Dave Patty | December 2017
What holiday traditions does your family keep?
In the 14 countries of Central and Eastern Europe where Josiah Venture staff serve, the Christmas traditions are quite varied. Instead of turkey or roast beef on Christmas, the traditional Czech meal is a plateful of carp, accompanied by a mound of potatoes. Most families buy a live fish directly from the fish farmers, and then let it swim for a few days in their bathtub before converting their temporary pet into a tasty meal.
Hungarian families plan even further ahead with gift purchases, since their children expect the first gift on the 6th of December, from Saint Nicolas, and then again on Christmas Eve from baby Jesus. The main celebration lasts three days, finally ending on the 26th. No wonder youngsters count it a privilege to be Hungarian.
The traditional Christmas meal in Poland has 12 dishes which represents the 12 apostles. Most of the courses are meatless, but Christmas carp is also popular here. Polish families typically celebrate Christmas with a midnight mass and spend Christmas day with relatives.
Up north in Estonia there are only a few hours of light during the holidays, but that doesn’t stop locals from celebrating with a great feast, including sauerkraut, blood sausage, and a foaming mug of beer. Like their Finnish neighbors, Estonians cope with the cold through regular saunas —a standard fixture even in small apartments.
In Bulgaria, a special kind of round-shaped bread is prepared at Christmas and the person who bakes it hides a small coin inside. The oldest male member of the family splits the bread into pieces, one piece for each member of the family. Then everyone starts looking for the coin in his piece of homemade bread and whoever finds it has good luck for the coming year.
Although all of these traditions center around the birth of Christ, most people in this region do not understand the true reason Jesus came —to purchase their salvation and reconcile them with their heavenly Father.
That is why the tradition of pausing in the midst of all the December activities to give a gift to a JV missionary is so significant. This makes it possible for them to share the true message of Christmas with young people who have never heard.
Thank you and merry Christmas,