During the holiday seasons, Christmas markets are very popular in the Czech Republic and of course in other countries. In most of the towns there are squares. In the past, these squares were mainly used for markets. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to go to several. I really love the spirit and the sense of community in these markets. Last weekend on Sunday, Nic and I went to our first Rotary fundraiser with our club. We were selling hot wine at the market in Beroun to fundraise for our Eurotour. We arrived on Saturday and we started making the wine Sunday morning. We also made some hot punch for the children. My Rotary counsellor Lucie works at a hotel so we got to use the kitchen there. We essentially put red wine into a very large pot on the stove. Then, we added a lot of spices and sugar. We also put some oranges in it. As for the child punch, it was the same. It was added to a separate bowl and we added some sugar, apples, and oranges. We then went to the square to set up our station. We had a tent and a banner with our Rotary club name. We prepared everything then started the sale around 3 pm. It was really great because Nic and I were able to speak Czech to each customer. It was very simple and only cost them 30 crowns for the drink. Throughout the night it got very very busy, and our stand was very popular. We were very successful, and it was a very fun evening. 

As we are continuously approaching Christmas, I’m getting to see more and more of this countries traditions and celebrations. Of course, there are many differences, and I’ll most likely write about them in the next two weeks. This week, I experienced one of my biggest culture shocks since I’ve arrived here. On Tuesday, it was St.Nicholas day. In the Czech Republic, each day has a different name of a different saint. This is why name days are celebrated here. Traditionally, this tradition fell on the night of December 5th. In larger cities, you can often run into people dressed as St.Nicholas, Angels (representing good) and Devils (representing evil). You could compare St. Nicholas to dressing like Santa. He has the beard, but he is wearing a very tall hat… sometimes with a cross. Then, he wears a long cloak with white long sleeves. The cloak may be red or dark red with a cross. Then, he is holding a long stick with a spiral at the top or maybe not. All of these characters will walk the streets and ask the kids if they were good or not in the past year. The children will probably be asked to sing a song or recite a poem. If they do this, they will be rewarded with sweets or candy. If not, they are ‘bad’ kids and will be taken away by the Devil’s in sacks and taken to hell. They would also receive coal. In small towns or villages, these characters will visit people’s homes. I have heard that if the children are bad, the devils will take the children into their sacks and move them to another street and leave them there! It is apparently a good incentive to be good throughout the year. The costumes are extremely elaborate and well done… therefore causing fear in the little children. This is a very scary day for children and they will usually perform their songs and poems very well for the angels.

At our school and other schools in my town, it has also become a tradition for during the day of the 6th. The three oldest classes in my school got to be dressed as the three characters. They did a very good job… in fact, some people weren’t even recognizable. During this day, they had full permission to go around the school and create chaos. I had been told a little bit about it, but I didn’t think it would be as intense as it was. During my first two classes, nothing happened and I didn’t run into any of these characters. I constantly heard loud screaming in the distance, but nothing happened to me. By the end of the second class I had, I was walking around the school and noticing that pretty much everyone had red and black drawn all over their faces. In the third class that I went to, everyone also had these drawings. The class told me that the devils had come to their class. They came in and drew all over the students faces in paint, lipstick, or other markers. It was just lines and other dashes or just covering the entire face. Additionally, this class had been tied together with zip-ties and left there! My friend had a red scratched up wrist from the zip-ties and it sounded horrible. Other people had been tied up outside the classes by the devils or thrown into other classes. The devils will come into the class (very abruptly) and call out a select number of people and they must do an impossible task. If they fail, they must do something. Another example was taking shots of an unknown liquid (of course non-alcoholic). I thought that I had escaped, because I had made it past my third class without any harm. Unfortunately, in my third class, I realized that none of my classmates had the drawings on their faces. It meant that we were next. I was getting ready to do my presentation (some homework) when there was extremely loud knocking and screaming at the door. A class entered and they just ran around leaving coal everywhere and drawing on people’s faces. No one really moved or cared they just sat there! I was so scared because the characters were actually terrifying!

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