Traditional Christmas meals
Besides the spiritual aspect, Christmas in the Czech Republic has always meant plenty of food as well. The most important day of a Czech Christmas is December 24th, i.e. Christmas Eve, when the Christmas tree is traditionally decorated and the whole family gathers at the main table for a festive Christmas dinner.
In days of old, Christmas Eve used to be a fasting day in the Czech lands. Throughout the day, people would only eat very little or nothing at all, while everyone was expected to eat until they were stuffed with food in the evening. This tradition is still kept today. The main meal served during the day is usually a gold-coloured sweet Christmas bread – (vánočka or štola). The gastronomic peak of the whole day has always been the festive dinner. Its importance to the people is usually expressed by a rich variety of meals, which even used to have symbolic meaning back in the old times. The Christmas table was always full of products that the people had grown themselves the previous year. There were always meals such as black kuba made from mushrooms, groats and garlic; cooked and dried fruit; or lentils and peas. According to a tradition, eating legumes was to secure the expansion of family wealth. Another typical symbol of Czech Christmas, and an indispensible part of the festive table, is the Christmas carp. The Czechs even believe that if they put one of its scales into their purses, they will have enough money for the following year. Today's Christmas dinner consists of fish soup and fried Christmas carp served with potato salad.
The rest of the Christmas holidays, that is Christmas Day (December 25th) and St. Stephen’s Day (December 26th),; do not have the same strict festive character as seen on Christmas Eve. The choice and variety of the meals on these days is much varied due to regional and family traditions. On St. Stephen’s Day, the tradition has it that roast turkey, goose, or duck is served, as well as any other kind of meat.
One of the most popular Christmas traditions held in Czech homes is the baking of Christmas cookies. People always start well in advance, usually at the beginning of Advent, so that the cookies have enough time to get crispy. Among the favourites has always been the sweet and aromatic vanilla crescentshave always been the sweet and aromatic vanilla crescents, “wasp nests” made from walnuts, Linz cookies with marmalade or the famous Czech Christmas gingerbread cookies. Another essential sweet is vánočka – a cake pleated from sweet white dough with raisins. Christmas cookies are consumed throughout the whole Christmas period.