Friday, October 30, 2009

Všech svatých--All Saints Day

A very lovely, old Czech cemetery by S. Vacik

Hi Everyone,
Welcome to Czech Off the Beaten Path! Today, I'm participating in World Blog Surf Day--an event where expat bloggers come together from around the world. We come together and write on a common theme--the theme for today is "Holidays & Celebrations." All the posts, from the participating bloggers, will be very interesting as we have a very eclectic bunch writing about their favorite holidays in many countries!

Happy 2nd Anniversary CZOBP!

Another important event, today, is the second anniversary of when I began writing this blog! Hard to believe that it's been around that long! Happy birthday Czech Off the Beaten Path!

Photo by edelweiss on Photobucket
Czech Off the Beaten Path is about my life and adventures in the Czech Republic. I'm an expat who has lived here for almost three years. My husband is a Czech--so we have many adventures in our married life with trying to work out the cross-cultural aspects of our personalities and countries. We have learned how to combine most of the "foreign" aspects of our lives. 

Our marriage has become a very nice mix of Czech and American practices--including a blending of holiday celebrations. My favorite holidays are Christmas and Easter. The Czech versions of these holidays are very fun and interesting. I've written a couple of posts about these in past post you can find here

Today, being Halloween, it would seem logical to speak of that. But Czechs do not typically celebrate Halloween--it is mostly celebrated among the American expats who have moved to the Czech Republic. I would rather like to talk about another holiday--Všech svatých, in English "All Saints Day."

Všech svatých

Všech svatých, or All Saints Day, is celebrated around the world in many forms, one of the most notable being the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Each country has their own way of celebrating this holy day, including the Czechs. Their version of All Saints has become very personal for me.

On All Saints Day, my Czech family all gather together to visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried. Each grave is cared for--cleaned and put in order. Then they lay flowers and wreaths on each plot and also light small candles that are left burning on the graves. I was shocked by the lit candles being left like that--the fire hazard was very worrisome. But each grave in the cemetery will have at least one lit candle. 

The effect of the softly flickering candles is beautiful amongst all the flowers and the Fall colors. On one such holiday, my husband and I took the bus back home to Prague in the evening. As we were driving along, we passed many cemeteries that were lit up in the night with hundreds of those small candles. The effect was so beautiful--and a new experience for me--to view a cemetery as a place of beauty. Each cemetery looked as if it was full of fireflies as we passed by.

Candles by S. Vacik

After visiting the cemeteries, my Czech family gathers in a local restaurant--it is a great place, with a small pub, located in a very small village in south western Bohemia. The place is very quaint and small, but has wonderful traditional Czech food at great prices! Our family reserves a room there each year, where we typically have a large meal and spend hours just sitting and talking--over several glasses of beer and wine, of course! There is talk about the loved ones who have passed on, and about family it's nice and pleasant. Všech svatých is also a Catholic celebration--and is specially celebrated in the Catholic churches in the Czech Republic.

Chancel of Starokatolicka Cirkev, Petřín Hill by S. Vacik

Back in the States there are some churches (even Protestant) that celebrate All Saints Day. I came to this tradition later in life, at a United Methodist Church, and loved the idea of celebrating our dearly departed. It's wonderful to remember our loved ones--and to give thanks for having had the blessing of these people to guide us. 

My family back home has not really celebrated All Saints Day, but there is the tradition of taking care for the cemetery plots and leaving flowers, plus speaking about our loved ones and various memories--keeping them alive in our hearts. Americans also have Memorial Day, which really began as a holiday to remember soldiers who died in service to their country, but the holiday later came to include remembering all of our loved ones who have passed on.

Red rose by BabyMj2k5 on Photobucket

I have come to greatly appreciate the Czech way of celebrating All Saints Day--at least the way my Czech family celebrates it. This holiday, in the Czech Republic, is a kind of peaceful, sometimes solemn day. It is a day when we can all gather and share memories and stories about those who have passed on and keep their memory alive in our presence. It is a lovely way to celebrate All Saints Day—one that I have been readily able to adapt into my more American ways of being and doing.

