Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 5: 12 Days of "Christmas Around the World"

I've been blessed to have traveled extensively throughout Europe while stationed as a missionary in Eastern Europe. To share a bit of that past, I bring to you The 12 Days of "Christmas Around the World." Each day I will chose a country I visited, tell a personal story, and share a Christmas tradition from that country. Please add your own family traditions in the comments section of these posts, or share your own international experiences if you've been blessed enough to travel.

Happy Holidays from Ms. Q!

Day 5: Stary Smokovec Gets in Your Eyes

Okay, so that was a poor excuse for a reference to The Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Deal with it.

What does get in your eyes, however, when you're in Stary Smokovec, Slovakia, is this magical view every morning you wake up and look out your hotel room window.

FACT: In 2004, the Tatras Mountains (where Stary Smokovec is located) experienced a devastating windstorm that decimated the landscape and hardwood forests.

Evidence of the storm could still be seen when I visited in 2006, because, quite simply, the Slovaks couldn't clean up and process the lumber from the fallen trees fast enough.

The local ecology is still recovering.

But enough of this downer. Let's move on to one of my favorite Christmas traditions...Slovak Style.

Booze: A Slovak Tradition
Hriatuo is a hot brandy drink devised from honey, butter, and slivovice. A curiously strong spin on a hot-buttered rum.

Hriatuo is drunk at weddings, christenings, and on Christmas Eve. It's also considered good medicine for your common cold or cough. Y'right...

I like this particular boozy tradition because it reminds me of my own family gatherings of Christmas Eve's past.

Every year my mom's side of the family gathers at my aunt and uncle's house (a picturesque log cabin) located near the family homestead.

My aunt bakes cookies, my uncle makes meatballs, and we all descend on Christmas Eve to drink hot-buttered rums, Tom & Jerry's, mulled wine, and any other wonderfully seasonal, hot, boozy beverage.

Predictably we all get kind of sloshed.

Another of my aunts plays the piano, two of my cousins play their flutes, and we all join in singing ridiculously bad versions of Christmas carols.

I refuse to bring my violin for fear of drunken injury.

The best part is when yet another aunt (yes, I have several) takes to eating all of the raisins off the gingerbread men and women the aforementioned hostess spent hours baking.

She leaves the cookies intact, but for the little raisin eyes, you see.

Poor, blind, gingerbread folk left to fend for themselves...

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