Friday, October 30, 2009

A Carefree New Year's Eve

Welcome to World Blog Surf Day, a third carnival of shared expat experiences from around the world. When expat blog participants decided that our theme this time would be our favorite holiday or celebration traditions in our new culture, I had a seriously hard time deciding which traditions I wanted to share. Easter traditions in the Czech Republic are so foreign to American ways they will drop your mouth to the floor; Christmas is wonderfully the same and yet different than at home, but in the end, I chose New Year's Eve cause it felt like a coming out party for me as an empty nester.

Me, Naan, and Gulnara

For the first time in 20 years, I did not have the responsibility for anyone's safety on New Year's Eve other than my own. I could experience it with a light and carefree heart. If I wandered too close to fireworks, it wasn't my children's eyes, ears, and limbs at risk. If I saw people drinking too much alcohol, I didn't worry about who's eyes I was exposing to that. I was not responsible for the experience of others.

Our Czech Champagne
for the evening

was Bohemia Sect

My dear friends Gulnara and Nhan joined me at my place for the start of the evening. Gulnara, is originally from Russia and a fellow English teacher. Nhan, a mechanical engineer, is Vietnamese - American and hails from Orlando, Florida. Nhan's medical studies at Charles University had brought them to Prague and we have great fun together every time we got together.

Nhan and Gulnara
in Old Town

My Prague apartment is only 10 blocks from Old Town and about the same from Wenceslas Square. It was the perfect staging spot for a night of revelry. We headed first to Old Town Square which was packed with partygoers and music stages. Nice but too tame.

I had always heard that the fireworks on Wenceslas Square were awesome on New Year's Eve. We left Old Town Square and went over there. The energy and exuberance were fantastic. It was such a different setup than an American celebration, where "the authorities" would be in charge of the fireworks, the music, the entertainment, and the people's role would be to consume it. Here, "the people" set off the fireworks and made the fun. I was fascinated by it. You can just tell the product liability lawyers and lawsuit-happy folks have not yet arrived in the Czech Republic.

Amidst the most gloriously beautiful and expensively-located real estate, anyone who wanted to was setting off professional-quality, firework-show fireworks. Couldn't a spark land somewhere it shouldn't and start all the buildings on fire? Didn't anyone worry about harming everyone else standing around? They most assuredly did not.

It was so much fun, so loud, so exuberant, so absolutely fantastic I watched to see if Prague had made it in the worldwide coverage of great New Year's Parties around the globe. It must! Such was the shared joy of everyone there. One of the things I saw in Wenceslas Square there that night that I had never seen anywhere else, was young Asian men in the twenties, so happy and excited, they were literally skipping down the street arm in arm with each other.

With nary a product liability lawyer
in sight, a bunch of young people
joyfully light them up

Safety? We don't need no stinkin' safety.
This is w-a-y t-o-o much fun.

This will bring out the 12-year-old boy's
wonderment and joy in explosives in anyone.

(Except you, daughters #1 and #2 -
don't try this at home in America)

Wenceslas Square would often look like a
war zone as people scattered
to let the smoke clear

Sadaam sashays
down Wenceslas Square

Do the Czechs know
about Dr. Seuss's

Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Align CenterPartiers came from as far
away as the Ural Mountains

A couple of
wild and crazy guys
The end of a beautiful evening
with no worries about drunk drivers
on the way home

To enjoy another celebration in the Czech Republic, visit the next expat involved in World Blog Surf Day. Sher, the organizer of our blog carnival, describes her favorite new holiday at her blog Czech Off The Beaten Path. If you would like to see who else is involved in WBSD, and where they all hail from, here is the link list.

Let's fade out here with imagined Lionel Ritchie music....."Celebrate! Good Times, Come On!"


gaelikaa said...

Lovely post, I enjoyed it. I'm an expat too and I've just stumbled on WBSD. I guess I was having one of my own before I came upon this. When you come as I do from a country where the law of the land is obeyed, and you see things happening which would not be allowed, it's quite an eye opener, isn't it? I would like to visit your blog again and I will.

hospitalera said...