Part of being an expat is learning how to live in and adapt to the new country of residence. This is not an easy process at all. For me, it has helped being married to a Czech—the adapting process begins a little bit faster in some ways. Adventure is also part of the expat life—one that I've been enjoying at this point in my life. My life has become much richer for having married my Czech husband. The tapestry of our lives is being woven together as we learn to live with one another and adapt to the cross-cultural differences we both bring into our relationship. Having new ways to celebrate holidays brings more meaning and depth to such days as All Saints Day, or as we call it here, Všech svatých.

Well, that's all for now! Please visit the next blog, by Sparrow, called The Spotted Sparrow and read about her favorite holiday or celebration! And thanks goes to our Twitter Reporter, Karen, from Empty Nest Expat . She will be busy sending out provocative Tweets on Twitter about each WBSD participating blog! Karen is an American expat writer last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said "her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing—and also anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic."

Thanks so much for coming by! Have a great day and enjoy surfing the world on World Blog Surf Day! Follow that link to find a master link list--if you come across a blog with no post for WBSD, then refer back to the master list to find the next blogger!

God bless,
Sher :0)

Photos of cemetery, candles and church property of S. Vacik. All rights reserved.

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BBE said...

ER! snap but in Flemish. Sorry it was not a deliberate copy cat sort of thing. Nice to know this goes on in the Czech Republic as well.

Happy blogaversary :)


Ivanhoe said...

Hello from Ohio! I would have never guessed that you would pick that holiday. But I love how your Czech family celebrates it. I remember as a child going to the cemetery and cleaning up the headstones, and bringing the flowers as well. We did not do the restaurant part though and that would have been the best celebration of the departed in my opinion.
Have a happy surfing and thank you for organizing this day :o)

Maria said...

Hi Sher, pleased to meet you! I am an expat blogger who has stumbled on your WBSD by total accident! Like you I am an expat woman in an international marriage. I am from Ireland, living in India with my Indian husband. I agree with all the things you said about blending two cultures into one marriage.

Incidentally, in India, All Soul's Day (31st Oct) is the day in India where Christians visit the graves of loved ones and leave lighted lamps or candles and flowers on the graves. I never saw this tradition in Ireland where I come from. We would visit our graves on Sundays, or birth or death anniversaries. We usually give the priest a big list of all our loved ones so he can say Mass for our Dead on that day, and make sure we go to Mass on the day to pray for them also. Wherever you go in the world, people may do things differently, but the emotions are basically the same.

I will be back to you again. Good luck with the WBSD event.

Sher said...

It's OK if we choose the same or similar topics! Halloween and All Saints are naturals for bloggers to choose--today being Halloween! So, no problem at all. Each blogger has a slightly different perspective even when writing about the same topic. That's what makes WBSD so much fun!

And thank you! So hard to believe this blog has been "alive" for two years already!

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Ivanhoe,
This choice of holiday surprised me, too! I was concerned about using Vsech Svatych-afraid it might be too ghoulish. But it really fits the timing of our WBSD--and I do love the way our family celebrates it. Very similar to Memorial Day back home!

It has been so much fun working on WBSD--and getting to work with you and the other bloggers has been fun, too!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Gaelikka,
How did you stumble across WBSD? Just curious and am so happy you did! And it's always great to meet another expat!

Yes, I agree--this tradition takes place in so many parts of the world...and the ways and means of doing are different, but the feeling and reasons are the same. You told about your family's traditions in Ireland--this is also what my family in the US does, along with Memorial Day.

Thanks and have a great day!
Sher :0)

Karen said...

Sher, I love that image of seeing those flickering candles across the every cemetery - a beautiful and peaceful image. Thanks for a great post on a Czech holiday I didn't even know about (which makes sense since I arrived in November). I can't wait to read everyone else's posts!

Sezin said...

Great minds think alike! Nice post, Sher! :-)

Anonymous said...

I used to live in New Orleans and first heard about All Saints Day there. It's lovely reading about how it's practiced in the Czech Republic.

I've enjoyed being a part of WBSD this year and I'm really enjoying reading all of the posts so far.

