I am already beside myself with excitement that the holiday season starts in two weeks! After last year’s Christmas market cancellation, I think I got my sense of joy and whimsy back and I’m ready to enjoy the coming season to the fullest! I couldn’t believe that in the single-digits of November the market was already under construction in the square! I have already smelled the ceremonial first waft of spiced punch, a phenomenon which happens every year and is always ceaselessly thrilling, as the punch stands are already out and blazing with business. Alex was joking that every year we have the same conversation, “Are you excited? It doesn’t seem like you’re as excited as I am!” and so on, and so forth.
However, I’m still enjoying the rather beautiful autumn season here in southwestern Czech Republic. I’ve come to realize that there are two distinct parts of autumn here. The first, mid-September through October is very mild, sunny afternoons with frigid mornings, and slow and gentle descent into the cooler temperatures and changing leaves. Then November happens, and just like that, the temperatures dip almost as dramatically as the leaves from the trees… but things just seem cozier this month! Hot drinks, bonfires, the theater and opera in full swing, dark late afternoons, walking home with shopping bags in hand, being particularly great for lighting candles and having a cup of tea.
We had a very nice Halloween weekend here, carving pumpkins with many people who had never carved one before! As a rule, the people who had never carved a pumpkin always had a nicer one than us. Perhaps we lack the inspiration after so many years of doing it. I was thinking about how Alex and I (being Americans, and ones who really like Halloween) have dressed up in costume possibly every year since we were about three years old, or maybe even younger, who knows? (except that Halloween nearly a decade ago in Paris!) This fact alone goes to illustrate how much this holiday is a part of the cultural zeitgeist in the U.S. It was clear this year as any to see our foreign Halloween traditions assert themselves here and clashing with the traditional and solemn All Soul’s Day (called Dušičky) events here in the Czech Republic, which mostly consist of mass visits to cemeteries either locally or even around the country. Through the two Halloween celebrations we had, you could see the reverence that the North Americans paid to it compared with the good-will of the Europeans trying to participate as best they could, but still lacking that “Halloween spirit”. I’ve come to realize it’s just something you have to grow up with, like celebrating Thanksgiving. I could see that the true feeling just wasn’t there with the others, which is fine, and okay.
A funny thing happens after you live in a different country for so long – you can go one of two ways: Either a full on adoption of your host country’s celebrations and mostly abandoning those from your country of origin, or a full-out “keeping the magic alive” of your home country’s celebrations. I tend to fall into the latter category, ones who typically try to keep their long-held traditions, even though I am a culture-hound type person and I love celebrating holidays in other places, but there are just some things I will never get. Having a svátek (name day), for example. I didn’t grow up with this and it seems very odd to me to have an additional day that isn’t your birthday on which you should be celebrated, and I do not personally wish to partake in this. I do love Czech Christmas and Easter traditions, however, or local traditions, like the annual “draining of the ponds”, specific to the South Bohemian region.
Not everyone will completely get it, and I know I won’t totally get their traditions, and that’s okay.
A delicious non-alcoholic drink I came up with to serve for Halloween weekend was called “gore juice”. It tastes a little like fruit punch (but far less sugar) and would be perfect to serve at any autumn or holiday gathering! You could easily make it alcoholic (I’d recommend gin) to fit everyone’s needs. Call it whatever you want and enjoy!
“Gore Juice” Sparkling Autumn Drink Recipe
Ingredients make about 8 servings. You’ll need…
- 1 L strawberry juice
- 1 L peach or apricot nectar (juice)
- 1 L sparkling water, lemon flavor if possible
- ice cubes with half water, half strawberry juice
- slices of an orange fruit of your choice (orange and persimmon are good choices)
1. In each glass, add about a shot-glass's worth of strawberry juice. 2. Fill two-thirds of the way with sparkling lemon water. 3. Add about a shot-glass's worth of peach nectar on top. 4. Add 1-2 ice cubes. 5. Pop in one fruit slice to top it off and serve!
This has been such a cozy weekend! We went to a lantern festival in a nearby village and drank fruit tea near the fire, then the next day gave our friends’ house on Fráni Šrámka a proper send-off, a place where we’ve had so many good memories over the years and saw their new place, which was really lovely. The weather was grey but not gloomy – just very hyggelig, all around. It’s nice to spend time outside in the milder temperatures with all kinds of knits draped from me to keep warm.
Other plans in November? I’m up to my eyeballs in papers to grade right now but otherwise trying to make the most of outdoor walks, bonfires, markets and seeing a movie or two at the cinema, securing a local goose for Thanksgiving (THANKSGIVING!), basking in the joy of re-reading my favorite book in the world, and the last of the pumpkin bakes until the holiday season is in full swing!
Enjoy the fleeting season and all of the cozy autumn walks.