We just had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday! Not only did we have 31 guests join us in our feast and thankfulness, but I added a new twist this year and created a theme for the holiday, which played into my love of genealogy and got everyone talking family history!
Now, while Thanksgiving is still 360 days away, I bring you my plan so you can consider it for Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other coming family gathering and holiday! The following is what I handed out to each guest. Everyone had a lot of fun with this, especially finding the pickle!
It’s a Bit of a Bohemian Thanksgiving
It just wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving if Scott the Genealogist didn’t appear and say “Everyone needs a bit of family history to go along with their turkey, MASHED POTATOES, and all their fixin’s.”
So here it is….this year we bring you a Thanksgiving with a theme! We call it “A Bit of Bohemia” and it is here for you to enjoy along with your feast.
First, you might well have noticed there are thirty-two table settings, while we have only 31 guests. You might be thinking; “What gives?” So I will answer. It is an old Bohemian tradition to never set a holiday table with an odd number of places. It’s considered inviting bad karma. But wait there’s more. It is an even older Bohemian tradition that if you are setting a holiday table you must always set an extra place – just in case someone unexpected would come to your door. The extra place is there so they feel welcome to sit and join in the meal. So we have our even number and our extra place set.
Second, are you feeling in a bit of a pickle? It’s not just the maze of tables set up and it’s not surprising either. Welcome Bohemian tradition #2 for today – find the pickle! The history of this tradition revolves around Christmas, however we have employed a little Thanksgiving magic and moved it to this holiday. In Bohemia there is traditionally a pickle ornament hung on the Christmas tree. The first to find the pickle gets an extra gift. So, somewhere in ‘Le Castlette’ is a pickle ornament, which is hanging up. Whoever finds it…gets an extra gift!
Our third tradition is a new one for us, but just as Bohemian. You have undoubtedly noticed our table and bar are stocked with wines of Italy and France. However you will also notice we have one bottle of Korbel champagne as well. You see it was three Korbel brothers, who way back in the 1850s began a small vineyard in the Russian River Valley of California and quite literally turned it into an empire to become, at the time, the wealthiest Bohemian-Americans in the country. They actually bought the land for its trees for their hugely successful cigar box business. If you go to the vineyard today you will see a large, stonework tower on the grounds. You can impress your friends with your knowledge of the fact this tower is a replica of the old prison in Prague in which Frantisek Korbel (the eldest of the brothers) was held until he was ‘smuggled’ out by his grandmother by wearing a traditional Bohemian kroj! So when we toast today there will be an extra touch of Bohemia in our toast as we say Na Zdraví!
Our fourth tradition is an old one going back to the 14th Century. It is beautiful and historic Bohemian Crystal. Still agreed upon as some of the world’s finest glass, we all will be toasting in Bohemian Crystal champagne glasses. The Bohemian Crystal industry began in the mountains of Bohemia deep in the forests as the glassblowers needed vast amounts of fuel for their fires and the woods provided just that! Today most Bohemian Crystal is heated by natural gas, but the creative processes are still done all by hand. Oh and if you get a chance, be sure to check out the blue candy bowl (filled with chocolates no less), which is also Bohemian Crystal and if you are really nice to me I might break even out the Scotch decanter.
Fifth, we bring you the tradition of Božena Němcová (1820? – 1862). While not a name that trips off your tongue or one you necessarily recognize, Ms. Němcová is perhaps the most beloved of all the Bohemian writers and that is saying a lot! We have a book of her nursery rhymes for the younger set (in English) for you to see and I highly recommend her masterpiece written in 1855, “Babička”, translated as “The Grandmother”. As the subtitle states, it is “A Story of Country Life in Bohemia” and is required reading to this day in schools across Czech Republic. If you want, you can borrow my Kindle copy. This book gives a fascinating view of family life and society in old Bohemia. And now once again you can amaze your friends and family by informing them Božena is the only female immortalized in the world’s only Czech Cultural Garden (located in Cleveland).
Sixth, you may recall (since some of you are almost as old as I am) the children’s song ‘The Gingerbread Man’. Here is a reminder from the opening line: “Run, run, run as fast as you can. You’ll never catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Here, though, you are lucky! You don’t have to run after your gingerbread man at all. Even though the gingerbread comes from a recipe that is, get this, 900 years old! Plus he isn’t even a gingerbread man. He is actually a turkey in honor of today, naturally. For centuries Bohemia has been known for the world’s best gingerbread! The gingerbread makers of old held a very special place in society and before you even ask, yes we do have a gingerbread maker in our family tree. It is an ancient Bohemian custom (with its roots in the poverty of the local population) to make and decorate your home with gingerbread ornaments. This ancient recipe gingerbread will not rot, mold, etc. It will last basically forever, but you need to treat it gently and with care. Your bird comes to your from a wonderful Czech-American craftswoman, Anna, in Park River, North Dakota who made each one by hand. So enjoy this small token for your own home as our small way of saying ‘dekuji’ or thank you for being with us this Thanksgiving!
Come back next year when we will usher in our ___??????____ theme for Thanksgiving 2016!
Scott and MK