This Christmas was our seventh in Prague. As I have explained in a previous post, each year a large number of our regular congregation head off to their home countries for the Christmas – New Year period, in order to celebrate with their wider family and friends. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many in the congregation either teach in one of the various international schools in Prague and/or have children who attend one of these schools. The three week Christmas school holidays, together with summer months of July and August, provide the only real opportunity for a trip back ‘home’.
However, although we held our Service of Lessons and Carols on the evening of Sunday 14th December, in advance of the English-speaking exodus, otherwise services continue as normal. This is for those who do remain in Prague, as well as for visitors to the city over the holiday period. Additionally, as in previous years, we held a Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve, beginning at 23.30, as well as a more family-friendly Eucharist on Christmas Day at 11.00.
This year, as in all previous years, at sometime during November or early December, more than one member of the congregation asked the question of either Sybille or me, “Are you going anywhere for Christmas?” I now have a well-practiced askance look for such questioners, together with an appropriate silence, before asking my question, “Who do think is going to take the Christmas services in Prague?” 😉 There then always follows an embarrassed apology.
The Christmas service which it is always the most difficult to predict and therefore to prepare for, is the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve. Other than a small core of our regular congregation, who between them take on all the tasks to ensure the service runs smoothly, the rest of those attending are visitors. We never know how many of them there will be! This year, numbers were up on last year, including several young people already in Prague, helping to prepare for the annual Taizé Young Adult European Meeting which started here today.
The Christmas Day morning Family Eucharist is always well supported by several Czech married to English-speaker couples and their children who are part of our regular congregation. However, many of these families alternate each year, between spending Christmas in Prague, and Christmas in the home country of the English-speaker. Once again, the congregation is then considerably augmented by visitors to Prague, as it was once more this year.
Just at the end of our Christmas Day service, we did have one unexpected event, when one of the two altar candles imploded without warning. I took this photograph in the vestry, after we had cleared and cleaned the altar. Nobody was hurt and no lasting damage was done – the tissues that we always place under the candle holders, helping enormously. But I was faced with the practical problem of not having a matching replacement candle, and the Roman Catholic shop from where we obtain our altar candles, not being open again until today. In between, there was yesterday, Sunday 28th December – the first Sunday of Christmas 🙁
On Christmas Day morning, we sang that wonderful carol by Christina Rossetti, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’. But at that point, no snow ‘had fallen, snow on snow’. However, this morning, we did have our first serious snow fall of this winter with the possibility of more on the morning of 31st December. Whilst we may not have had a ‘White Christmas’, it looks highly likely that we will have a ‘White New Year’.