I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, just a few hours before setting out from the Chaplaincy Flat to St Clement’s Anglican Episcopal Church in the centre of Prague, in order to celebrate our Christmas Midnight Eucharist which begins at 23.30 this evening. It is now dark and therefore in terms of the liturgical Church year, the season of Advent has ended and we have entered the Christmas season.
As I mentioned in my earlier blogpost entitled ‘Advent Sunday‘, this year, because of Christmas Day being on a Sunday, the preceding season of Advent has been a full four weeks long. Depending on which day of the week Christmas Day falls, in some years the fourth ‘week’ of Advent is only one or two days long. However, further to my blogpost of earlier this week, here in Prague the fourth week of Advent has been overshadowed by the death of former President Václav Havel last Sunday and the preparations for his state funeral which took place yesterday.
In that earlier post about Havel, I did say that, ‘as I previously understood it, the general consensus was that in many respects, Havel was more highly regarded outside of this country than within in it’. However, I did then go on to say that what I had then seen in the thirty hours following his death when I wrote that piece was rapidly changing that understanding. What I have observed since then has completely changed that view.
The photo above is probably the best way to illustrate what I mean. Here in the window of an upmarket lady’s fashion store ‘5th Avenue’, a whole display window has been given over to a tribute to Havel with his picture, a number of votive candles, and a large flower arrangement. Even in our favourite local bar-restaurant U Topolu where we ate yesterday evening, in one corner was a picture of Havel pinned to the wall with a votive candle in front of it. I meant to take a picture of that as well but unfortunately failed to do so.
But with all of this going on, the city has also been busy getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Which of course raises the interesting question of when do you actually celebrate the festival. Here in the Czech Republic, the greater celebration takes place on Christmas Eve as it does in many other continental European countries. This is well illustrated by the wonderful Prague public transport system which goes onto a night timetable early in the afternoon of Christmas Eve but then runs a normal Sunday timetable on Christmas Day.
As my wife Sybille is German, having the main celebration on Christmas Eve is also her tradition. Therefore we had our Christmas Dinner this evening – a very tasty roast duck with vegetables. Appropriately, the duck had been reared and packaged in Germany but, as we frequently experience here, with a sticky label in Czech stuck over the German cooking instructions!
Veselé Vánoce – Happy Christmas