Czech traditions

Christmas Traditions

Dec 21, 08:59 Filed under czech-traditions

Silent night It is a bit strange how Czechs love and follow most of the Christmas traditions although many Czechs do not profess a religion. Since Christmas have Christian roots, one could easily jump into conclusion when watching the Czech people around Christmas time that the whole country is very religious. However, the opposite is true.

Nevertheless, everybody just loves Christmas! Even Czech atheists. Czech Christmas are accompanied with many nice traditions that are still alive. You can see it on your own eyes for example on the Old Town Square. There is a big Bethlehem manger scene – little baby Jesus with his parents in a barn. Little version of this scene is in all Czech flats on the Christmas Eve, no matter if you believe in God or not. It just belongs to Christmas.

Another tradition that belongs to Christmas is cutting few branches of a fruit tree on December 5th and bringing them home. If those branches come into flower on the Christmas Eve it means that a girl in the family will get married within a year. My branches usually bloom too soon! But maybe this year, who knows.

My favorite tradition is the one connected with the Christmas Eve dinner. Czechs eat carp, not turkey or anything else, but fried carp. When preparing the food you have to clean it from fish-scales and that is when Czech tradition comes in hand. If you put one clean fish-scale into your wallet it should bring you more money into your wallet in the new year. I am practicing this one every year. I have to say I am more or less successful.

And one great tradition for all who suffer from diabetes – Czechs bake tons of special sweets all December long. Then finally on Christmas Eve you serve it on a nice plate and eat it while opening the presents. It is really great!! Then of course your New Year’s resolution is to lose all the extra weight you just gained!

What will be your resolution?

December 24

Dec 19, 10:49 Filed under czech-traditions

Celebrating Christmas in the Czech Republic Czechs celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, that is on December 24. This day is the most important day not only for children but for parents as well. Yes, Czechs open their presents on this day and not the day after as in many countries.

It all starts in the morning on December 24. Television is switched on in most families because the program is simple and beautiful – all day long only fairy-tales!! Czechs are proud on their fairy-tales. All members of the family watch those fairy-tales while decorating the Christmas tree. Typical breakfast on this day is a special Christmas cake with raisins and almonds called vanocka in Czech.

However, if you decide not to eat all day till the big Christmas dinner you will not suffer. According to the Czech tradition, if you fast, you will see a golden pig! Now you decide whether it is worth trying! If you don’t want to see the golden pig, there is usually only little lunch. You can eat Christmas sweets.

Christmas dinner is huge though! It is a great social event too. Everybody dresses up nicely in their “Sunday best” – women in dresses, men in suits, children too. It starts at around 5pm with a fish soup, followed by potato salad and fried carp. Every family has a slightly different potato salad. The recipe is sometimes a family secret. My favorite is with ham, pickled gherkin, egg, mayonnaise mixed with white yogurt (so it is not as caloric) and of course potatoes.

After big dinner at about 7pm, when children turn their attention back to the Christmas tree, it is surrounded with presents. Opening presents in Czech Republic is therefore very different – firstly, Czechs open them in the evening on December 24, secondly, everybody is dressed in the best cloths, perfect hair, not in pyjamas. And this is what I like so much about Czech Christmas – it is more polite, or … sophisticated – don’t hate me for this, it is just my opinion.

Czech way of celebrating Christmas has many positive aspects. First of all, you don’t have to force your children to go to sleep; secondly, you look good on pictures, and lastly you can sleep on the 25th as long as you wish. Don’t you want to put into practice the Czech Christmas now?

What can you find on Christmas markets in Prague?

Dec 15, 07:16 Filed under czech-traditions

Have you already tried Staroceske trdlo? Christmas is nearly knocking on the door, that is without any doubt. One can tell! Even if I had no clue about the actual date today, I would know it just by looking around. In all shop windows there is Christmas decoration. This decoration I don’t like, however. I prefer the one on streets of Prague. To be more precise – on the squares.

On almost every Prague square there is a huge Christmas tree, which all children love, and sometimes a Christmas market as well.

You can find Christmas markets nearly on every big square – most favorite ones are on squares near subway stations Namesti Miru, Namesti Republiky, Andel, of course on Wenceslas Square and the nicest on Old Town Square. What can you buy there?

You can find there everything from Christmas decoration, scented candles, and mistletoe to typical Czech hand-made gifts such as Czech crystal, wooden toys, along with hot food and warm drinks.

When talking about food that is sold there, it is usually something sweet. And when talking about drinks, they are mostly alcoholic and warm since outdoor shopping is much nicer with something to get you warm. Most famous drinks are hot wine (svarak), grog and warm honey liquor (medovina)

Soak up the Christmas atmosphere!

Prague Christmas Markets

Dec 9, 10:22 Filed under czech-traditions

Old Town Square at Christmas Christmas is a special time of the year in Prague and the Christmas markets go hand in hand with it. Prague Christmas markets, which have a long tradition, bring people together to share the holiday spirit. It is really worth a visit.

The markets start every year four Saturdays before December 24, which is the Christmas Eve, and run until the beginning of January. They are open every day of the week and still they are always busy despite the weather! Why?

