- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Diplomatic Christmas

The Romanian ambassador picked up a bad habit of the American male. At 11 a.m. Christmas Eve, he still had some last-minute gift shopping to do.

But Ambassador Sorin Ducaru will celebrate Christmas dinner this evening with a distinctive Romanian touch. Instead of stuffed turkey, he will dine on stuffed cabbage rolls.

“They are small, but you eat many of them,” he said.

A fruit cake and sweetened, spiced red wine will finish the holiday meal.

Mr. Ducaru, who grew up under communism dreaming of cowboys and the American West, also will adopt some typically American traditions.

“We will sort of celebrate both ways,” he said.

Last night, he gathered with his wife, Carmen, their 9-week-old daughter, Maria Teodora, his parents and his in-laws to sing Christmas carols.

“This year is a bit special,” he said, referring to the visiting relatives. “We have a stronger choir than usual.”

Slovak Ambassador Ratislav Kacer, another young diplomat from a former communist country, also is retaining tradition.

Slovaks celebrate grandly on Christmas Eve, he said.

Again, no roast turkey. Slovaks prefer fish and Christmas wafers with a little garlic and honey. Santa doesn’t come down the chimney. The baby Jesus delivers the gifts.

“After dinner, we open the presents, which the little Jesus brought,” Mr. Kacer said.

Mr. Kacer and his wife, Otilia, keep the Slovak tradition alive for their 8-year-old son. They also have a 17-year-old daughter.

Diplomatic greetings

Ambassadors frequently highlight their countries’ cultures when they send holiday wishes from around the world.

A hunting scene by 19th-century Polish painter Julian Falat graces the cards sent by Polish Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski, and a peasant women weaving a basket is featured on those sent by Honduran Ambassador Mario M. Canahuati.

“Christmas is a season for a renewed vision: We learn to see others and the world as children of God,” the Honduran card reads.

Ambassador Ivan Vujacic of Serbia and Montenegro chose the White Angel, a detail from the 13th-century fresco of the Resurrection in the Mileseva monastery, to grace his card.

Canada featured its wilderness heritage, as Ambassador Michael Kergin selected a card with a 1977 lithograph of polar bears.

Lithuanian Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas adopted a drawing of the Lithuanian Embassy, which has little seasonal imagery but strong symbolic appeal.

During the Cold War, the United States refused to recognize the Soviet annexation of Lithuania and continued to deal with Lithuanian diplomats at the Italianate mansion at 2622 16th St. NW.

Asian and Arab ambassadors also sent season’s greetings.

Chan Heng Chee of Singapore chose a card displaying a 1990 watercolor of West Coast Park by Gog Sing Hooi, and Idriss Jazairy of Algeria featured a woman smoking a water pipe while relaxing on a veranda, by the 19th-century artist Jan Baptist Huysmans.

A holiday greeting from C.J. Chen, the representative of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the United States, makes a simple statement.

His card features a photo of a snow-covered Twin Oaks, a mansion in Northwest that used to be the home of the Chinese ambassador when the United States recognized the Chinese government on Taiwan.

Now, with the government in Beijing recognized as the government of China, Taiwan can use the mansion only for social functions, not as a diplomatic residence.

Twin Oaks still remains a symbol of Taiwan’s presence in Washington.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]times.com.

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