Americans give thanks at ex-pat celebrations around Prague

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In the United States, Thanksgiving - one of the nation's most important holidays - is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In Prague this year, numerous establishments catered to Americans far from home by serving up traditional Thanksgiving food and hosting full-fledged turkey dinners. Emily Udell checked out a few Thanksgiving celebrations in Prague.

Just off Wenceslas Square, guests are gathering in the Jama pub for their reservations to celebrate American Thanksgiving. Tables are laid with white tablecloths, candles and gourds, and owner Max Munson is tuning the television to American football. Each year, more opportunities arise to celebrate Thanksgiving in Prague. High end restaurants like Allegro are joining ex-pat establishments like Jama in serving traditional holiday fare. Munson says his Thanksgiving business has been on the rise in recent years.

"Way back when in 1994 when we had our first Thanksgiving and there were supposed to be 40,000 Americans living in town I think we had 35 dinners, and now when the number of Americans living in Prague is the smallest since when I moved here in 1992, this year, last year and the year before have already been a sold-out show," he said.

Munson says his Thanksgiving dinner clientele is about 70 percent ex-pats, 20 percent Czech and 10 percent tourists.

Christine Zamastil has been coming to Thanksgiving at Jama on-and-off for about 13 years.

"I've traveled so much with my job that we've just established new traditions," she said. "Although I do miss being with my family, to be here with other friends from different nationalities and to share this holiday is actually really fun and we have a great time."

Photo: CzechTourism
Zamastil's husband David Vondra, who grew up in Prague, is celebrating his second Thanksgiving at Jama.

"I think it's great; It's a great tradition," he said. "It's usually great food; People, getting together, thinking about life, what has happened last year and what hopefully nice will happen this year. I like it."

Lore Breitmeyer-Jones, owner of Red, Hot and Blues, another ex-pat haunt, is taking a break between two seatings for the establishment's 14th annual Thanksgiving dinner this year.

"The in-house Thanksgiving here at Red, Hot and Blues is three seatings," she said. "The first is at 2 o'clock, which is the smallest because, as you know, it's a work day here. That was 30 people this year. Then we have the 5 o'clock, which is about 50 people. Then we have the 8 o'clock, which is always sold out completely. So that will be another 80 or 90 people."

Breitmeyer-Jones says her restaurant was the first to do American Thanksgiving in Prague.

William Webster has been coming to Red, Hot and Blues for about five years. While enjoying a beer at the bar after attending the 2 o'clock dinner, he says he always makes a special effort to be there on Thanksgiving.

"I've lived in the Czech Republic for about seven or eight years now, but I spend part of my time in England," Webster said. "It is very important to me to always be back in Prague at Red, Hot and Blues for Thanksgiving because I know I get a good Thanksgiving feed here."

This year the restaurant offered a heaping and colorful plate that included mountains of fluffy mashed potatoes, cranberry-orange relish, honeyed carrots and sage-infused stuffing. A small market on the premises also sold Thanksgiving items to customers hosting dinners in their own homes—turkey breasts, cranberries and canned pumpkin.

For those who are even more adventurous about cooking their own meals, the discussion on the city's ex-pats' Web site www.expats.cz has been buzzing with for weeks with queries and advice on where to find a frozen turkey in Prague.

Other restaurants like Buffalo Bill's, Fraktal and TGI Friday's also provided traditional fare on or around the day of Thanksgiving. So Americans in Prague—and their Czech friends who joined them—certainly found something to be thankful for this year.