My Christmas Tree (můj vánoční strom)

The Christmas season is here, so it’s only fitting that I write about my tree!

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In this photo you can see a Christmas tree. But the tree itself doesn’t matter as much as what is decorating it. Everything on my tree (except the ribbon) are traditional Czech ornaments from the Christmas markets in Brno, Czech Republic. Before I describe each of them, I want to give you some background on how the Christmas tree came to be:

In the 7th Century, Saint Boniface went to Germany to teach the Pagans about Christianity. The triangular shape of the fir tree was used to describe the holy trinity and Jesus’s decent to Earth as a sacrifice. It also became known as God’s tree and symbolized the tree in the garden of Eden.

In 12th Century Europe, trees started to be hung upside-down from the chandelier in a central place in the house, emphasizing God becoming man. The top two points of the triangle symbolized God and the Holy Spirit converging to the last point which was Jesus. These trees were only displayed in wealthy homes because few lower class persons had chandeliers and tall enough ceilings for a tree to be inside. Soon people began to decorate them with dried apples and pears, walnuts, and winter berries as gifts to the savior. The only problem was that these holiday sweets were not allowed to be eaten by the children until after Christmas. As you can imagine, the children were not fond of waiting and because of the perishable nature of both the sweets and the tree, they were not hung for more than a day couple days.

My ornaments from Brno are handcrafted from copper, ceramics, glass, wood, eggs, and stiffened lace. Most of the ornaments were made by talented local artists. One of the reasons each of the ornaments mean so much to me is because I got to meet the people making them, some I even got to see being made. Each person has a great skill with their medium, skills that I do not possess, but have great reverence for.

The ceramics are white porcelain with traditional blue and gold detailing in floral designs.

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The wood is thin with intricate cuts of Christmas themed décor such as the nativity, Angels, and apples. Some of the wood was painted, but I chose unpainted ornaments because they felt more authentic to me.

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The copper was stamped with a floral design and cut out in animal shapes such as pigs, cats, frogs, and monkeys.

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The eggs are reminiscent of Kraslice (Czech Easter eggs) and include a lot of the same imagery of Jesus. (Expect a more detailed post on Kraslice around Easter.)

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I visited Strážnice near the Slovakian border on Sváty Mikulaš (Saint Nicholas) day. There is a Skanzen (open-air museum) of folk culture where I found a cute gift shop. There were two older ladies making ornaments by crochet and cross stitching which was then wrapped around foam balls. This red ball was made by one of those sweet ladies while I was in the shop with heart motifs.

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This Santa was also found at the Skanzen and is a type of wooden puppet or loutky. He isn’t an ornament I just thought he looked cute on the tree 😉

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The final piece for the tree is the angel. Mine is made from crocheted lace that has been stiffened in the form of a dress, wings, and halo. My favorite part of the angel is the red bouquet she is holding. I would like to think that they are poppies, which are my favorite flower, and they remind me of Alphons Mucha paintings.

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Most gifts and goods in the Czech Republic are handmade or necessary things like clothes and underwear. Czech people are very practical and waste very little therefore, gifts always have a purpose and meaning. Czech ceramics, Kraslice, and wooden handiwork are treasured goods and exported throughout the world, which make me very proud to have them on my tree.

My Purpose

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/940/68002004/files/2014/12/img_0076-0.jpg Society recognizes who we are by what we have done, not by our inherent qualities, personality, or gifts. Once we graduate high school our lives are consumed by what we will study. It becomes who we are and what we are defined by. Adulthood comes with a list of skills we are not prepared for and a pile of expectations we did not foresee as students. From the moment you graduate college everyone wants to know where you are working, who you are dating, and when you will get married, quickly followed by when you’re having children. God forbid if you are not working in your degree field or if you are not following the expected path.

I am a prime example of someone who tried very hard to follow the path..I worked incredibly hard in high school to get perfect grades and be involved in everything. I got into good schools, lived away for a while, returned home, and worked diligently on my degree, all while being engaged to my high school sweetheart. I was following the path. I was doing what I thought I had to do, but I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel successful. At 25, with years of struggling with what I have not done and expectations I have not met, I am beginning to understand that real life for most people does not follow “the path.” I am beginning to accept that I can only live up to my own expectations and not those set by society.

My purpose for writing this blog is to expose some of the flaws in “the plan” and to share my experiences. I feel that I have some fairly unique knowledge and I want to share it with you! Because of my experience studying abroad in the Czech Republic, I have friends from all over the world and a specific connection to Czech language and culture. Because I was a Czech Queen for three years and was successful, I have many contacts with Czech-Americans and local Midwest traditions. I also have an extensive knowledge of costuming and kroje, oratory skills, and talent preparation. These skills are also backed-up by my experience as a seamstress, my years of competitive speech, theatre participation, and my degree in music education. I believe that all these things plus my type A personality and close family ties allow me to write to you. I hope in some small way what I write will be a help to you.