Soon we are celebrating the Christmas Eve. The Czech Christmas season is filled with rich traditions, deep-rooted customs, and a spirit of togetherness. In this article, we delve into the unique and heartwarming traditions that define Czech holiday celebrations. Don’t hesitate and join us on a journey through the magic of Czech Christmas☃️
The Christmas season in the Czech Republic officially begins with Advent, which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Advent calendars and wreaths are commonly used to count down the days until Christmas. In this period of time, we can start to encounter Christmas markets, known as “vánoční trhy,” which are a popular tradition in Czech towns and cities. These markets feature festive stalls selling decorations, gifts, traditional crafts, and local delicacies. Visitors can enjoy hot mulled wine (svařák) and traditional Czech sweets.
Czech Christmas traditions:
In the Czech Republic, we have plenty of various Christmas traditions. These are the most common that families still do until this day:
Cutting of the apple: With a knife you cut the apple across. If you find a star inside the cut apple, you will be healthy and happy in the coming year, otherwise a cross or a worm indicates illness or death.
Walnut boats: Dropping walnut boats with a lit candle in a bowl or basin of water is one of the favourite traditions. It can answer a question or predict the future. It is important that the person asking the question makes the walnut boat himself and puts it on the water. The number of boats corresponds to the number of family members. If one goes missing, the one to whom the boat belongs goes out into the world. If they stay together, the family will be together.
Carp scale: On Christmas Eve at dinner, a carp scale is placed under the plate. The fish scale is supposed to bring money and abundance. Also, the scale from the carp should be carried in the wallet for plenty of money in the coming year.
Czech Christmas Eve:
Czech Christmas Eve, known as “Štědrý den” in Czech, is the most important day of the Christmas holiday season. It is a day of anticipation, family gatherings, and festive traditions. One of the highlights of Czech Christmas Eve is the decorating of the Christmas tree. Families often wait until the last moment to decorate the tree nevertheless, many Czech families start to decorate way before the Christmas Eve. Traditional decorations include glass ornaments, candles, and homemade ornaments.
The main event of the day is the Christmas Eve dinner, which takes place in the evening. The exchange of gifts takes place after the dinner. The gifts are brought by little baby Jesus. The kids usually wait in some other room after dinner and their parents put gifts under the tree. When they are done, they ring a bell which signifies that the baby Jesus already came and kids can come by the tree.
Many Czechs attend a Midnight Mass (Půlnoční mše). Churches are beautifully decorated, and the Mass is a solemn and reflective part of the Christmas celebration. Some families may also attend earlier evening services.
Playing Christmas carols throughout the day is a beautiful part of the Czech Christmas experience. If you want to listen to some traditional czech carols, go ahead on this link.
Czech Christmas food:
Carp: Carp is the centrepiece of the Christmas Eve dinner in the Czech Republic. The tradition involves buying a live carp, and keeping it in the bathtub for a day or two before preparation. These days a lot of people usually buy already prepared carp for cooking. Carp is typically breaded and fried. While carp is the traditional choice, some families may choose other fish varieties.
Potato salad: Potato salad is a typical side dish served alongside fried carp. Czech potato salad is distinct, featuring boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, pickles, onions, and mayonnaise. The recipe may vary from family to family, but it is a staple of Czech Christmas dinners.
Fish soup: Before the main course, many Czech families start their dinner with fish soup. The soup is often made from the carp’s head and other parts, accompanied by vegetables and spices.
Vánočka: This sweet bread is braided and often decorated with nuts or raisins. It is a festive and traditional treat enjoyed during the holiday season. Families may bake vánočka at home or purchase it from bakeries.
Christmas cookies: Czechs love baking a variety of cookies during the holiday season. These cookies, known as vánoční cukroví, come in various shapes and flavours. Popular types include gingerbread cookies (perníčky), Linzer cookies (linecké cukroví), and vanilla crescents (vanilkové rohlíčky).
Svařák: A traditional Czech mulled wine is called svařák, typically served hot. Red wine is heated and spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and other aromatic spices. Some recipes may include oranges or lemons. Svařák is a popular drink at Christmas markets and gatherings during the winter season.
Kofola: While not a traditional holiday drink, Kofola is a Czech cola-like soft drink that is popular year-round. Some families may choose to serve it as a non-alcoholic option during Christmas meals. Check out probably the most famous Czech commercial that goes in the TV every year during the holiday season since 2003 and everyone loves it!
During this holiday time, you might be spending time away from your family. We know that during the holiday season, it can be challenging, but maybe if you soak up the atmosphere and traditions of Czech Chrismas, it gets better. Definitely check out our articles about dealing with homesickness part 1 and part 2 that can also help🤝🏼❤️