Friday, March 21, 2008

The Seder Meal

Seder Meal
click here to see whole album
Yesterday went smoothly for our Czech-American-Jewish Seder. If you click on the photo album you can read my comments and follow along with the events of the night.



All in all I think everything turned out nicely as we drank wine, took time to think on God's faithfulness and mercy, and enjoyed the food which all had meaning(and tasted fantastic--even the carrots and saltwater). I've always enjoyed Seder meals, each one having more meaning and more charoset:)
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A multicultural easter experience

Holidays always seem to be an interesting time in another culture. I’m expecting one thing, but something else always happens. This Easter Season we’ve been planning a Seder dinner for people in the community and our church. I’ve been to three of these meals in the US, two in Ponca City at First Presbyterian and then one in Madison with a congregation of Messianic Jews. Although each one was different, I felt like I had a pretty good background to at least begin with planning one here in CZ. As I began to work with Jan, I had to stretch my mind to think of the meal from a Czech perspective. We’re trying seriously to be culturally correct and respect the Jewish tradition without twisting it into a Christian service, plus presenting the meal in a way that it will feel more like a meal than a service. I found it difficult to plan a meal respecting one culture, living in another, and coming from another. However this mix of cultures has made it all the more special for me.

Number one, there is no Matzo bread or mix in the stores of Policka, because most of the Czech Jews have either immigrated to other countries or were sent to concentration camps during the Second World War. There are still Jews living in the Czech Republic, but the number is quite low. So we have asked a few ladies from our church to bake us some unleavened bread, but they still feel reluctant to do it, because it's either something they've never done before or they just think it doesn't taste good. The other symbolic elements of the meal will not be too difficult to make here, although Jan refuses to see horseradish as bitter, claiming that it has a sweet and pleasant taste. I did more research to see what other “bitter herbs” we could have in it’s place, but we decided in the end that it would be too difficult to find some Arugula or other Mediterranean leaves. When we came to the main meal portion, we hit another problem, because each American Seder meal I've been too had a pot-luck dinner, and that would just never fit into Czech culture. They would never eat two to three kinds of meat served along side three random side dishes. Each meal in Czech Culture has a small serving of meat with a larger serving of potatoes, rice or dumplings. The side depends on the meat and certain sides never go with some meats or always go with some meats. As I began to look for recipes and plan for the meal section of the dinner, I kept finding myself stuck in American culture and I really didn’t know what we should do. Then Jan asked if we would have lamb, because the Jews would eat Lamb. So we called some of our friends and they’re going to fix some lamb for us. Even this was difficult though, because for some reason many people don't have any lamb meat left right now. We're very thankful that someone has volunteered to cook what we do have. A friend of mine also brought me a Czech Jewish Cookbook, and this I found very interesting. It was kind of proof to me how each culture changes as it enters another. The recipes in this book talk about the significance of the ingredients to each dish, but the end result still fits within the Czech culture. We decided on a nice salad made of lentils, eggs, cheese, and wine. Lentils were very common in Jewish meals as something they picked up from Egyptian culture. I think Americans would find the dish quite exotic, but plenty of Czech families eat lentils on a regular basis, and we think it will serve as a nice accompaniment to the lamb. So I think the end result will have a mix of Jewish, Czech, Egyptian, and American culture, but I think this will make it more interesting and I honestly think it just wouldn’t be possible to do it without having elements of each culture within the whole meal.

Planning this meal has also kept my mind focused on the religious aspect of the holiday. The pagan traditions overshadow the Christians' so much, that many Czechs think Easter comes on a Monday. They have a special Czech tradition where men and young boys visit their friends and family to hit the women with a special traditional whip and the women give them eggs, candy, cakes, and/or alcohol. Although it may sound a little barbaric to our American ears, the real thing can be quite fun. The traditional eggs are so beautiful and the whips look very interesting. The excitement for this Monday morning appears much more enjoyable than sitting in church on Sunday morning or even Friday night. Living in a culture which is predominantly atheist, the whole season of Easter feels more like a multicultural season where many religions and traditions celebrate new life.

I think we have many exciting things planned for this week, with the Thursday dinner, a special Good Friday service and special music on Sunday with our choir and band. My prayer is that this week we will experience what makes Easter more than just keeping traditions, but a time when we can remember and thank our creator and savior for freedom and new life.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Whirlwind of Fun

Game night and Family Sunday
click here for pictures

While the Semi-hurricane Emma was blasting through Europe, we were partying at the Church, for what seemed like a whirlwind of a weekend. It all started with a Game Night on Saturday, where we took a trip to the school gym and played some fun big group games. Just before we were about to finish the power went out!! Imagine a room full of 20 kids when suddenly the lights go out! Luckily it came back on before we left, but we had a pretty funny(maybe scary for some) 5-6 minutes in the dark. Then we came back to the church and some of the kids spent the night. Again we had some problems with the power, but it just made it all the more interesting.
The next morning we had a family worship and our new band played a few songs. You can listen by clicking on the link below or in the side panel. I think they've really come a long way, and we're excited to see how things continue.
After worship we hung around and ate lunch and then went bowling with the families from the church (and people who tag along even without their families like me and Madla). All in all, it was an exciting weekend.