Prague Christmas markets are not mainly about the shopping. It is all about the special Christmas atmosphere that is there. The markets offer you not only a great opportunity to buy some unique gifts, but especially the experience of nice traditions that are still alive. They bring the true meaning of Christmas to life.

The most popular markets are on the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square where Christmas items are sold in 70 to 80 stands. Smaller ones are located on Namesti Republiky, Havelske Trziste and Namesti Miru. They are all easily accessible by subway.

The markets themselves consist of traditional wooden chalets that line the market squares and are nicely decorated. You will find there traditional Christmas decorations, holiday items and hand-crafted gifts together with fresh food and drinks. They are usually open from 9am to 7pm.

Browse the stalls and enjoy the festive atmosphere! See you there!

Christmas in Prague

Dec 6, 08:59 Filed under czech-traditions

Christmas atmosphere in Prague Prague is beautiful during Christmas season, don’t you think? Streets are decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees stand proudly on Prague’s squares, you can hear Christmas songs here and there, and Christmas markets invite you to try the traditional hot wine, called Svarak in Czech, which goes so well with the cold weather and completes the whole scene.

I just love those little walks round Christmas Prague. Everything is so bright and peaceful if you put aside the crowds you bump into on nearly every step. But even those people you see everywhere now look somehow happier or relaxed, which is quite unusual for Czechs one may think.

Of course I am not talking about people you meet in supermarkets. Those people are even more irritated than usual because they are on a hunt for Christmas presents. Don’t you dare to cross their way!! For those poor people the word Christmas is not connected with time of peace and happiness, for them it’s only stress and stress and even more stress. I hope you don’t belong to those people!

Just look around you! Prague is so beautiful when dressed in Christmas robe. And it doesn’t necessarily have to snow. One can’t be mad at people if he or she sees the beauty of it.

The most magnificent in the time of Christmas is the Old Town Square, of course! Especially after last weekend when the main Christmas tree in Prague was lighten up by the mayor of Prague. It is worth seeing and the hot wine is worth trying!! Trust me, you will not regret it!

But if you find you have enough of all the Christmas craziness, I have bad news for you – you can’t hide from it. Prague is and will be full of Christmas till the end of this year! So my advice to you is, take some more hot wines or grogs, which is hot tea with rum, and you will soon love it too!! Merry Christmas!

December 5th and Saint Nicholas

Dec 3, 12:08 Filed under czech-traditions

Saint Nicholas This is without any doubt right after my Birthday now my favorite day of the year – December 5th. If you find yourself in Prague on this day, you have to make sure you will be outside when it gets dark – preferably on some big streets or squares, the best is of course the Old Town Square. And why? On this day you may meet in the streets of Prague face to face the St. Nicholas with the Devil and the Angel!

When I was a child I didn’t like this day. That is to say, that as soon as it gets dark out, St. Nicholas with his helpers walks in the streets of Prague handing out small presents to children. He is tall with a long white beard, dressed in long red robe, mitre on his head, with a golden bishops’ staff. He is a very wise man who knows everything. And that is why all kids are so nervous on this day! He even knows whether this or that child was good during the past year!

If the child was behaving well, he or she will receive a present from him, usually some candies, nuts or fruits. However, if he or she was not behaving well all year, the Devil will put the child into his sack and take him or her to Hell! That is why all Czech children are unusually good on this day.

I find this very educational for the children. On this day, all children thing about what they have done in the past and usually come into conclusion that they could be better – clean their rooms, eat the vegetables, brush their teeth, listen to parents and so on. So when it comes to the question of St. Nicholas: “Have you been good this year?” they usually promise to the St. Nicholas that they will be better from now on.

If St. Nicholas wants to make the child to think about his or her behavior, the Devil with a tail and horns will rattle the chains and open his sack. At this moment, Angel, who acts as a counterweight to the Devil, dressed in a white gown and with wings will start pleading for the child. If St. Nicholas is still unsure, children usually sing a song or say a poem and that will convince St. Nicholas that they are good.

Czech parents hire sometimes “St. Nicholas and his helpers” to come to their home to threaten a bit their fractious children. It is a good one-day-job for students mostly, or some family friends who dress up and play St. Nicholas. This “St. Nicholas” is well informed by the parents and therefore is the performance very effective.

When unseen, St. Nicholas leaves his presents in the children’s room based on their pre-behavior. Good Czech children receive above all a chocolate calendar, which is a special calendar – there is a chocolate for every day till the Christmas Eve. Bad children usually receive potatoes or coal.

In Prague, streets are filled with Devils rattling chains, beautiful Angels and of course St. Nicholas himself. I would definitely recommend you to visit the Old Town Square around 4pm. Every year about this time, there is a contest for the best St. Nicholas, Angel and Devil. So hopefully you have been good this year… If not, have some poem or song ready at hand!

It’s My Name Day Today!

Dec 1, 09:05 Filed under czech-traditions

What is a name day? It is a great tradition in the Czech Republic as well as in many other European countries. If you open Czech calendar, you will see that every day of the year is someone’s name day. It is a great thing because in one year you have the right to celebrate twice – your birthday and your name day!

