourteen times around the local football field. It measures 2 kilometers 184 meters and 70 centimeters and was officially pronounced the longest ever paper chain made in this country. It now graces a local fir tree. And, it is also worth mentioning that it was made entirely of toilet roll tubes which the entire village had been saving up since the spring. That's dedication for you.

 

Czechs have spent a record amount on Xmas presents again this year - spending an average 8 thousand crowns on presents for family and friends, but one thing is changing. Some people have started giving each other symbolic gifts or money and spending more in the New Year sales. The New Year sales are still a relatively new phenomenon and it took Czechs a while to catch on. "In the beginning sales weren't as good as expected because people would spend all their money in the pre-Xmas shopping rush," says Jana Malikova, a salesgirl at a Prague hypermarket. "But now they've wised up and polls show that 40 % of Czechs are holding back and getting ready for a big spending spree in January."

 

There are lots of charity concerts in Prague at this time of the year - but one of the most attention grabbing was a police officers' Christmas concert on Kampa Island. The officers sang with children from the orphanage for whom they were helping to raise money - and onlookers agreed that although a false note may have crept in here and there - the officers looked positively angelic. A sight for sore eyes - especially if you've recently paid a heavy fine for speeding or bad parking! In any case the officers said they were happy to do it for the kids and were organizing a special "police officers" summer camp for them in July - for those who might one day follow in their footsteps. And while the police choir sang Christmas carols on Kampa Island - another team of colleagues patrolled the vicinity protecting onlookers from pick-pockets.

 

We all know what Santa Klaus looks like - but the Czech Jezisek - little baby Jesus is quite another matter. While every Czech child knows that it is little baby Jesus who leaves their presents under the Christmas tree on December 24th - everyone's fantasy about what he looks like differs. Ask a few nursery school kids and they will tell you that he must be very strong for a baby because he lugged over a lot of presents for everyone last year. Others will tell you he's very small because he managed to get in through a tiny window and others yet will tell you he manages it all up from the clouds. The Gingerbread House exhibition in Pardubice - the town which is famous for its gingerbread - has decided to give children its own version - using a little bit of every fantasy ever voiced. As a result children are invited up the stairs leading to Jesus' heaven. There everything is white and blue and the little baby Jesus sits on a big fluffy bed from which he grants children's wishes. There's a weather laboratory - from which he can send down sunshine, rain, hailstones or snow - and other necessary instruments and mechanisms essential to his work. Well, baby Jesus - it seems like the weather gear got stuck on mild this winter - and I for one hope you take a while to fix it. Whether you believe in Jezisek, Santa, Ded Moroz or someone altogether different - have a very merry Christmas!

23-12-2006

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