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Christmas in Czech

Getting to spend the holidays in Europe? Isn’t that the American dream? Well, for a missionary family that has lived in the Czech Republic for the last 12 years, it’s not that simple.

I remember trying to tell myself that it was no big deal when we moved to Czech in March of 2011, and we were missing Easter with my family for the first time. The tears flowed freely, and there was nothing that I could do about it. When we chose to leave for the mission field, we knew there would be intense times of longing for our family and familiar experiences, but I was not prepared for what that reality would actually feel like.

Later, I remembered some encouraging words that Dave and Connie Patty (Josiah Venture’s president and his wife) told us: “You must choose to make the holidays memorable when you cannot go back to the States and be with family.” They told us of a time when they were unsure how to make their Christmas special for their family, so they took their three school-aged kids to a large Western European city to spend Christmas. This helped me to realize that we can choose to be joyful, or we can choose to just focus on the absence of loved ones. With a renewed desire to choose a joyful holiday time, I started to see the wonderland that God brought us to.

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Here are some reasons that we love spending Christmas in Czech:

First of all, I am from California. We have two seasons: hot and sweatshirt weather. Czech has all four seasons. All four of them are wonderful in their own way. And winter is just so magical.

Here, you can get a ride up to the top of a mountain on ski lifts and hike down or take the lift up and down. Not only that, most mountains have steaming hot beverages for sale on top. It’s the best! I remember taking a ski lift down a mountain when our boys were probably four and six. The snow softly fell all over us as we rode down. It was absolutely silent and almost completely dark. I will never forget that night. I really felt the Father’s kindness and love as I saw what he had prepared for us.

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We live in a border town, so we get the best of Czech and Polish culture. Their main Christmas celebration is the 24th on both sides of the border, and we have had the pleasure of spending Christmas Eve with both Czech and Polish families throughout the 12 years we have lived here. We have also learned to enjoy quiet Christmas Eves at home when it is just us.

Some of our friends and local missionaries who live near us throw a Christmas Day party for all of us Josiah Venture missionaries in the area who do not have extended family close by. Every family brings sides and desserts. If you like family gatherings with good food, try a gathering with the best from multiple families. And the homemade-only gift exchange is super fun. It is always a great time and for sure is a joy-filled experience.

It has always been much harder for us to do holiday shopping in Europe with much fewer sales, Amazon being a newer thing, and complications with customs for incoming gifts, so our boys have had way less gifts from family than they would be used to had we lived in the States. This sounds unfortunate, but I am so thankful that my kids have learned contentment with less.

We live within four hours of some of the most famous Christmas markets in the world (Vienna, Krakow, Prague, Bratislava, Wroclaw, etc.). I mean, need I say more?

People here are not afraid of Advent or Jesus. We live in a predominantly Atheistic culture, but people are not offended that you speak about Jesus at Christmastime. They sell Advent wreaths in the local grocery stores, and most Christmas markets include the full Advent scene (sometimes real animals are involved).

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The main Christmas play that our eldest son was involved with in his public preschool was the birth of Jesus, and they made Christian-themed decorations all Christmas season. I was so surprised when I walked into our son’s classroom and saw them preparing for the play. I thought that I had walked into a dream of some kind.

I have so many more stories I could tell about how the Lord has provided for our family and given us great joy during the holiday season. The main point is we can choose to see the blessings that the Lord has given us or not, and we have chosen to see them and enjoy all that he has provided. Do I still miss my family? Heck yes! Am I still thankful to be here? Heck yes!  

And what about you? How will you choose to make your holidays memorable this year? How will you make space in your days for the Lord to bless you in ways you did not expect?



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