Czech traditions

Some Doubts of Christmas and Christmas Markets in Prague

Dec 19, 13:50 Filed under czech-traditions

Christmas is coming and as you’ve probably noticed, cities around the world are being covered in glamour. That includes Prague of course, which is getting its load of artificial lights, souvenirs and markets on key squares.

On one hand we all know those shiny things on buildings, lamps and trees are fake. They are supposed to express an outburst of joy, the overall happiness, a result of the fact that Christmas will be here soon. But I doubt many people would overlook the somber calculation behind the strategy. It’s a labored hunt for the customer, with a different convention, a different face. I believe this is good to keep in mind, though I’m not sure it’s wrong.

We could definitely call it pretension from both sides. The money-makers are pretending they wish to spread comfort by having the city decorated, they pretend they want to give Prague a special atmosphere. We are pretending we believe it. We should definitely keep this fact in mind, but still we can enjoy the game. It’s still fairly positive. No matter what the motives are, it does give the city a special feeling, the centre feels alive and healthy.

There’s the traditional Christmas tree on the Old Town Square, for example. Some 20 meters high, the tree from Krkonose mountains may not be a marvel for a passer-by. It does have some power though, it’s part of the illusion of unity, maybe sharing some similarities with the primitive societies’ gathering points- the main gathering point of Christmas lies in the circle around it. The number of light bulbs on its body is irrelevant.

Commerce is of course behind all this. It works well because we have a special situation here: the customers are not only willing to buy, they’re also less sensitive to the prices than they are during the year. If you’re buying a gift for someone close, you can’t look for the cheapest things possible, you’re more likely to express your affection by the opposite: buying things that are far more expensive than those you’d ever acquire for yourself.

merry death christmas I really don’t thing there’s anything wrong with all this. I have only three points. First we should be aware of it. Second, the aesthetic aspect should be considered, the decorations being quite well-fitting for the more commercial parts of the city, but it’s a difficult question whether historical parts should be involved. Third, the blood on the sidewalk is not a part of modern Christmas. I am referring to the needless slaughter of carps- I mean what is the point of choosing the live fish and having it killed in front of you? Some illusion of being “closer to the nature”?

That aside, it’s mostly nice to see the end of the year approaching in the city center.

This article is here to balance articles like this one

The feast of Saint Nicholas

Nov 29, 12:06 Filed under czech-traditions

Saint Nicholas In the Czech Republic there is a very nice tradition of celebrating Saint Nicholas eve. Nicholas was a pious man, a bishop of Myra (in today’s Turkey) who lived in 3rd and 4th century. In those times, when Christians were persecuted, he did a lot in order to help them and was very popular for his charitable activities.

There are a few legends about him, the most known is probably that one, which says how he saved there poor young sisters. Their father had no money, so the girls were about to become prostitutes to make their living. Nicholas heard of it, and at night, when no one could have seen him, threw three purses filled with golden coins into the house, so the sisters were saved. Nicholas inherited a lot of money from his rich parents and thus he gave many other anonymous gifts to the poorest people. Later it was found, that the benefactor was he, and after his death, rich people were anonymously gifting the poor ones in his honor.

Saint Nicholas day is on 6th of December. In the Czech Republic, it is celebrated the evening before it, on 5th. Saint Nicholas goes to homes where they have little children. He is accompanied with an angel and a devil, sometimes there can be even more angels and devils. Nicholas usually has a thick book, where he has written what the kids did through out the year. The devil threads them for their little sins, and angel with Nicholas give them gifts for being nice. They often have to promise to behave better the next year and can sing a song, tell a short poem or a prayer; sometimes they even draw a picture in advance for Saint Nicholas and his companions.

The feast has a very long tradition in Czech. In the past, Nicholas was often accompanied not only with devils and angels, but also by other allegorical figures, especially in the country. Here, naughty children were often chased by devils on the village’s main square.

So if you are in Prague on 5th of December, it is worth it to take a walk in the city after the sunset. You can admire wonderful masks of Nicholases, beautiful angels and scary devils. Traditionally, the biggest meeting of them takes place on Old Town Square every year.

