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That’s what Christmas means to Zee: A look at European Bruins’ traditions

12.24.10 at 6:10 pm ET
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The Bruins gave fans an early Christmas with a statement-making win on Thursday, but when it comes to the Black and Gold, there’s plenty about Christmas that the average Bostonian doesn’t know. David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, and Dennis Seidenberg spoke to WEEI.com about what Christmas is like in their native countries.

Here’s a look at each player’s customs and holiday memories:

DAVID KREJCI: STERNBERK, CZECH REPUBLIC

Jezisek brought David Krejci and Zdeno Chara toys as they were growing up in Czechoslovakia. (AP)

Santa who? Jezisek (pronounced “eshishik”) is the man, er, boy for the job back home for Krejci. Czech for “Child Jesus,” Jezisek is a child who delivers gifts to families, much like St. Nick would in these parts.

As is the case in Europe, Krejci’s family is all done with sharing gifts by the time the 25th rolls around.

“We have dinner on the 24th, and right after, we open gifts, so Christmas is the 24th,” Krejci said.

Given his years in juniors and now in the NHL, Krejci, like his European teammates doesn’t get to celebrate Christmas back home.

“It’s been a long time since the last time I was back home for Christmas,” Krejci said. “I guess I’m used to it. It still sucks that you’re not with your family, but I’m getting older and it’s been a long time, so I guess I’m getting used to it now.”

Teammate Tyler Seguin, like many North American kids in the ’90′s, remembers asking for Power Rangers toys and all things Barney. Over in Sternberk, then a part of Czechoslovakia, Krejci couldn’t think of anything but his future career.

“When I was growing up I always wanted skates, hockey sticks, and all the cool stuff that was really expensive that I couldn’t afford,” Krejci said. “So I asked my parents. I never got it, but I was excited for it anyways.”

TUUKKA RASK: SAVONLINNA, FINLAND

What do Rask and Santa Claus share in common? Nothing, besides the fact that they hail from the same land.

“Santa Claus is Finnish,” the 23-year-old goaltender told a now-enlightened WEEI.com. It’s a fact that can be confirmed here.

Aside from that interesting tidbit and opening presents on the 24th (“That’s the only thing I’ve known, ever since growing up”), Rask doesn’t think his time on Christmas as a child is too dissimilar from that of an American.

“The food is different,” Rask, who remembers meals of ham, salmon, and bread, said. “I think every family has their different traditions, but to stay at home and be with the family, that’s the same everywhere.”

DENNIS SEIDENBERG: VILLINGEN-SCHWENNINGEN, WEST GERMANY

The biggest difference that Seidenberg notices between the States and West Germany around the holidays is level to which it’s taken.

“It feels like there’s a lot more toys under the Christmas tree here,” said a smiling Seidenberg. “It’s just a lot more done-up, it seems, than in Europe.”

A traditional Christmas meal is also different from in the USA, and from the countries of his European teammates.

“We eat a lot of duck with cabbage, mashed potatoes, and stuff like that,” Seidenberg said.

The Bruins will practice on Sunday, which probably wouldn’t take place over in West Germany. After eating and opening presents on the 24th, they get the 25th and 26th off as Christmas holidays.

ZDENO CHARA: TRENCIN, SLOVAKIA

While Krejci had Jezisek and Rask had Santa Claus, the Bruins’ captain grew up with both.

“One thing we have is Santa — that’s ‘Mikalas’ — and then whoever brings the presents is Jezisek,” Chara said.

Chara shares Rask’s logic that despite the differences between the countries, there’s no cultural differences (hey, remember those? Those were funny!) when it comes to the most important part of the holidays: family.

“It’s pretty much the same as over here,” Chara said. “We all get together, the families gather together and want to spend it together. We have a nice dinner, and in Europe we open the presents on the 24th at night.

“As far as everything else, it’s almost the same. We have different food traditions for dinners. You guys have different over here, but I think the atmosphere around Christmas is pretty much the same.”

Happy holidays from the Big Bad Blog and WEEI.com.

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