Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ode to Czechs

Having married into a Czech family, I've been afforded yet another impossible to pronounce last name, and I've also been given the golden opportunity to witness Czech cultural traditions as both an insider and an outsider. Let me tell you (as somebody who's in the know now), those Czechs are just plain WACKY!!!

Take, for instance, Krtek. Did you ever think that the Smurfs were outrageous and zany? Well, my friend, you have yet to witness the sheer brilliance that is the Krtek cartoon. Case in point:

(You really have to watch the whole clip for effect. As an added bonus, you get to find out how babies are made and born in just over 5 minutes! Try explaining THAT one to the kids before you put them to sleep!)

Another 'personal favourite' tradition comes on Easter Mondays, when all the Czech boys and men go whipping the women on their legs with twigs-- get this: to 'keep them young'. They also douse them with water, and are then rewarded by the girls with decorated eggs, ribbons, money, or shots of plum liquor, slivovice. (As Mr. T. would say, I pity the fool who tries to whip me and then expects to be rewarded for it!!)

There's a devil on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) with a long tongue that walks around with a chain at night and scares you into confessing if you've been naughty or nice for Christmas;

(photo comes from here)

There's a troll, Hodnik, that lives in rivers and ponds and drowns you to steal your soul-- man, the Czechs are nothing if not imaginative!

One of the more tame traditions is that of name days. Everyone in Czech is named after a Czech saint, and each name is celebrated on particular day every year. When your name day comes around, it is celebrated much like a birthday, only it's you and everybody else in the country who has your name doing the celebrating. And if you happen to wake up in the morning and forget who's name day it is that day, no need to worry: they announce it on the morning news. So three things to note:

1. There are a finite amount of Czech names to go around. It's not like here in Canada where pretty much any name goes-- you either name your child one of the 365 Czech names or get permission from the government to deviate from the norm. (And if that's not hassle enough, imagine a lifetime of your children feeling left out because they are the only ones in the ENTIRE COUNTRY who don't get to celebrate a name day! Not fair= no good.)

2. In my (limited) experience, nobody in Czech has a middle name. That would mean more than one name day, and once again, that would not be fair.

3. I'm sure some people are named after the saint's name that falls on their actual birthday, but most people are named after a different saint so that they can celebrate BOTH a birthday and a name day. (E.g. Marty was born on January 27th, but the day to celebrate everybody named Martin is on November 11th). Those Czechs always have excuses to celebrate!

Anyway... (long preamble for a relatively short story): I am fortunate enough to have inadvertently been named after a Czech saint! (Put up your hands if you've ever heard of St. Dana... didn't think so.) Today (December 11th) just happens to be my (and every other Dana's) name day! Huzzah!

You can see if you've been blessed with a name day, too: check here. You can also see if there's a loose Czech translation for your decidedly non-Czech name here. Happy name day to me!


karen said...

Hey mine is Jan 2! I like the idea of name day.. more stuff ;)

We miss you too Dana.. let us know if/when you come back and we'll get together.


granolagirl said...

That is one whacky cartoon, I think that's a more graphic giving birth scene that I have ever watched! I wonder what kind of questions kids ask after that saturday morning of watching cartoons.

I too would like to see ya if you're in town for the holidays!

wednesday L said...

I remember watching that cartoon with you when you lived by the U, and rolling around on your carpet and laughing until I cried amidst all of the Nigel furs.
Watching it again, I'm struck by how EXACTLY that lady bunny looks like me, if I was an animated woodland creature...

thinking about difference said...

I loved that cartoon (though they never showed this particular one, I guess it was too bourgeois...)! We used to watch it on the Bulgarian television...

I'm an unfortunate case of not being named after a saint... but I still get my name day celebrated sometimes in April/May, immediately after Easter. Gabi's like Marty, Nov. 11 (saint gabriel and michael, i suppose...).