Christmas Around The World – Czech Republic
Our previous festive trip looked at how Croatia celebrates Christmas.
Today we travel about 709 kilometres north to look at how Christmas is celebrated in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has the most castles and chateaux’s than any other country across Europe and is the home of the largest ancient castle in the world – Prague castle.
The capital of the Czech Republic – Prague, has the nickname “the city of a hundred spires” (which is actually an under count since there are well over 500 spires across the capital!).
A name familiar to many who sing Christmas carols – St Wenceslas, has a day celebrated by the Czechs at the end of September. On this day people go foraging for funghi in the forest.
06th December (St Nicholas Day)
Christianity accounts for around 31% of the population with the largest Christian faith being Roman Catholic (about 27%). What is fascinating is that almost 26% of the population class themselves as Atheists (although some studies have found up to 72% of Czechs do not identify with any religious group).
Christmas trees are popular and they’re decorated with cookies, handmade ornaments, chocolates and sweets wrapped in foil, and Christmas lights.
Traditional decorations, called Vizovické Pecivo, are made from flour, water and vinegar. Other traditional decorations were made from straw.
Advent wreaths are common and are made from thin pine branches with pine cones, dried berries and holly leaves as decoration.
Children watch for St Nicholas (called Mikuláš) on St Nicholas Eve.
He’s usually accompanied by an Angel and a Devil. He’ll then ask the children if they’ve been good and either ask them to sing a song or recite a poem, finally giving them a basket of presents which often contain fruits and chocolates.
Naughty children are likely to receive a lump of coal from the Devil.
Jezíšek (little Jesus) leaves presents under the Christmas tree during Christmas dinner. A bell is then rung while the children are still at the table (but usually after they’ve finished the main meal), that signals that the Jezíšek has been.
The presents are opened right after dinner.
Religious families will sing carols by the tree and go to church either as part of midnight mass or on Christmas day.
An old Czech superstition is that, on Christmas day, if you throw a shoe over your shoulder and it lands with the toe pointing to the door, then you’ll be married soon.
At meal times, no one is allowed to get up from the table until everyone is finished otherwise the superstition is that someone in the family will die within a year (how’s that for festive fun!).
For financial luck, the hostess places three fish scales underneath each plate.
Some people will fast on Christmas Eve (until dinner) in the hope of getting a vision of the ‘golden pig‘, which is a sign of good luck. Some families will have hard-boiled egg with lentils for lunch.
The traditional Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, and consists of fish soup made from carp, and fried carp with potato salad. Families also get together to bake many different kinds of cookies.
Next we travel to Africa to look at how Christmas is celebrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.