Latest posts by Kateřina Bartošová (see all)
- 5 Things You Should Try at Christmas in Czech Republic - December 30, 2017
- Linzer Christmas Cookies Recipe - December 15, 2017
- Prague: The Top 20 Attractions - November 29, 2017
When speaking about Christmas, one important fact should be noted right away – Czech Republic, after China and Japan, is the most atheist country in the world. Therefore, it’s probably not wise to expect anything special from Czechs during the Christmas time, or is it?
Quite on the contrary, Christmas here is the craziest, as well as the most beautiful time of the year. Typical Czech Christmas looks like a mixture of pagan, atheist and Catholic traditions, blended together according to our own personal needs, with the only goal to enjoy it at its best!
Hence I’ve picked some tips from the bundle of the Czech Christmas habits, which even a foreigner might enjoy.
1. Visit the Christmas Markets
During the whole Advent season, regardless of the Czech town you might come to visit, you will typically find a Christmas market at the main square. There will be countless lights, children singing Christmas carols, lots of cool, festive goods to buy and loads of alcohol to enjoy.
The atmosphere is really gorgeous! You can taste some typical Czech sweets and pastry (nowadays the most popular one is “Trdelník”), while listening to Christmas carols and watching children play in snow. If there is a small bell tower at the market, do not hasitate to ring its bell, while making a wish. It should come true. And what about the drinks? Traditionally, there should be a Christmas punch – a hot drink with fruits and nuts.
2. Catch a Glimpse of a Devil, Angel and St. Nicolas in the Streets
A few weeks before Christmas, there is a special night, which children look forward to and fear at the same time. On December 5th in the evening, St. Nicholas, angels and devils come to many Czech houses to ask every child a crucial question about his or her behavior during the past year.
Usually, there’s a happy end when children promise to be better next year. They would sing a song and get some sweets from the angel. On the other hand, St. Nicolas can reprimand them for being naughty and gift them with only coal and potatoes. But what’s worse, the devil can even steel the naughty child from his or her home in a sack!
Naturally, the “creatures” are just ordinary people wearing masks, who often get a shot of alcohol once leaving the house for the cold weather outside. Consequently, this magical evening can change very quickly to a crazy night, where drunk angels and devils are ‘a dime a dozen’.
3. Send a Letter to the Baby Jesus
As you may already heard, in Bohemia… there is a baby Jesus bringing gifts at Christmas. He was a result of one unpleasant thing which was true for every child – they could never see Him. There was no movie, no picture with a baby Jesus holding a huge amount of gifts in His arms. He was a very abstract character, which brought troubles to numerous parents when answering children’s curious questions.
Therefore, more than 20 years ago a “Baby Jesus house” was founded high in the mountains, with a concrete postal address. You can mail your wish there in December and the baby Jesus will answer you. I believe he can speak English too, so try it! Here’s the address: Vánoční Pošta, Boží Dar 1, 362 62 Boží Dar
4. Taste the Czech Christmas Eve’s Menu
Four weeks of preparations culminate in this one evening – the Christmas Eve. For most of Czechs this is the most festive day of the year. So here’s how it goes.
First of all, according to an old Czech Christmas tradition, you are supposed to fast all day. If you manage to do that, you can see a “golden piglet” in the evening. After the whole day of starving you can finally start eating after the sunset (traditionally – after the first star has come out).
The dinner consists of a fried carp and potato salad, sometimes preceded by a fish soup. While everyone sits at the table, it is said that the baby Jesus will bring gifts to another room and ring a bell when everything is ready.
If there are some children in the family, it can be a tough work to arrange such miracle. Therefore, there might be other dishes coming after the dinner to feed the exhausted parents. Usually, at the Christmas tree various kinds of sweets would be served, plus the Christmas bread, some nuts and fruits.
The Christmas sweets are mostly home-made and are usually prepared up to 4 weeks in advance! This evening should be the first occasion for tasting them, but honestly, I don’t know anyone who can resist for such a long time.
5. Stay Awake at the Midnight Mass
On the Christmas Eve, after all the gifts are opened, many people will wait for midnight (including the godless ones) to take part in the Christmas mass. Or, just to see the beautifully decorated, candle-lit church. It is a uniquely touching show, no matter what your religion might be.
There are plentiful of beautiful churches all over Czech Republic and Christmas is an especially good time to visit them. Either on the Midnight mass or during the Advent season – many would come to listen to a splendid vocal concert or just to see the Nativity scene.