Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north-east, Germany to the west, Slovakia to the south-east and Austria to the south.
Prague is the capital and largest city of the country.
Christmas Celebrations in Czech Republic :
Czechs are one of the most irreligious nations on Earth, and as such religious traditions are not widely adhered to, and Christmas practices take many idiosyncratic forms based on familial traditions. Christmas is not associated with Christianity to the extent it is elsewhere, and is widely observed by non-Christian groups, such as the Vietnamese and Jews. Christmas Eve (Vánoce) on 24 December is celebrated as Štědrý den, which means “Generous Day”. 25th and 26th December are Public holidays.
In the Czech Republic, preparations for Christmas begins right from around mid-November. Houses are thoroughly cleaned, carpets washed and furniture dusted. Gift shops and departmental stores are seen to be decked for the occasion.
The Advent period begins here four Sundays before Christmas Eve. During this time, a wreath is made of several evergreen branches fastened together, decorated with ribbons, pinecones and other trinkets and four candles placed around it, each representing one of the four weeks of the Advent period. Children are gifted beautiful Advent calendars to count the days to December 25. Every day they open one of the 24 small windows in it and find a small reward, usually a piece of chocolate, behind each of them.
A well known custom observed here is “Barborky” that is practiced on the feast day of St. Barbora. On every 4th of December, young girls of marriageable age cut off a twig from a cherry tree and put it in water. If it blooms by Christmas Eve, the girl is believed to get married sometime during the coming year. The Christmas season in the Czech Republic begins with the feast and the visit of St. Nicholas or Svaty Mikalas on December 6th. The feast of St. Nicholas (or Svaty Mikalas) is enthusiastically celebrated here. During the evening of the 5th December, children watch the sky for any sign of St. Nicholas.
According to tradition, gifts are brought by Ježíšek, or “baby Jesus”. The gifts are surreptitiously placed under the Christmas tree, usually just before or during dinner. Children have to wait for the ringing of a Christmas bell – the sign that Ježíšek has just passed by – to run for the presents. That happens at the end of their Christmas dinner. Fish soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad are a traditional dish for the dinner. There is a rich tradition of hard baked Christmas sweets (Cukroví). Sweets like Linzer cookies and Vanilla roll or food items such as “Vanoka”, traditional Christmas loaves. These are either bought or even baked at home.
Christmas trees are set up, either on December 23rd or 24th, in individual homes and even in public squares in Czech towns and cities. The Christmas tree on Prague’s Old Town Square is very popular and a tourist attraction during the season. Throughout the republic, the Nativity Scene is created in varying sizes and from various materials like wood, paper, ceramics, gingerbread and the like. The Baby Jesus, surrounded by Mary and Joseph, form the focus of the manger scene.
The main celebrations are on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve families gather at home to decorate the Christmas tree and prepare dinner. Many people, especially the devout ones, fast all day long on Christmas Eve and break it with a grand meal in the evening, when the first star emerges in the night sky. All relatives and friends are invited to the Christmas dinner. Presents are exchanged after dinner and often, fortunes are told. At midnight, people attend Holy Mass, known as “Pasterka”.
On Christmas Day the churches in Czechoslovakia are adorned with evergreens and Christmas Trees. The festivities last for three days. Czechs traditionally have a cod roe soup on this day and tempt each other with tales of a mythical golden pig. Gifts and greetings are sent out to friends and family members.
Other Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions involve predictions for the future. Apples are always cut crosswise: if a perfect star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, distorted star means a bad year or illness, while a cross may suggest death. Girls throw shoes over their shoulders – if the toe points to the door, the girl will get married soon. Another tradition requires pouring some molten lead into water and guessing a message from its shapes.
Christmas celebrations are grand in Captal City of Prague. Apart from that notable Christmas celebrations is Czech Republic take place in bigger and populated cities like Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Liberec, Olomouc, Ústí nad Labem, České Budějovice, Hradec Králové, Pardubice, Havířov, Zlín, etc.
In the Czech language Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce’.
We wish all readers Merry Christmas 2016 & Prosperous New Year 2017 !!!