Veselé Vianoce!

Christmas 2013

It’s been a happy and hectic week for Sestra Jones and her fellow missionaries, with no time to email as they have enjoyed a full measure of the music, devotion, activity, travel, fellowship, and service that a Christmas in the mission field has to offer. Sestra Jones recently wrote to us regarding some of the fun Czech and Slovak holiday traditions she has been introduced to in recent weeks:

traditional Slovak Christmas wafers tradičné slovenské vianočné oplátky

traditional Slovak Christmas wafers
tradičné slovenské vianočné oplátky
Thanks for the photo, Wikimedia Commons

“…all over the city are stands selling crispy waffle-shaped wafers, I’m pretty sure they’re called oplátky. *(It is said that the word “oplátky” or “oblátky” comes from the Latin “oblata”, meaning offering. Traditionally, these would be broken and eaten by the family together, with a blessing pronounced upon all around the table). They are eaten with honey for happiness and garlic for health (I don’t know whether those are simultaneous or separate, but that’s what they told me!). Slovaks celebrate on Christmas Eve, and Christmas dinner is carp and potato salad. Santa doesn’t bring presents, Baby Jesus does! Children write pre-addressed postcards to Jesus that they buy in post offices, etc.

svaty_mikulasThe local Father Christmas figure is Svaty Mikuláš (known in other lands as Saint Nicholas), whose festival was on the 6th. Almost like in Holland, the children put their boots on the windowsill the night before and in the morning Saint Mikuláš has put mandarins and nuts and chocolate in their shoes! For some reason Mikuláš (who looks a lot like the American Santa) is pictured with an angel and a demon at his side. I think the demon brings coal to naughty children…? Eerie, but totally mainstream here. 🙂 ”

One of the most highly-anticipated Christmas Day events for missionaries and their families is, of course, the traditional phone call home! Sestra Jones favoured us with a beautiful duet with her excellent companion, Sestra Bar, and spoke glowingly of the special experience they’d had that morning singing Christmas carols at the local hospital. She had enjoyed a traditional Christmas Eve meal of delicious kapustnica (sauerkraut soup), and was looking forward to further seasonal delights thanks to the legendary hospitality of the Family van D! Truly a Christmas to remember… Veselé Vianoce, one and all!

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
-Christina Rossetti

 

“The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ…May we give as the Savior gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift…How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness.”
– President Thomas S. Monson, “The Real Joy of Christmas”
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