What’s in a name?

Photo courtesy of Lubos Houska/Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Lubos Houska/Pixabay

There is no doubt that the Czech Republic is a beautiful country. Not only is it rich with architectural treasures and natural wonders, it also has a very colorful culture.   One of these interesting cultural practices is the observance of a name day.

In Czech culture, the calendar has a set of names.  This means that every Czech person’s name is based on the calendar.  If you are Czech, forget about naming your child “Northwest”  or “Vector Ion,” if you do not want to go through the trouble of obtaining a permit and paying a fine.    Parents wanting to name their child differently would need a special permission from a Czech authority to be able to do so.

Having one’s name derived from the calendar also means that each person has a name day.  So everyday in  Czech is somebody’s name day.  It is kind of a big deal.  The name day is celebrated like a birthday.  You wish the person a happy name day and give him or her a little present like a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated my daughter’s name day.  For our family, it is pretty much the last name day celebration for this year.  In as much as I would like to observe all the cultural festivities in Czech, I’m glad we’re done celebrating name days.  It is a celebration that I always forget.  Perhaps because I don’t have one.

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It’s twice the fun!

One of the things that I love most about the holiday season is attending and organizing parties and events.  Yesterday, my kids got to attend 2 significant cultural events:  A Filipino one and a Czech one.  Our day started off by attending a Filipino party in Prague. It was an event organized by the Filipino community and was open to all Filipinos in the Czech Republic and their families.

pnoy party2

It was a typical Filipino party with lots of food, a load of entertainment and attended by a bunch of loud, happy people.  My husband, who is not used to huge parties, used to shy away from these events.  But after several years of being with me, he now enjoys it immensely.  Even my children love these parties.  And what’s not to love?  There’s always lots of candies and a friend to play with.

pnoy party 1

But as much as we wanted to stay the whole night for this year’s Christmas party, we also cannot afford to miss another event that was awaiting us back home .

It was the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas (Svaty Mikuláš).    They got to be visited by 3 interesting characters:  a devil, an angel and Mikuláš.

Mikulas1

My Jakub is at an age where he is still very impressionable, so he excitedly recited a rhyme and even sang a  song for our guests.  Michaela on the otherhand, is now at the stage where she likes to imitate her older brother.  Not to be outdone, she also recited some nursery rhymes that we always do together.

Mikulas2

At the end of the visit, the kids got a bag of goodies and some candies from the angel.  That’s their prize for being good the whole year!

With all the events my kids got to attend yesterday, I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves December.  And because we are a bi-cultural household, it’s always twice the fun!

“Čas na Pivo” (Time for Beer)

There are only a few residents in my little community, but it is not without a pub. A pub is a very important part of a Czech settlement, because it is the home of the beer. And for those of you who are new to Czech and would like to meet a few people, it is the best place to go.

One day, as my 3-year-old son and I were walking, he tried to drag me to the direction of the pub and told me: “Mommy, Čas na pivo” (time for beer). I was taken aback by this gesture and was thinking to myself: “where did he learn that phrase?” But it really doesn’t matter. He could’ve easily picked it up from the people around him. It just goes to show that beer is an integral part of Czech culture. Even a 3-year-old knows it.

Playing with an empty beer bottle during our first few days here.
Playing with an empty beer bottle during our first few days here.

In my opinion, there are 2 basic food items in this world that Czechs can’t live without: bread (chleba) and beer (pivo). I know this because if I don’t have these things at home, my Czech husband gets into a bad mood. I have learned my lesson. I need to have a steady supply of bread and beer at my home to prevent any unpleasant mood swings.

During our big move from the US to Czech, we stopped by Brussels for 2 days to do a little sightseeing and slightly recover from the jetlag. Guess what my husband ordered in a Belgian restaurant. That’s right, a beer sampler.

beer sampler

This fondness for beer is not only with men but also with women too. Beers come in different varieties, alcohol strength, and raw material source. And to cater to everyone’s “needs,” a beer can also be non-alcoholic. Inasmuch as Czechs like alcoholic beverages, there is a zero tolerance limit of alcohol for drivers in this country. Thus, brewers have to come up with this non-alcoholic variety.

Before meeting my husband, I never liked beer. When we were still living in the States, and had parties with friends, I would drink it just to have something to drink. But now that we are here in the Czech Republic, and I have been introduced to all different kinds of beers, there is a growing fondness for beer in my palate. Thankfully, they have the non-alcoholic variety, so I can still enjoy it even now that I’m pregnant.

If you are Czech and don’t like beer, please do share your story of your secret society. Because out of my two years of living here, I have yet to meet a Czech who has an aversion to beer.