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Czech-ing Out the Prague Christmas Markets

Sam Stryker | Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic—There are many things Notre Dame students studying abroad miss during their time outside the U.S., but the holidays are the absence that might hit closest to the heart. Halloween, Thanksgiving and the time before Christmas (though not the actual day itself) are all spent in a foreign country, with different customs and traditions of celebrating.

For students, this can sometimes be disappointing. While we heard of our friends in the States leaving campus and heading home for Thanksgiving, and our families celebrating without us, it was hard to not feel a pang of isolation. This was exacerbated by the fact there really is no such thing as Thanksgiving in Italy. Life in Rome went on as we longed for turkey, stuffing and pie.

At other times, experiencing holidays abroad can be a magical experience. Over a weekend trip to Prague, 10 Notre Dame students from the Rome program and myself were able to wander the streets and squares of the Czech city during a very special occasion: the opening of the annual Christmas markets.

Lights were lit, choirs were singing, trees were decked and stalls in market squares sold sweets, snacks and holiday trinkets. It was unlike anything we have experienced in America, a truly “old-world” holiday experience. Christmas markets are not unique to Prague, and many other Notre Dame students studying in Europe have been able to experience the holiday spirit across the continent.

Just when you start yearning for an ugly Christmas sweater party or to decorate a gingerbread house, Europe throws a new holiday experience at you — and you fall right back in love with the charm of it all. Apparently, the Christmas spirit is never lost in translation.