Earlier this month, in what many are calling a bold move, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib signed the Prague-Taipei partnership agreement on economic, trade, and cultural cooperation between the Czech and Taiwanese capitals.
Among those in favor of the partnership is Mia Litvin, a Taipei native living in Prague since 2011. Litvin, who calls the mayor’s actions brave, says: “We are a democratic society, there is no reason why the two cities cannot cooperate.”
On January 25, Litvin, the founder of the Czech-Taiwanese Association, along with members of Prague’s Taiwanese community, will celebrate that cross-cultural connection by hosting a Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration at Hoja Pot, the Czech capital’s only authentic Taiwanese restaurant.
Taiwan has a unique cultural identity, explains Litvin.
“We preserve the traditional Chinese culture,” she says. “We’ve been taught Confucius all of our lives. We really live in a traditional way, we write in traditional Chinese and do all the festivals, and we have a very family-oriented way of life.”
She adds that while the Chinese New Year and the Lunar New Year are the same holidays, the days differ according to the Lunar Calendar. The Lunar New Year, the year of the rat, falls on January 25, 2020, this year; Lunar New Year is also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, the immigrant communities of the US, and other parts of the world.
Naming aside, the purpose of the “reunion dinner” is to bring families together.
“It’s like Christmas in the west,” she says. “Families get together. We eat. There are ten dishes including a fish that is symbolically left unfinished and many kinds of dumplings. We put a coin inside the dumplings and the lucky one who bites into the coin will be prosperous.”
She adds that traditional Taiwanese cuisine is comprised of “a lot of street-food snacks, a rich choice of breakfast, delicacies like radish rice cake, and traditional hot pot.”
Hoja Pot, a Taiwanese restaurant in Vinohrady specializes in hot pot, the mainstay of Taiwanese cooking, where meat and vegetables are cooked in a steaming pot of spicy broth. Five-spice deep-friend chicken is also on the menu for this week’s buffet-style dinner. Dinner will be followed by games, many of them meant to scare away the monster Nian.
“People put out red decorations, red banners, red lanterns, and dress in red to expel the monster,” says Litvin. Activities and crafts including firecrackers, and making dancing dragon and lion masks are planned as well. The festivities will be accompanied by a Mandarin/English dual-track telling the stories associated with the holiday.
The Czech-Taiwanese Association was founded by Litvin in June 2019 in an effort to encourage her Czech-Taiwanese children to speak Mandarin. It has quickly grown into a community of 200-plus members, a mix of Czechs and Taiwanese who regularly attend events.
“Our core purpose is to bring both communities together to connect our cultural values,” she says. The association hosts Mandarin courses for both Czech and Taiwanese children as well as regular cultural events. Litvin, who married a Czech in 2013, hopes to launch additional educational exchange projects between Taiwan and the Czech Republic in the future.
“The Czech community has been very supportive of us, especially this year,” says Litvin, adding that anyone is welcome to attend the event. “We Taiwanese are very welcoming.”
Has she invited the mayor? “I’ll try,” Litvin laughs.
Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Tickets: Adults 300 CZK, children 150 CZK (tickets include a chance to win two flight tickets around Europe from Letuska.cz)
Space is limited; pre-registration required.
To connect with the Taiwanese-Czech Association follow their Facebook page or visit their website.