The holiday season is a time when families come together to celebrate and give thanks. However, for the foreign exchange students at Leesville, such as Barbora Stara, it becomes hard, if not impossible, to spend time back home with family.
For Stara, home is the Czech Republic. Surprisingly enough, this time of year is very similar in both the United States and the Czech Republic. However, there are a few new traditions Stara had the chance to participate in here in the US. While living in North Carolina, Stara celebrated a holiday that they don’t have in the Czech Republic: Thanksgiving.
Stara stated that her favorite part of the holiday season is Thanksgiving because it is so unique to the United States.
Even though Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in the Czech Republic, there are many other holiday traditions–specifically Christmas traditions–similar to those here in the United States. For example, in the Czech Republic, children receive presents from St. Nicholas (or as they say in Czech, Svatý Mikuláš). If the children behaved well throughout the year, St. Nicholas gives them presents or candy. In addition, just like in the United States, if the children are naughty, St. Nicholas leaves them with coal.
Although the traditional gift-giving process is similar in both the Czech Republic and the U.S., there are a few differences. Stara said, “Our Christmas is at night on the 24th, so we give presents at night, not in the morning.”
Besides gift-giving, another important part of Christmas in the Czech Republic is traditions– one specifically surrounding the predicting of the future. To see if someone will have a healthy and prosperous year, each member of the family places a candle in a “boat” made out of a walnut shell. If the walnut and candle make it safely across the bowl, then the upcoming year will be full of good fortune.
Hopefully, since the Christmas traditions of the Czech Republic and the United States are so similar, Barbora will feel “at home” this Christmas season. Even though the two countries seem different, you will always be surprised at how much we have in common with places so far away.