Christmas Spirit, Baby Jesus, and…Potatoes?

I. Love. Christmas. SO. much. Baking cookies, making paper snowflakes, listening to Christmas music, the whole shebang. However, I worried that being 5,000 miles away from all my normal traditions would take some magic out of the holiday. Alas! This is not the case! Christmas time in the Czech Republic has been an absolute DREAM, and my Christmas spirits are soaring high. Here’s what I’ve learned about how Czechs celebrate this season:

First off, let’s talk about CHRISTMAS MARKETS! If I could bring one thing back from my trip, it would be this concept of Christmas markets. If you’ve ever been to a Christmas bazaar where local companies make goods and sell them, imagine that-but much grander! In nearly every city square you’ll see little wooden booths set up will small

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Christmas Booths sell Christmas Spirit by the Kilogram

companies selling soaps, ornaments, food, tea, you name it. While this may sound fairly similar to a Christmas bazaar, it’s the environment around these markets that make it so special. There’s Christmas music playing all the time, concerts and events in the larger squares, and people hopping booth-to-booth, testing out each different type of mulled wine. In my city, Brno, there’s even a special tram that’s covered in Christmas lights that can take you between each Christmas market! The atmosphere is hard to describe, but after visiting these markets I can confirm that the Christmas spirit may have been invented here.

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The Christmas Tram: AKA the Holly Trolly

Additionally, there’s something similar to a second Christmas that comes early- December 5th to be exact. This is known as St. Mikulas day, where a bishop, followed by an angel and a devil, judge how good a child has been. If the bishop deems the child “good,” then the angel may give them candy or nuts. However, if the child is bad, then they receive a potato or coal and then get taken away by the devil. A little dark for my taste, but I’m sure it provides great incentive for children to be on their best behavior.

Finally, the concept of Christmas is totally different here! Santa doesn’t deliver presents to the good children, but instead leaves that job to baby Jesus! On Christmas Eve, (after a dinner of fresh carp and potato salad) children are told to go into a separate room from the Christmas tree. Once they’ve left, baby Jesus places presents under the tree and then rings a little bell to signify completion. If you thought the logistics of Santa delivering presents to every child was difficult, try explaining how an infant does it!

Of course the holidays aren’t the same when I can’t bake cookies or decorate trees with my family, but learning how Brno, Czech Republic celebrates Christmas has been incredibly fascinating and just as festive-if not more!


Hannah Langford

CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL

Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking  forward to eating a lot of chocolate.

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The End

As this semester draws to a close, it’s hard to imagine that five months have already passed. As cliché as it sounds, it really does feel like yesterday that I arrived in Mendoza for the first time. I have had an incredible time in Argentina, but as I think about leaving, I have realized that as eye-opening as this semester has been, not everything was smooth-sailing and some of my expectations were not met.

I genuinely like everyone on my program (there were only 13 of us, so it’s not that crazy). We are all low-maintenance individuals with a sense of adventure, and I have enjoyed getting to know them. That being said, there is no one I can see myself making a big effort to stay in touch with. I knew that there were only two people, including myself, from DU in this program, so I thought that I would definitely meet new people that would later become my close friends. The other students are my friends, but there is no one I would consider myself particularly close to.

Academics were not very serious. Of the two universities we could take classes at, I ended up at the easier one, for that was the place where I could take courses that would apply toward my major. There was so much downtime. Coming from the quarter system, it was already an adjustment getting used to 16 weeks of classes, but I did not factor how little coursework there was. In one class, my only grade was participation and the final; in the other, there was a little more work, which included three take-home assignments, two midterms, and a final, yet there was still a lot of free time. It made me realize how much I like the quarter system, for I love to be kept busy.

I spent many weekends in Mendoza. This was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise. There was probably a total of six weekends I was not home and that was okay with me. I got to know the city really well, I spent time with my host family and their family and friends, and I felt like I was able to immerse in the culture. Travel in South America, especially from a less metropolitan area like Mendoza, is expensive, which is the main reason why I did not travel as much as my European counterparts. There are other places in South America that I would love to visit, but there will be time in the future. I am grateful for what I was able to see, and I look forward to my next trip.

As with any new experience, there were times that I did not always enjoy myself; however, the good times definitely outweighed the bad. These past few months have taught me so much, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to study here.

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Zoe Kaldor

 ARGENTINA – IFSA: MENDOZA UNIVERSITIES PROGRAM, 2018 FALL

Zoe Kaldor is an International Studies and Strategic Communication double major. She is studying abroad with IFSA-Butler in Mendoza, Argentina. Originally from New York, DU’s study abroad program was one of the reasons Zoe chose to attend DU. She specifically chose to study abroad in Argentina because she wants to improve her Spanish skills and experience a new culture, for she believes it is so important in an increasingly global society to be able to communicate in languages besides English as well as experience different ways of life. Zoe is an avid traveler and loves to explore new places; she is excited she gets to do both.

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