This is the first time I've spent Christmas away from my family. And it's strange.
Not a bad strange, or a good strange...I've experienced some good things this Christmas weekend, that's for sure. The thing is, my entire family goes through a very staged, elaborate ritual, which lasts for days. The strange feeling I'm getting is from not being a part of that. This year, instead of celebrating Christmas as the climax of this family ritual that is not always set in stone but ultimately culminates in the same results, Christmas is...mostly...just another day. Which makes me muse on a thought I had as a teenager: people are pretty much celebrating Christmas or getting into the Christmas mood throughout the entirety of December.
And I've been getting the same 'Christmas is but another day vibe' from everywhere. When it's the final week before Christmas, Christmas is the topic that dominates. Everyone talks about their plans, favourite Christmas moments, memories, rituals they love/hate etc. But something was different this year. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Christmas Day conveniently falls on a Sunday this year? When I listened to this week's Podcast Beyond, Christmas barely came up and all they talked about was the Playstation Vita. (And abortions - inside joke.) Yesterday, and on Christmas Eve no less, I watched yet another part of Dena's Let's Play Silent Hill 2.
There's also the fact that the Czech Republic doesn't regard Christmas Day as being that sacred. I'm in Prague right now, and this is one of those perfect cities to be a Christmas tourist in. When I first booked train tickets to Prague, I was surprised at the variety of trains I could pick. I mean, the 24th is more important here, so logically everything should be shut down on the 24th, right? Well, while most of Ostrava was relaxing on Christmas Eve morning, trains were definitely running, ticket counters were being manned, all public transport was running on a Sunday timetable (which is actually pretty frequent) and most shops were open until 12pm or thereabouts. In Prague, closing time was 14:00.
And in Prague, bars and clubs were open last night. Partly to cater for the tons of tourists, I know, but still. And today being Christmas Day (traditionally the day to nurse the hangover and have a lie-in for Czechs) I was not only baffled by all the food stands being on full operation, but the Christmas Market is still in full swing and some old-style medieval bands were performing on stage and the tour guide showed up to provide the scheduled daily free tour. And he was very happy to do it too! Have a Brit in the same position and he would not be happy.
Ah well, different culture, different customs. And, shamefully, I'm glad it's this way here.