11th November in the Czech Republic

First World War memorial in Zbraslav © Ricky Yates

First World War memorial in Zbraslav © Ricky Yates

Today is Armistice Day, marking the signing of the armistice, ninety-eight years ago, which brought an end to the First World War at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In the USA, it is known as Veterans Day and is kept as a public holiday.

During the First World War, what is now the Czech Republic was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which, together with Germany and the Ottoman Empire, formed the eventually defeated Central Powers. The Czechs were a subjugated people, increasingly seeking much greater autonomy or self-rule. As I explained in my previous post, two weeks before the official end of WW1, the independent new nation state of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed.

Yet despite the rise of Czech nationalism, many Czech people fought and died for an Empire that they didn’t really believe in. In many towns and cities across the country, there are memorials such as this one in Zbraslav, to those who gave their lives in the First World War.

Today is also St Martin’s Day, the Feast Day of St. Martin of Tours. As a fourth century Roman soldier, Martin is said to have cut his military cloak in two and given one half to a scantily clad beggar outside the city of Amiens, to protect him from the freezing weather. Later, after leaving the army, Martin became a monk and hermit, before being made Bishop of Tours in 371.

Here in the Czech Republic, there are numerous traditions associated with St Martin’s Day. There is a Czech saying, ‘Martin prijíždí na bílém koni‘ – ‘Martin is coming on a white horse’, indicating that today is when the first snowfall can be expected. This year in the Czech Republic, Martin came quite early with the first snowfall on the higher mountains some two weeks ago. Even here in Prague, we had our first dusting of snow, twenty-four hours before St. Martin’s Eve.

St Martin = wine & goose :-) © Ricky Yates

St Martin = wine & goose 🙂 © Ricky Yates

Many restaurants offer a St Martin’s special menu which always features roast goose. According to tradition, the association of a goose with St Martin is because he was so reluctant to be ordained a bishop, that he hid in a goose pen, only for his hiding place to be given away, by the cackling of the geese.

The appropriate accompaniment to St Martin’s goose is Svatomartinské vino, a young wine from the recent harvest. This is produced in the vineyards of South Moravia and always becomes available for the first time on 11th November each year. In more recent times it has been marketed in a big way in a similar manner to Beaujolais nouveau.

All that I describe here are examples of the keeping of traditions which are Christian in origin by a now rather irreligious Czech population. The Epiphany door-marking illustrated at the end of this post and referred to in following comments falls into the same category.

A long weekend of anniversaries and celebrations

Double-flagged tram for Czechoslovak Independence Day © Ricky Yates

Friday 28th October 2016 – was a public holiday here in the Czech Republic, celebrating the ninety-eighth anniversary of the declaration of independence of a country that no longer exists 🙂 In the dying days of World War One, the new nation of Czechoslovakia was declared independent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 28th October 1918, by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who then served as President of the ‘First Republic’, until 1935.

Although the state of Czechoslovakia ceased to exist on 1st January 1993, following the ‘Velvet Divorce’, the public holiday remains! Interestingly, it is no longer kept as a public holiday in Slovakia. Instead, they have double celebrations on 1st January each year, both to mark the New Year and to celebrate the establishment of the separate Slovak state, on . . . → Read More: A long weekend of anniversaries and celebrations

A problem with the appointment process in the Church of England

A view across Prague © Ricky Yates

‘How did you end up in Prague?’, is a question I have quite frequently been asked over the past eight years. My simple answer is always, ‘Because I applied for the job’. I chose to come here – I wasn’t sent.

For the past twenty years or more, nearly every vacant position in the Church of England has been advertised in the Church press. If you wish to apply, you complete a now fairly standard application form and submit it by the closing date. In due course, a short list of candidates is drawn up and those selected are invited for interview. An appointment is then made.

Putting it in simple terms, the Church of England has adopted the normal secular method of filling a vacancy. A . . . → Read More: A problem with the appointment process in the Church of England

Warsaw

Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw © Ricky Yates

Following lunch on Sunday 25th September, which marked the official end of the 2016 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod, quite a number of the Synod members stayed on for an afternoon walking tour through the centre of Warsaw. It was good to have the opportunity to see something of the Polish capital before returning to Prague the following day.

The first building that caught my eye after the taxi dropped me off in the city centre, was the tower of the Palace of Culture and Science. This building is a classical example of Stalinist-Baroque architecture and bears a striking resemblance to Hotel International here in Prague, located just a few hundred metres from the Chaplaincy Flat. Both are based on the design of Moscow State University. . . . → Read More: Warsaw

The 2016 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod in Warsaw

Members of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod with Bishop Robert, following the concluding Sunday morning Eucharist © Ricky Yates

Between Thursday 22nd – Monday 26th September, I attended my ninth and final meeting of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod which this year, was hosted by the Warsaw Chaplaincy. My first Eastern Archdeaconry Synod was in mid September 2008, held in Corfu, in the week before Sybille and I moved to Prague and before I commenced writing this blog. Subsequent Synod meetings were in Izmir in 2009, Vienna in 2010, Bucharest in 2011, Attica, Athens in 2012, Woking 🙂 in 2013, Prague in 2014 and Zagreb in 2015.

Our Synod meeting took place in Dobre Miejsce, a Roman Catholic Conference Centre located in delightful woodland on . . . → Read More: The 2016 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod in Warsaw