In short, it’s an age-old European custom in which those with the same first name have one day a year assigned as their name day. People celebrate it in the same manner as birthdays. All the namesakes receive congratulations and gifts from their family, friends but also colleagues since everybody knows it is your name day today. In effect, it is like having a second birthday, but better! Why?

Czech calendar with names The bad thing about birthday is that not everybody knows it’s your birthday. This can’t happen with your name day! In the Czech Republic you can hear on the radios: “Congratulations to all Michals today! If you know any Michal, don’t forget to wish him happy name day today!” Not only is it written in all calendars, it will be reminded to you in newspapers as well. Your friends can therefore never forget your name day!

The original list was the Catholic calendar of saints. For example Saint Michael’s feast was held on September 29th. As a result all Michaels, in Czech Michals, celebrate their name days on this day till today. Since name days are celebrated for centuries here, many changes were made to reflect the present-day usage of names so no one is left out.

In the past, parents were not allowed to choose just any name for a child in the Czech Republic. This has changed after the Velvet Revolution, although it is still common to choose the name from the name day calendar. If a person was given a first name that doesn’t appear in the calendar, he or she may very well be feeling left out for not being able to celebrate his or her name day at all.

The name day is commonly of a bit less importance than Birthday to Czech people. However since our names are one of the most important possessions we have in life, it is great that we celebrate it!

And yes, nobody asks you about your age on your name day!!

Everybody knows cha-cha-cha in Prague

Nov 8, 13:26 Filed under czech-traditions

Dancing couples Maybe you have noticed young boys in tuxedos and white gloves walking in the streets of Prague at the evening. They are no servants or waiters but participants of dancing lessons. At those dancing lessons, students have to be dressed formal, which means boys in tuxedos, girls in a night dress and court shoes.

In the Czech Republic, knowledge of dancing belongs to the elementary knowledge. Nearly every boy and girl at the age of 15 and 16 signs up for those classes. Although no modern dances are taught there! It is very interesting to see teenagers, who love to wear jeans and a piercing is no rarity, dressed in tuxedos and gowns!

At those dancing lessons, students learn classical dances like waltz, blues, foxtrot, cha-cha-cha, rumba or tango. No one is allowed in informal clothes for tango. Without dress, tuxedo and shoes with high heels there is no tango.

Dance lessons for young people And why so many students enroll? First of all, it has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Second of all, it is a great social event – students usually go there as a group of friends and afterwards they go together to a bar. And lastly, classical dances come handy at proms. If you can’t dance at prom, you look bad.

Dancing classes take place from September all the way to March. There is usually one lesson per week. Of course there are also dancing lessons for adults.

Dusicky - Czech Halloween

Nov 3, 19:50 Filed under czech-traditions

Well, actually, Czech “Halloween” is not celebrated on October 31st but November 2nd. Another difference is that Czech kids do not get dressed in costumes on that particular night. And also nobody is going door-to-door collecting sweets. Yes, I know that now you may thing that I am crazy, because Halloween without costumes and trick-or-treating is no Halloween! But what Czechs celebrate on November 2nd is similar to Halloween and I am going to tell you how!

For Czechs, November 2nd is a day called Commemoration of All the Departed. It means that people celebrate the memory of deceased relatives at this time. Especially on this day they think of their loved ones that are gone forever. Many Czechs make journeys to visit the places where their relatives rest at last – the graveyards. They decorate the graves of their dead, bringing flowers and lighting candles in their memory.

And how is this similar to Halloween? Halloween and what Czechs celebrate on November 2nd have the same roots! I know it seems unbelievable at first but continue reading and you will be wiser.

Dusicky - Czech Heloween Halloween originated among the Celts as a pagan harvest festival. Celts used to live not only in England and Ireland, as many think, but in most of Europe (around 500 BC). Celts, according to many evidence, lived in a region that is now the Czech Republic as well.

The Celts associated winter with human death. They believed that on October 31, which is the last day of the bright half of the year and the next day means the beginning of winter, the boundary separating the dead from the living became blurred. This day is therefore, based on Celtic mythology, a day when the spiritual world can make contact with the physical world.

During many years, every country has adjusted this Celtic festival as they liked it. Every culture adopted something else, changed it a bit, and over time even forgot the meaning of it. Czechs took the part saying that dead can speak to the living and vice versa. That is why they go to the cemeteries offering flowers, hoping that the dead will hear their prayer. Americans adopted the Celtic belief that malicious spirits might cross boundaries that night and threaten the community. That is why they dress up into scary costumes and spook other people.

I have, however, no explanation to why the feast in the Czech Republic has been shifted and celebrated on November 2nd. Any idea?

Anyway, on November 2nd, Czech cemeteries are decorated with flowers and glow with candles. It may be interesting for you to see this Czech tradition and feel the unique and picturesque atmosphere. You can visit the biggest graveyard in Prague – Olsany Cemetery (Olsanske hrbitovy in Czech). Take tram 10, 11 or 16 and get off at station Olsanske hrbitovy, or just walk from the subway station Zelivskeho (green line A). Just try not to sink into reminiscence.


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