The Grey Pen Goings

Navigation through a World that's Wild at Heart and Weird on Top.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Home (Well, Abroad) Alone

I didn’t tell anyone about my 22nd birthday. It was the last day Winedale ’05 was in England, and people were tired from the night before’s performance at the Swan, or busy shopping for souvenirs, or getting gussied up for the banquet that night. I figured I had known a bunch of the folks for over a year and if they remembered my birthday great, and if they didn’t they didn’t.

I thought of my birthday precisely three times that day: right when I woke up, while I was writing a poem in Covent Gardens around 2:30, and right before the banquet as I sipped on a Guinness. And it was a marvelous day without centering it around myself.

So I felt like I could weather the storm of a holiday passing by myself. Christmas is Christmas, but (A) They celebrate it here on the 24th, not the 25th, and (B) There’s too many bizarre rituals surrounding the Czech celebration to make me really feel like I’m missing out on something. For example:

In the week proceeding Christmas, dozens of little stands selling carp bubble up across the city. Not ready-to-go carp (the traditional Czech Christmas cuisine), that wouldn’t be tradition. Instead they have blue plastic ponds with fat, pea-brained carps swimming one foot laps endlessly. Endlessly, that is, till someone chooses said carp for said Christmas dinner. Then the carp is fished out with a net, weighed while it struggles in the horrible freedom of air, then whacked to death with a blunt piece of wood. Sometimes a stick, or a club. But really any piece of wood hefty enough to brain a carp will do.

Grace and I were standing six feet away watching this spectacle and were rained down upon by bits of debris at the gory death. Debris of what, I’m not sure. Messy shards of carp. Good fun.

But soon this Christmas became truly solitary since all the people close to me here left single-file down the calendar. Tommy to Toronto on Thursday, Tim to Buffalo Friday, Grace to Nottingham on Saturday, and Avimaan alone by Sunday. Well Baaaaaaaaaaa Humbug, y’all, I could manage.

Sunday I walked through a large, forest-like park while listening to the whole of my Winter Mix (see below), then planned my upcoming trip. Read some, wrote some, followed football games online. My friend Rach called. And Kveta, precious and kooky Landlady Kveta, brought a giant Christmas plate meant to feed three (because she didn’t know my roommates had left).

And Monday morning, when I woke up, I was unsure whether it was Christmas or not. Was it yesterday or today? Turns out it didn’t really matter to me that much. Though it might sound sad, if you turn your back to the holiday season you don’t miss it too much. Most anything can be inflated with all the world’s importance or deflated to meaningless.

Alright, maybe that’s getting a bit philosophical on this here Christmas day, and I ain’t looking for that. I set off this evening for a four-day tour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Look out, and Merry Christmas to people who actually celebrated it.


  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger Grace Beatrice said…

    Feel you also should include the other ritual of taking the carp home, live, letting it have free run of their baths to the detriment of their personal hygiene, letting their children poke and prod and "monitor" it trying to make it bite their fingers, then on the 24th the babicka will club and decapitate what has almost become a family pet.

    No wonder some people prefer schnitzel...

    - grace


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