The Season of the Turkey Carp

Winter market in PragueWe are in one of Prague’s many Christmas markets and it’s something like a European Norman Rockwell painting. The markets are made up of several wooden huts offering various manufactured items, handmade wares and homemade food and drinks. In one place you can buy a bong, a homemade candle, a roasted pork knee and top it off with a svařak (hot spiced wine).

After stuffing our faces with hot wine and hotdogs, we step over to the entertainment center. This center consists of a kiddy swimming pool filled with carp and the entertainment consists of a large man lifting a carp from the pool, gingerly laying it on a table and beating it to death before filleting it.

I’m guessing that Norman Rockwell would have left out all the bludgeoning, decapitating and eviscerating.

In any case, Veselé Vánoce and Merry Christmas!

The carp is to a Czech Christmas as the turkey is to an American Thanksgiving. That is, for a short while every year this animal is delicious Public Enemy Number One. Just like the Thanksgiving turkey, the carp is the center of the entire Czech Christmas meal. They are baked or fried into schnitzels and soup is made out of the head and innards.

So, in December people surround the pools, choose the carp of their Christmas dreams and then sentence them to death. Some pay for them to be filleted on the spot. Others, who want a short-term Koi pond in their house, buy the carp live and put it in their bathtubs until December 24th. You can easily spot these people on the street, since they are carrying huge carp in plastic bags filled with water, as though they are bringing a goldfish to Gulliver.

Some of those who don’t eat carp will buy one and release it into the Vltava River. However, this act has been has been condemned by Czech veterinarians, since the carp’s incarceration will cause an overwhelming confusion, rendering them unable to deal with river life.

How someone would know that a fish is confused is beyond me.

Furthering the bond, the carp and turkey are both central to luck traditions. While Americans pull the turkey’s wishbone to see whose wish will be granted, the Czechs put a carp’s scale in their wallet for good financial luck.

Admittedly, I scoff at these traditions. I won many wishbone tugs as a kid, but the Swedish bikini team never bathed me, my sister never turned into a frog and a band of roving ninjas never took me on as an apprentice. I have fared no better under the Czech tradition as I have had two carp scales in my wallet and my financial luck could best be summed up in my monthly screaming ode entitled “They Call This a F***king Paycheck!?”

One legend has it that the carp is eaten at Christmas because when baby Jesus was born all the animals rejoiced, except the carp, who was silent. Apparently, the carp didn’t get the invite and relaxed at home on December 25th, 0, and has been eaten as punishment ever since.

I wonder if the  turkey is guilty of a similar historical infraction.

But what?

  1. #1 by Pavel "Scuba Man" Mlejnek on December 17, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    I have more than six carp scales in my wallet all the time and I had to find second job few weeks ago because of this “financial luck”. It proves that “carp scale theory” doesn’t work! Maybe I’ll try to put whole fish into my wallet next time! Veselé Vánoce :)!

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