So true, overly zealous health and safety regulations haven't arrived here in the Czech Republic, the people here simply use --- Common Sense! SY

Sezin said...

This is exactly the reason why I do not leave our house on New Year's Eve!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! The Dutch celebrate New Year in much the same way -- massive free for all with the fireworks! I was thrilled with it all and couldn't help comparing it to the sanitized US version. Worlds apart!

Roz said...

Wow! What a wonderful way to celebrate New Year in such a beautiful place! No wonder you had such a great time!!

Lilian Moreira εϊз said...

This is such a great post, and way too much fun!! :) Prague should be beautiful, one day I will check it out. :)

Anonymous said...

What a fun post - and such great pictures to go with it. I love Thing 1 and Thing 2!

BBE said...

It all looks like good fun, a bit dangerous but fun anyway.


*lynne* said...

Heehe I loved your commentary on the role of Americans to just consume what is offered by local authorities: in Malaysia it's the same, there are three officially-sanctioned fireworks locations for New Year's Eve... fireworks are banned otherwise, but that's because every year there will always be fireworks-related injuries/deaths of kids in the boonies playing with homemade devices. Thing is, there still are such accidents even with the ban - where there's a will, eh? :p

Glad you finally had the opportunity to ~enjoy~ a night out! Thanks for sharing the experience :)

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
Great post! I really enjoyed it...also being a survivor of New Year's Eve in Wenceslas Square! My first New Year's here I felt like we were in a battle zone! Major, professional fireworks going off just over the most amazing old buildings...and worried about fires...also walking down the square amidst all the private fireworks going on...bottle rockets wizzing past everywhere!!! But , we have lived to tell the wondrous tale! Never would this happen in the US!!! But that's OK...this is the "wild" East (well, Central EU, anyway), and it's great!

Thanks for all your hard work did a wonderful job tweeting all about our blogs! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

mub said...

I have to laugh because I chose the same subject for my WBSD post *L* It sounds like New Years is really similar to how it's celebrated in The Netherlands. I could tell I lived in a really WET place because if you tried to light all those fireworks in Utah you'd have half the state burned down my 12:02!

Leigh said...

Yep! Fireworks, liability and all make for quite a way to ring in the New Year. They did this on my street in Brooklyn too, along with burning the Christmas tree.

And thank you so much for helping put together this wonderful WBSD event. You've helped us all develop another community for ourselves, even though we live far apart.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh, what fun! I imagine Prague is a wonderful place to ring in the new year.

And I think I need that orange wig for Queens Day in the Netherlands ;-)

Emmanuelle Archer said...

Very good point about the almost sanitized character of North American public celebrations, compared to less regulated events in other countries.

Sometimes when I read in the newspapers that the Vancouver Police Department is cancelling or downsizing an event because they're worried about unruly crowds, I have to roll my eyes... Canadians really do not strike me as undisciplined hooligans, far from it, so I always wonder what they're so concerned about!

I hope you'll have another great New Year's Eve this year - have a wonderful time!


hospitalera said...

Just a quick update, my own WBSD post, the one that links to this one, had an emergency change of url. It can now be found on: Unfortunately I lost also all the comments I had on it as the blog owner of the blog from where I was guest blogging changed his mind. Sorry about the confusion, SY

Chaplain said...

Hi Karen - Sorry for taking so long to comment on your WBSD post when you visit & comment on my blog so regularly.

"You can just tell the product liability lawyers and lawsuit-happy folks have not yet arrived in the Czech Republic" is a wonderful quote and a very true observation. Long may it be so! Unfortunately, the 'blame someone and sue them' culture has become firmly established in the UK in recent years resulting in celebrations such as New Year becoming highly sanitised.

MiGrant said...

Heh, last time I was there on NYE (must have been '96 I guess — wow, time flies!), people were shooting fireworks at each other.... Not sure I miss that.

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