Roz said...

Hi Sher

Thanks for a very interesting and moving post. I had heard of All Saints' Day but had no idea of how it was celebrated. It is a lovely idea to have one day a year dedicated to remembering loved ones who have died.

By the way, happy second blog birthday and many, many happy returns!!

Best wishes,


Fatbrideslim said...

I don't think it's ghoulish at all. I really liked your post. I like the idea that it brings the rest of the family together :) We don't do anything to mark the passing of those who have left us. At least in our family, they aren't spoken of so often.

Thanks for arranging WBSD for us expats.

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks! That's an image I will never forget. As we drove back to Prague, near every small village, you could see these small swarms of lights. They were scattered all along our way back home to the city--even tucked away in some of the woods and valleys. So beautiful!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Sezin,
Yes...funny...and BBE also wrote about All Saints Day! But it's perfect timing...and as you say...great minds think alike! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Oranjeflamingo,
It's great to hear that you're enjoying WBSD! This is the third time, now, and it just seems to get more fun each time!

Yes, I've heard about that in New Orleans, but have never been there. It must be beautiful there, too!

I'm just starting to go through the posts...looking forward to yours and everyone's!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Roz,
I'd heard of it, but had never really paid that much attention to it until I was in my 30's. Our church would celebrate it each year during a special service.

And thank you! So hard to believe it's been around 2 years already! That's no claim to fame, but a nice feeling :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Fatbrideslim,
Thanks...I was a bit concerned about that...but I guess it's not as ghoulish as some aspects of Halloween can be!

It's been great fun working on WBSD--and fun meeting all of you and/or working with you again!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Lilian Moreira said...

Hi from New York! Congratulations on your blog anniversary... and thanks for suck a great post about All Saints Day. In Brazil this day is a big deal as well! Take care!

Beka Fisher said...

Hi Awa! Please check your email? Tati emailed you. :) Love, Beka

PS: Awesome post!

Unknown said...

All Saints Day is probably the only day I never celebrated in CR.))
But I love Christmas (not the fish blood bath.)!
Well done Sher weith WBD!

Emmanuelle Archer said...

Hi Sher! Many thanks for organising WBSD, and thank you for this lovely post.

The French celebrate All Saints' Day too (over there it's called la Toussaint), and you did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the holiday - peaceful and solemn.
That's exactly how I remember it.

Take care, and happy WBSD!

Anonymous said...

The candles look so beautiful!

Thank you so much for organizing this World Blog Surf Day. I'm having so much fun reading everyone's posts. :)

*lynne* said...

Hi Sher,
This is a great peek into something I've only heard of in the most vague of references, thanks!

in Malaysia, I don't know about the Indians, but the Chinese have an equivalent day of the dead (forgot what it's called; it's not today tho), while for Malays/Muslims in Malaysia, visits to the graves are usually done on the first day of the month of Shawal (the first day of the month after the fasting month of Ramadan).

My entry is a little weak this time around, I'm suffering through a bad cold :(

The Kano said...

Enjoyed your post, I'm an American expat living on the edge of a jungle in the Philippines, and being a mostly Catholic nation, All Saints Day is a major event here,too. Yes, I try as you do to respect the local traditions here, and though living in a foreign country is so different from the United States I know it will just take time to adjust. But I'm enjoying it.

Sher said...

Hi Lilian,
It is really interesting how this holiday is so very popular, in some form, in most cultures! Each is very similar, but also very different.

It's been so much fun to meet you and the other bloggers...and to work with those who are "old-timers" (since our first WBSD back in March)! It's also been fun organzing WBSD again!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Bek,
I did check my email...sorry for not responding sooner! Tati now has phone credit once again! The problem is now solved...but what a funny way to get it done! Only made possible by the Internet! It was very much a round-robin here on the Internet! :0)

Thank you for reading my post, too...and glad you enjoyed it!

Love you!
Awa/Mom :0) :0*

Sher said...

