Březina heads home to Brno for the holidaysSkater to first go to Czech championships, then spend time with family
European bronze medalist Michal Březina of the Czech Republic is looking forward to family time after his country's national championships.
"Usually every year we have nationals right before Christmas, so I go home for nationals and then I stay home until the 26th," he said.
Březina's early recollections of Christmas at home in Brno involve an element of wonder. When he was a child, in the days leading up to Christmas, his family would go out in the city and go skating and engage in other holiday activities.
"In the morning we would go into the city because there was a Christmas market with a huge skating rink," Březina, 23, said. "It would bring the Christmas atmosphere even more."
As is traditional in Europe, the big celebration is on Christmas Eve. Březina remembers his mother always running around seeing to final preparations before relatives came for dinner. His sister, fellow skater Eliška Brezinová, is six years younger. Shortly after her birth, the family moved from an apartment to a two-family house, with his father's parents living in the second house.
"Then it was even nicer. We were closer on Christmas," he said. "We went from our house to their house because my grandmother would usually cook, and she'd help my mom prepare."
The family has a Christmas tree every year, which Březina admitted is an artificial tree they reuse. The decorations are put up on the day before the holiday.
"I know in U.S., people put it up earlier, but most of the people in Czech put up the Christmas tree on the morning of the 24th," Březina said.
The dinner is a lot of food, usually quite heavy. Among the traditional fare is a particularly boney fish that Březina said isn't his favorite.
"It takes a lot of work to eat this," he said with a laugh. "We have a potato salad with the fish. There are some vegetables. With dinner, we usually have wine.
"When I was small, my mother would make egg nog in the morning. She doesn't do that anymore. I don't know why because when I was smaller, I loved it."
It's a national holiday on the 25th and 26th, and Březina said that's when they visit relatives who couldn't make it for dinner on the 24th. Family time is especially important, as Březina left home to train in Germany at 16 and moved to the U.S. to train in New Jersey with Viktor Petrenko in 2012.
Growing up, Březina gained some (slightly misguided) insight into U.S. holiday traditions by watching American movies.
"I watched Home Alone and all those movies -- they all run on the TV in Czech -- so I kind of got the picture," he said. "I loved that movie. That's the way I imagined the American way of Christmas looked."
Gifts are typically exchanged in his house. He tries to collect presents throughout the year as he travels to different places for competitions, but this year he hasn't gathered many gifts, so Březina will hit some New Jersey malls before heading to Czech Republic.
"If I see something really nice somewhere, I try to get it because it's always nice to bring something you can't get at home," he said. "When I go somewhere, I try and find things that I think my parents or my sister or grandparents would like, and I bring them. If I don't find anything, then I look here. If I don't find anything I like here, I have the last chance after nationals."
He'll be back in the U.S. on Dec. 27 and has shows in Connecticut on the 31st and 1st.
Looking toward 2014, Březina is excited about competing in Sochi.
"When I was home after Paris (Trophée Eric Bompard), I went to the revealing of the Olympic gear for the Czech team," he said. "It's Czech made, very cool. The design is made from the first-ever Czech postage stamp."