Dec 26, 2011


We'd been talking about wanting to experience the Christmas markets in Europe for a few years now. Having not yet experienced them in other cities, I'm pretty sure Prague's old city offers what we were hoping for. The main square in the old city is really spectacular with this huge towering church surrounded by brightly colored historic buildings. At night, its especially impressive. So, its a perfect setting for Christmas markets with a huge tree surrounded by little stalls selling food, drinks and handicrafts.

I love the hot mulled wine you can buy all over town and sip while you walk through the winding cobblestone streets. The girls love the sweet breads and sausages.

While the city is festive and fun to explore, I admit, I had a few moments where I was having trouble remembering this and was focusing on what we were missing; (friends, family, and a home with Christmas traditions we knew.) We'd spent several Christmas's away from home before when we'd lived aboard our sailboat and traveled and I loved it, but it was different now with kids. This is now our 4th Christmas as parents and I guess I'm still trying to figure out what traditions we want to stick with to make the holidays special for them. How many gifts are appropriate without spoiling them? How far do with take the whole Santa thing? What should we do this Christmas in a new city to really make the most of this experience.

So, I thought about these things without a lot of clarity while Christmas was soon approaching. Then, one morning I came across some quotes about gratitude and they really helped me refocus.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie

This Christmas was a subtle reminder to be grateful for what we have. The five of us were together and relatively healthy, if you don't count some coughs and sniffles which seem to plague us every Christmas no matter where we are. We had basically what we had envisioned, a new city to explore and the freedom to create any kind of Christmas we wanted. We could escape all the typical obligations and keep things simple.

So, I let go of any preconceived notions about what I thought Christmas should be and appreciated the little things. I realized that this Christmas wasn't magical because of loads of presents, but because of an experience that we were having together. That this would live in our memories longer than a Christmas at home.

Thus, our holiday unfolded... We'd first thought we didn't need to get a Christmas tree, that we'd enjoy holiday decorations in the city instead of at home. Embrace this new city life... But, we'd seen the tree lot at IKEA and Brooke insisted we had to return to get a tree. Jeff said it was a bit of work to carry it on metros and by foot through the city, but if that's what Brooke wanted, that's what we'd do. I'm glad we did, it gave us the opportunity to spend time making decorations, and really went a long way in making our little apartment feel 'Christmasy'.

We attempted to make some Christmas cookies realizing too late that we had no measuring tools. So, these were by far the least attractive and least tasty Christmas cookies I've ever made, but the girls had fun.

Christmas traditions in Czech Republic involve many of the same things as home; getting together with family and presents. But traditional Christmas Eve dinner is quite different. Fried carp and potatoes are the typical fare and big tubs of carp, a freshwater fish begin to scatter the city the week before Christmas. Many people buy a whole fish and let it swim in the bathtub to stay fresh till its time to cook it for the family, but you can request a certain amount to be fileted and chopped to your needs as well. Brooke was fascinated by seeing the tubs of large fish and watching the men remove them with a net to be chopped. So, while at first we weren't too excited about fish for Christmas dinner, we finally decided that we had to take part in the tradition. However, unfortunately we waited too long and Christmas Eve is apparently too late to go out and get carp. The city was pretty quiet by then as people are already home cooking and celebrating.

So, this part of the holiday didn't quite go as planned. We decided to head out in the city and see if we could get in a restaurant. There were quite a few open, but after walking the city and stopping for a drink, Savannah was not in the mood. She'd been fighting a cold and at 2 1/2 is at an age where sometimes she is great without a nap and some days she is not. So, as traveling with 3 young kids goes, we have to stay flexible and do the best we can. We headed back to the apt. for a night in, had whatever was in the fridge for dinner and went to bed early.

The details about Santa or St. Mikulas, as he is known here, got a bit blurry. I'm starting to admire the parents that keep that magic alive for so long. Last year I remember Brooke asking, why Santa used the same wrapping paper we had. (Come on mom... make a little effort, these kids are too smart.) She didn't ask a lot of questions this year, which was good.

Savannah woke first and even though we first pointed her toward the tree saying. "Look, its Christmas, you have presents!" She looked mildly interested and said, "yes, but look, baby brother is awake!" As I was hoping, our Christmas was simple and they enjoyed the few gifts for each other as much as their own.

The girls loved their box of projects and it kept them busy most of the day.Jeff wrapped up things like tape and glue sticks and he was right, they were just as excited about those as any other toys.

So, Christmas morning was like I hoped. We opened presents, made Czech Christmas bread French toast casserole. The girls crafted and then we all got dressed to go out to lunch.

Despite the very crooked tree with half finished homemade decorations, I was happy with the Christmas pic of the three of them.

We found a place nearby that Jeff had been eying which was advertising honey ribs. Without over-planning it, this happened to be our favorite meal out yet. The girls were patient for a long lunch and the food was great. After a few beers, we were feeling pretty relaxed and content with our Christmas day.

Note to self for the new year... Stop worrying so much! Things will work themselves out just the way they are supposed to.


Michele~Renee said...

Katie~ To you and the entire family first and foremost I send Love and Hugs. Happy New Year Too! I read your blog from top to bottom and so happy you posted about it on facebook today. I was unaware it existed. I'm in awww of your writings. You are a talented individual without a doubt. You captivated me with every entry. I hope someday you realize what a talented writer you are and perhaps someday this adventure of yours, Jeff and the kiddos is turned into a book. I do believe a children's book could be added to that collection of writings. I got emotional reading your blog at times. Knowing you and being a part of your life at one time as your neighbor. The first day I saw those beer jugs as I call them being pulled out of that rental truck by Jeff~ thinking these people are renting that place for a week and are gonna have one major party? LOL. How we judge others can sometimes turn out to be pretty funny. A year later standing out in the cold while Jeff was giving Ryan lessons on how to brew your own beer. Gosh was that beer ever good. Ryan got the part about how good Jeff's beer is I think that is the only lesson he learned from the experience. That and leave it to Jeff...don't attempt yourself Ryan. LOL. You all are in our hearts forever. I wish you and Jeff great success in your business adventure. I hope you continue writing and truly think about a book or two.
With Love and Kindness,
Michele~Renee and Ryan Jansen

Lisa Wood said...

That sounds like the best Christmas - relaxing and letting it unfold!
we have had a simple xmas for the very first time, and we are so looking forward to it being like that next year!
That tree looks so cute, and the wrapped up glue sticks sure was a great idea ;)