Bambini di Praga

Oct 11, 09:27 Filed under czech-traditions

2Bambini di praga picture source: www.bach-cantatas.com Bambini di Praga was established after WW II. It was a concept of post-war Czechoslovak radio. The official title of the choir was the Children‘s choir of Czechoslovak Radio, but they were called “Kulincata” (Kulinsky’s Children). This choir originated in Ostrava – Hrabuvka in Moravia. Young teacher Bohumil Kulinsky founded his first choir and called it the Hrabuvka singers. It was an excellent choir and in the year of its foundation it won a country-wide anonymous competition of children choirs. It was the competition which was announced by School radio in the then Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. And so the choirmaster of the victorious choir was invited to the post-war Czechoslovak radio. It happened in September 1945. Since then the children’s choir could be heard on waves of Czechoslovak radio for almost 30 years.

It was the successful era. The choir became one of the top bodies of choir art. A lot of Czech musical composers were inspired to create new, most demanding compositions. Many of great singers, actors, musicians, writers and even politicians attended this choir. For instance: Zdena Salivarova-Skvorecka, Marta Vancurova, Jiri Korn, Jana Koubkova, Vera Novakova, Zdenka Lorencova, Petr Janda, Jaroslav Uhlir and our current President Vaclav Klaus.

Bambini di praga picture source: www.bach-cantatas.com In 1973 co-operation with Czechoslovak radio was suddenly broken off without explanation. They had to left the radio and had no place to practise. But soon an opportunity to practise at a Prague basic school appeared. The school was situated on Lyckovo square in the district of Karlin, where the choir established itself for 29 years, until the floods on August 2002. Since 1973 they were called “Bambini di Praga”. In 1977 Bohumil Kulinsky junior took over the choir and became choirmaster. Before it, in 1977, he created the fourth generation of the “Kulincata” – “Bimbi di Praga”. In the “Bimbi” there were the most talented and youngest singers. Nowadays the choir Bambini di Praga represents the top of Czech choir singing and is one of the leading representants of Czech musical art abroad.
In the dynasty of the Kulinsky family there is also short episode – Boys‘ choir of the Prague men’s FOK. It was directed by Blanka Kulinska. This male collective was attended by excellent and highly successful musicians and actors like David Koller, Petr Malasek, Jan Censky, Tomas Trapl, Martin Kumzak and Radek Krejci.

The Bambini di Praga choir has been guest on many stages around the world, for example: in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Helsinki, Leipzig, Tokyo, New York, Osaka, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Monte Carlo, Abu Dhabi, Boston, Johannesburg, Oslo, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and elsewhere.

The members of the Bambini di Praga’s concert choir are children from 5 to 12. They studied choral singing, music theory, intonation and rythm and also English language and motion training.

The Czech Republic – Nation of good beer

Aug 24, 19:30 Filed under czech-traditions

Every tourist in foreign country is curious about most popular or national drink in this country. Mexico has its Tequila, Russia has its vodka, France has its wine, Scotland has its whiskey, Greece has its ouzo, Turkey has its raki and this way we could go on and on. The most popular and national drink in the Czech Republic, besides Becherovka, is beer.

Staropramen beer Czechs inherently belong to the history of beer production. Beginning of production of light, clear, low-yeasty beer in Pilsen meant birth of style, which every country all over the world try to copy. Czech hops and Moravian barley is exported to various countries of the world, where people want to boil beer the most similar to the original.

Pilsner Urquell

History of the Czech brewing industry is inseparably connected with Plzensky Prazdroj, known as Pilsner Urquell. New style of beer production originated there in 1842 – light beer. Later appeared lager beer and since then similar beers began occuring all over the world and got the name “pilsner”. But none of them has the same taste as Pilsner Urquell because nowhere is so soft water like in Pilsen.

Prague’s Staropramen

One of the most famous beer in the Czech Republic is Staropramen. This brewery bet on traditional production procedure, it means open fermentative tanks and beer maturing in oak barrels. Beer fans affirm that only this way beer gets true characteristic quality. On the websites of Staropramen, you can read that the “Staropramen” brewery, located in Smichov, was established on 23 October 1869. The first batch of beer was brewed 1 May 1871 and on 15 July the sale began. In 1911 the brewery registered trademark Staropramen.

Branik beer Every year brewery festival takes place in Prague. The first festival took place on 22 June 2000 and within the frame of the festival it was decided to introduce Staropramen Granat into the brewery portfolio. It is a semi-dark, full-flavoured lager. The first batch of Staropramen Nealko was brewed in 2005, it is a non-alcoholic beer. Staropramen also produce Dark beer, it is soft and smooth with a sweetish caramel-like taste. Pivovary Staropramen a.s. is currently the third largest beer exporter. They exported to 36 countries worldwide.

