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Magical Czech Christmas

 
photo: Staroměstské náměstí (czechtourism.cz)
 

Christmas is one of the biggest and most popular holidays in the Czech Republic. The streets are lit by thousands of lights, the festive decorations are ubiquitous and the carols that are heard everywhere leave no-one in doubt that it is one of the most beautiful times of year.

 
 
The presage of Christmas is Advent. It starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. Advent is inseparably accompanied by the typical round wreath with four candles that are lit consecutively each week for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Their light symbolises the coming of Christ. Advent is the time when Christmas trees on city squares are lit and Christmas fairs, where you can buy many traditional gifts, take place.

Children expectantly look forward to December 6th, the Day of Saint Nicholas. On the eve of this day, St. Nicholas, angels and devils come to many Czech houses. St. Nicholas gives sweets and fruits to children who sing or say a poem, or, on the contrary, he can reprimand them for being naughty and give them only coal and potatoes. In the families where St. Nicholas does not come, the children simply hang a stocking behind the window and discover what they deserve this year the following morning.

Christmas culminates on December 24th – i.e. Christmas Eve. In many homes, it starts off by listening to carols and decorating the tree. The lunch before Christmas Eve is very frugal and it differs throughout the country according to regional traditions – at some places people eat sweet bread, elsewhere it is “kuba” (groats baked with mushrooms, onion, garlic and marjoram) or “hubník” (a dish quite similar to kuba). However, if you want to see the golden piggy in the evening, you must fast for the whole day. The Christmas table also varies but the most usual dishes are fish soup, fried carp and potato salad.

The tradition has it that the family sits down at the Christmas table with the first appearing star. A scale from the fish, symbolising money and abundance, is put under everyone’s plate. No one can leave from the table during dinner so that the family can again all gather next Christmas. Other old Christmas Eve traditions such as pouring lead or cutting apples are continued in some families.

The main Christian feast is Christmas Day – December 25th. It is the day of commemoration of Jesus Christ’s birth. It used to be a tradition that on the following day – St. Stephen´s Day (Boxing Day) – children went carolling from house to house. They were rewarded for their effort by fruit or a little money. Today, children do not go carolling anymore but this tradition has been preserved in the form of beautiful carols.

For more information about Christmas traditions, feasts and events, click here.
 
 
Author: Petra Hubálková
 
Added: 19.11.2010
 
 
 

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