Fishy Times; Prologue
by Rob Marshall, native New Yorker and Czech resident for twenty years
Fishy: A carp’s thoughts on the Czech Christmas tradition
Most of my lovers don’t know why they consume me so lustily every year at Christmas. It’s as if I were the only scavenger in the pond, in a country overflowing with manmade reservoirs. They’ve been loving me (“lov” translates to “hunt” in Czech, so I will refer to my Czech friends as lovers for the rest of the story), and farming me since back in the 17th century.
My origins in this part of the world undoubtedly coincided with the introduction of Christianity; you can still see a few devout believers driving cars here with fish decals stuck to their bumpers. While my love story with mankind in general spans almost eight millennia, going back long before the birth of supernatural deities, we have often been adopted as a significant symbol by various religions. The first was Buddhism; in Ancient India, we symbolized happiness and remained sacred on account of our beauty, size and life-span. In the more recent creeds of Islam and Christianity we remain a sign of eternal life and salvation, respectively. Notably, less than 30% of my Czech lovers currently classify themselves as believers and our relationship has transcended to something beyond the scope of religion. I wouldn’t change a thing about my lovers as I am convinced they are innately spiritual people and I am proud to represent their tradition.
Personally, I strive to avoid matters of personal choice and, as a rule, try not to overly trouble myself with debates over higher powers. Moreover, I understand my position in the food chain and embrace it with true, aquatic dignity. We all must die sometime and I find solace in the fact that my ends always coincide with the most celebrated feast of the year, even if I am the main course. They save us from the bitter cold selling tanks, take us home, give us a nice, long, fresh bath and end our journey with one swift, merciful blow to the head that no one could ever confuse with any form of torture. Our final resting place is a large, decorative dish where we are marinated in milk or garlic (mmmm, I love garlic) and where we wait to be breaded, and finally fried. I, for one, can think of a thousand worse ways to die. Have you ever seen what they do to some of those farm animals? Chickens getting chased around their pen in a stressful struggle only to get their necks snapped? Turkeys getting a sack over their heads executioner
No, it’s not the killing or even what anybody chooses to believe in that I worry about. It’s those damned cookies. They try to steal the show every year. Sure, they have their own tradition and place in the lore of Czech Christmas, but how can these inanimate objects even remotely compare with the sacrifice we living creatures have been making since the beginning of time? And have you ever seen a three-year-old child gaze at a pile of lifeless cookies with the same wonder as they do at the temporary visitor in the bathtub? No. You haven’t. In fact, I’ve known of children who have demanded to be allowed to sleep in the bathroom with their new, mouth-gaping, finned friends from the moment they were brought in from the cold and emptied into the tub. I doubt any cookie can say that! Still, those glorified biscuits just won’t vanish.
This book is about a guy named Adam who happens to be a cookie maniac. Granted, he is a foreigner and still learning about local history, however, he has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the Cukrovi with all of his amateurish enactments of the traditions and his lack of appreciation for the sacrifice we carp make every year. Poor Jakub Krčín, prolific designer and founder of Czech fish
Although tolerance is a key moral to this story and one I will preach in upcoming chapters, Adam’s carelessness and bid to undermine my place in the annals of Christmas legend here in the Czech Republic, and abroad, is a matter that must be addressed. This book is also a useful tutorial with historical facts that prove all of my points and provide you non-lovers with a guide to how things should be done when it comes to planning a proper Czech Christmas. If we wish to ensure the future of our traditions, we must educate all foreigners, non-lovers and, yes, even some of my would-be lovers (you know who you are) who, like Adam, are jeopardizing that future with their carp negligence and cookie-eating madness. Please take heed of my warnings and do not underestimate the magnitude of the tale I intend to share with you about the most important part of the Czech Christmas tradition – me, Lǐyú the Carp, a.k.a. Cyprinus carpio, a.k.a. Fishy, the spirit of all carp, and omnipresent presider over Czech Christmas tradition.
Author: Rob Marshall, native New Yorker and Czech resident for twenty years, has written Fishy Times; a story about some things that really happened here in Ostrava. Since one of the main themes of the book is how to celebrate a true Czech Christmas, the writer wishes to share this gift with his fellow ex-pats through the holiday season. We will be publishing excerpts from the story regularly over the coming weeks and, for those interested in reading the book in its entirety, it will be available on Amazon Kindle this Christmas.