Branik

The next known beer in Prague is Branik. The “Branik” brewery was established in 1899, but Branik is currently moving to Smichov to Staropramen brewery, which is its main brewery. The bottled beer Branik is the second brand leader in the Czech Republic. According to plans, production of beer will increase doubly in Smichov.

Other beer brands in Prague

Every region in the Czech Republic has its own beer. The oldest Prague brewery is U Fleku, where majority of Prague tourist is headed for. This brewery is located in the centre of the city in Kremencova Street and was established in 1499.

There are some other brands of smaller breweries you can see and visit in Prague: Pivovarsky dům (Lipova 15), Novomestsky pivovar (Vodickova 20), U Bulovky Richter Pub (Bulovka 17/373), Klasterni pivovar Strahov (Strahovske nadvori 302/10), Suchdolsky Jenik (Kamycka 129), Pivovar U medvidku (na Perstyne 7).

Jara Cimrman: “It’s better to have beer in stomach than water in lungs”.

May 1 – an unordinary day in Prague (Part Two)

May 2, 08:07 Filed under czech-traditions

Where for some May 1st represents the true and only Love Day, for others it commemorates the historic achievements of the Labor movement in the world. And some people recall the not long gone communist era in the Czech Republic. Why?

May 1 in Letna The celebrations of May 1st are in many people’s mind connected with the huge celebrations during the communist regime. For over forty years, there were float parades in all big cities in the back then Czechoslovakia. The biggest parade was, of course, in Prague, to be more precise, in Letna Plain, Prague 7.

The participation on those massive communist manifestations celebrating the Labor Day was mandatory. People had to go if they didn’t want to have troubles. And so the big plain in Letna witnessed every year on May 1st the same scenario – thousands of people waving little Czechoslovak and Soviet flags at the communists party officials who were seated on a tribune decorated in red, with huge pictures of Marxist leaders and signs “With Soviet Union Forever”. For everyone this was a waste of time.

Thanks God this era is gone and people in Prague don’t have to go to Letna on May 1st and pretend enthusiasm. They can do whatever they want. No wonder that people in Czech Republic prefer to celebrate the Love Day rather than Labor Day on May 1st. The Labor Day brings bitter memories.

But it is not true that there are no demonstrations at Letna on May 1st since the fall of communism. Last year there was a great anti-communist demonstration. It is easy to see why it was there and at that time. (see Part One)

May 1 – an unordinary day in Prague (Part One)

Apr 29, 13:43 Filed under czech-traditions

Rose garden in Petrin May 1st means in many countries around the world the International Workers´ Day. It commemorates the historical struggle of working people for an eight-hour work day. In the Czech Republic, May 1st is called Labor Day and is a public holiday. Surprisingly enough, however, May 1st in the Czech Republic is more Love Day than Labor Day, although you will find Labor Day in all Czech calendars. There is not a single word about Love Day and still, for the majority of Czechs it means this. Why is it so?

The tradition of celebrating love on the first day in May goes far back into Czech history, to be more precise, to the beginning of 19th century. This was the time, when great Czech Romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha lived and composed. His best work is an epic poem Maj (in English May).

This poem is about a tragic love between two young people and is a Czech classic. Every Czech knows first few lines of this poem. It goes like this:

It was late evening, on the first of May,
The eve of May was the time of love.
The turtle-dove´s voice called to love,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.

The tradition says that on May 1st a girl should be kissed under a cherry blossom so she will stay beautiful all year round. But finding a cherry blossom in Prague can be difficult so kissing under any blooming tree should do.

Go for a date to Petrin Gardens In Prague, however, there is one additional tradition – to go up to Petrin Hill on this day and visit the statue of Karel Hynek Macha. Here you should kiss in front of the “poet of love” so your love will be as strong as the stone his statue is made form.

So let’s all kiss on May 1st! See you near Karel Hynek Macha statue. It is best accessible from tram station Ujezd (trams 6, 9, 12, 20, 22, 23). But I would recommend you to go there before noon or in the evening because I heard that this year there will be in front of this statue in the afternoon a gathering of one of the biggest political parties in the Czech Republic. I guess they want to misuse this event for propaganda. Oh well. (See Part Two)

Czech Easter is a fun holiday

Mar 28, 12:35 Filed under czech-traditions

Creating Easter whips belongs inherently among Czech Easter traditions This year, Easter Monday falls on April 9. This day is traditionally a public holiday in Czech Republic since there are many things one has to do on this day!