Hi Hans,
I probably wouldn't have celebrated this holiday, either, except for my Czech family :0)

Christmas here is also very pretty and fun! It's really my favorite time of the year--all the decorations, the lights, and music...the markets and food...everything is great at Christmas! :0)

Thanks--it's been so much fun working with you all...and seeing WBSD come alive in your posts!! You all did a great job! :0)

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Emmanuelle,
It sounds like the French and Czechs have this in common!

We were in Paris in the early part of the summer. That's a beautiful city. While we were there, we visited one famous old cemetery (I can't remember the name, but there is a very busy bridge that goes over part of the cemetery--and a few of the graves). That place was one of the most peaceful places...right in the middle of a very busy part of the couldn't even hear the traffic! And I was shocked when I saw people go there and sit on the benches and eat their lunches! Nothing like this is done in the US--it was something a bit shocking! But when you stop to think about it--what more peaceful or beautiful place could you find to eat your lunch?

It's been a pleasure to work with you all to get this WBSD up and live! You've all done a great job...and I've had so much fun visiting all of the blogs and reading! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Expatlife,
Thanks! Those particular candles were from a church in Tours, France...but I thought it would fit in this post :0) I wish I had a picture of the cemeteries lit up as we saw them on the bus ride home that time. Just gorgeous!

It's been fun working on WBSD with you and the other bloggers...I've had a great time, too!!!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi *lynne*,
It's really interesting to see how the different cultures honor their dearly departed. As someone else said, some of the customs are similar, but there are many differences, too.

I sure hope you get to feeling better!! I enjoyed your was interesting and insightful...what more could you ask for?

Take it easy...and get to feeling better soon!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Dave, in the Philippines, near the jungle...that certainly sounds like a high adventure! It does take time to adjust...but that's OK...we can enjoy the journey along the way! :0)

All Saints is a beautiful they leave candles on the graves there, too?

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

hospitalera- guestblogging at Working Nomad said...

Great work in organizing this WBSD also, it was great fun to meet up with you yesterday and browse around all this awesome (to use one of Karen's favorite expressions) contributions. All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day are celebrated in a very similar manner also in Germany! I remember the fields of candles you described from my childhood ;-) SY

Anonymous said...

Nice post:) Dusicky (The day of the souls) how we czechs call it is celebrated today - nice timing:)

I found a nice photo capturing some of the athmospehre

TBM said...

What a lovely way to celebrate All Saints Day, Sher! And thank you so much for hosting this WBSD. Groetjes from Holland ;-)

Sher said...

Hi Hospitalera,
Thank you! It was great getting together and reading through all the "awesome" blogs! There's just a thrill to watch it all go live and then read through much fun!

I hope those were pleasant memories from your childhood!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thank you! Yes, I've heard it called by that name, too! Really a beautiful holiday!

Thanks for the link, too!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Just a Plane Ride Away,
Thank you! I had fun getting WBSD together and working with all of you!!

I love this "new" holiday...not creepy or ghoulish at all...and definitely peaceful and beautiful.

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

hospitalera said...

Hi Sher, my own blog post for WBSD suffered an emergency url change (don't get me started on the 'why?') please and can now be found at Can you please change it on the master list? Thanks a bunch, unfortunately I have lost also all comments I had *sniff-sniff*, SY

Sher said...

Hi Hospitalera,
I found your message and have updated the link list with the url change you mentioned!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Chaplain said...

Hi Sher - Several days late, I'm doing my round robin visit to all the WBSD posts, especially those like you, who have visited & commented on my post.

I think its great that BBE, Sezin & yourself all chose to blog about celebrating All Saints Day, each from a different perspective. In my opinion, visiting the graves of loved ones, remembering them & giving thanks for their lives has much to be commended over against some of the stupidity that goes on under the guise of celebrating Halloween.

Congratulations once again on your brilliant work organising WBSD.

Sher said...

Hi Chaplain,
That's one of the nice things about WBSD--it takes place on a certain date, but it's possible to take the trip any time (as long as posts remain on the participating blogs)! So, no problem that you did your trip late--that's OK!

It was interesting that BBE, Sezin and I chose the same topic--but it was fun to read their blogs and see their perspectives/photos! I've never really been a fan of Halloween, either!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)