Everything starts the day before – so on Sunday. Czech girls decorate Easter eggs to give them to boys on Easter Monday. Easter eggs are painted hard-boiled eggs and then hand decorated. Boys make a special handmade whip, in Czech called pomlazka, and decorate it with colored ribbons at the end. This whip consists of eight, twelve, or even twenty-four willow twigs, depending on the skills of the boy. Surprisingly enough, the more twigs, the more difficult it is to braid the whip. They are usually from half a meter to two meters long!

On Easter Monday it gets more interesting. In the morning, boys walk from door to door to spank the girls on the legs with their whip. It is to say, that the whipping is rather symbolic. The symbolism is easily traced from the Czech name of the Easter whip – pomlazka, which comes from the world pomladit or “make younger” in English.

It is believed that the freshness, youth and strength of the twigs is passed to the women on this day. Every woman thus wants to be whipped in order to keep her health and beauty during the whole next year. Unvisited females can even feel offended. It is therefore almost a duty for all boyfriends and husbands to whip their loved ones with Easter whip!

The boys accompany the whipping with a special Easter carol, usually asking for an egg or two. The girls “reward” them with an Easter egg or tie a ribbon on their whip. The more eggs or ribbons boys have, the better.

Coloured eggs called kraslice in Czech For older boys or for men the treat, instead of eggs, is a shot of a harder alcohol, mostly home-made brandy. And of course, the point is to visit possibly all girls in the town! So around noon, groups of happy men can be seen in the streets singing Easter carols and chasing girls.

In the afternoon, girls can get revenge by pouring a bucket of cold water on any male.

Easter traditions are especially practiced in villages and small towns. You will not see many boys with Easter whips walking through the streets of Prague. It is understandable – Prague is a big city and people don’t open their doors to strangers.

But everyone in Prague celebrates Easter. Girls decorate Easter eggs; bake a special Easter cake in shape of a lamb, and boys from family or friends whip girls with bought Easter whips since boys from big cities usually don’t know how to make it.

So if you are a man, don’t forget to whip all girls around you, otherwise their beauty will fade away! And an advice for females, have an Easter egg or two ready to “reward” them.

Traditions on Czech weddings

Mar 8, 12:52 Filed under czech-traditions

Wedding day is the most important day in life for every bride and every groom. It is a day that you want to remember forever. The way everyone celebrates this great event varies significantly according to country’s traditions. So what are Czech wedding traditions?

The Czech Republic has many wedding traditions dating back through the ages. Some of them, however, are long forgotten, some of them are quite new. I am going to tell you about those traditions that have prevailed, and are being celebrated nowadays. Without them, Czech wedding would be incomplete.

The newlyweds are 'showered' with rice The most important thing on every wedding is the bride. Czech bride has to wear on her wedding day, beyond the wedding dress, something new, something old, something borrowed, and something blue. Blue is usually the garter, which will come handy later on the wedding day. Something borrowed is usually from some happily married girlfriend, so that the newly married couple will be also happy. Something old comes from the bride’s family, mostly some family jewel. Something new represents the new period of life that the bride is going to start.

Most traditions follow after the ceremony. When the newlyweds step out of the ceremonial place, their friends and family shower them with rice, lentils or peas to ensure fertility. At this moment, the groom may receive a horse-collar meaning that he might become henpecked.

Shortly after that, the bride throws her bouquet into the crowd. The crowd consists of unmarried girls only. The girl who catches the flowers will get married within a year.

Before the young married couple enters the restaurant for wedding reception, the owner of the restaurant breaks a plate since glass cullet brings happiness. What is more, bride and groom have to clean the place and by doing that show everyone how synchronized they are. This tradition points out that bride and groom will work together now on.

Bride and groom eat soup together. They have one spoon only and are bound together. This tradition shows how husband and wife will have to overcome all difficulties that will arise together. Moreover, it represents the need to go halves in a marriage.

The bride is going to throw the bouquet Garter belt can then play two roles. It can either be thrown by the groom into unmarried men (results are the same as with the bouquet), or it can be auctioned off. Money will help to start the new life.

When the atmosphere is at its peak, the bride is being carried away by friends of the groom. The groom has to find his wife as soon as possible. If he fails to find her, he has to buy her back from his friends. This symbolizes the girl’s separation from her parents and a new phase of life. It also shows that the groom should be watchful!

All this ends when the married couple arrives at the place where they live. The “fresh” husband should carry his wife in his arms over the threshold. This tradition should secure the demons not to wake up.

So if you are thinking about getting married in Prague, maybe it will be nice to add some Czech traditions. But whether you will or not, congratulation and good luck!!

Tips on unique Czech Food

Jan 15, 14:24 Filed under czech-traditions

Food is an important part of any national identity. And as you are in Prague admiring Czech monuments, learning about Czech history and meeting Czech people, why not to try Czech cuisine as well! It will be certainly more or less different from what you are used to from your mom’s cooking, but travelling is about experiencing new things! So why not to experience something that is pleasing your stomach? Eating is fun thing to do as it is!

'Dobrou chut!' So what is typical for Czech food? Probably the most noticeable thing is that lunch is the main meal of the day in the Czech Republic. That is also why in restaurants food can be found for better price during lunch time (cca. from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) where you can have lunch with drink for less then 100 CZK – this of course doesn’t apply to restaurants right in the centre of Prague. Lunch consists of soup, main dish and sweet dessert or salad. Supper can be cold or warm, and it is less substantial than lunch.

For Czechs, soup is a starter. Try chicken soup with noodles and vegetables, garlic soup with fried bread, potato soup with mushrooms or beef soup with liver dumplings, which is commonly served on Czech wedding feasts.

The main course usually consists of meat and a side dish. Most dishes are pork, or beef, mainly served with some kind of sauce. The most popular is chicken, but fresh-water fish (especially carp – traditionally served on Christmas Eve, and trout), or duck are common, too.

Potatoes are very popular as a side dish, served in various ways – boiled, roasted, mashed, fried, small potato balls called croquettes and so on. Dumplings are the most common side dish in traditional Czech cuisine. There are two types of dumplings – bread or potato dumplings made of either wheat or potato flour that is boiled as a roll of dough, then cut into slices.

There’s a sweet version of dumplings, called Ovocne knedliky in Czech, meaning fruits dumpling. They can be filled with strawberries, blueberries, apricots or plums served with chocolate or sweet cottage. And yes, it is a main dish!! Very delicious one! Especially kids love it!

Delicious Czech pancakes To name some traditional Czech main dishes – Roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut; Fruit filled dumplings; Svickova – which is pork meat with dumplings and gravy, topped of with cranberry jam and cream; Chicken fried in breadcrumbs which is similar to a Wiener Schnitzel, usually served with boiled potatoes.

I would personally recommend you Smazeny syr (breadcrumbed cheese or fried cheese in English), which can be also recommended to carnivorous travellers, because it’s really tasty and filling. It is without any doubt the most famous meatless food in the Czech republic (fruit filled dumplings are number two). It is not only appetising but for a good price too.

And don’t forget to try some Czech dessert! One of the most popular Czech desserts is palacinka – a pancake – they are thin and come in several variations involving fruits, jams, cinnamon with sugar, chocolate sauce and others.

So, as Czechs say before any meal: „Dobrou chut!“ which can be translated as: „I wish you to enjoy your meal!“.

Read also about the traditional meals in the Czech Republic in Eat & Drink Section.

Czech Santa

Jan 4, 17:10 Filed under czech-traditions

Who gives presents under the Christmas tree? Did you receive Christmas presents on Christmas Eve? Than they weren’t from Santa Claus but from Jezisek. Jezisek is a Christmas gift-giving figure in the Czech Republic who can be translated as Baby Jesus.

Jezisek is the one who brings the presents to Czech people and it has been Jezisek for centuries. After the Velvet Revolution, Santa Claus started to appear in Czech Republic – especially in shop windows, but Jezisek is enrooted in Czech hearts.

The great thing about him is that nobody actually knows how he looks like! Have you seen him? I haven’t! Jezisek usually comes after a Christmas Eve dinner when everybody walks out of the room where there is a Christmas tree. That is because Jezisek needs solitude for his work. Otherwise he wouldn’t bring his presents!

So children are usually in their rooms looking out of windows to see Jezisek visiting their home. Meanwhile, parents put the presents under the Christmas tree, then ring a bell and unseen slip out of the room. The ringing of bell announces that Jezisek has finished his work and is leaving. Children rush into the room with the Christmas tree to see Jezisek, but are always late! Maybe next year…

Jezisek is therefore a mysterious figure. Some people imagine him as a small child in a crib, but how could little baby bring so much presents? That is why some see him as a grown-up Jesus, some see him as an angel or a star. I’ve always imagined him as a mist or a ghost because he can walk through walls. Everyone has his or her own idea of how he might look like. And that is why Jezisek is so loved!

What do you think? How does he really look like?

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