LivingTravelCzech Christmas traditions and events

Czech Christmas traditions and events

In the Czech Republic, the Christmas season is a big problem. The country has a storied history full of annual traditions that can seem a bit unusual to tourists. As locals often spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with the family, an explanation of seasonal customs provides an insider’s look at visitors.

For country guests visiting during December, there are many local events and activities to explore.

Czech Christmas traditions

Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic is celebrated with a huge party. The featured dish is the fried carp, which was bought earlier and can be kept alive in the tub until ready to cook. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, the tree is decorated with apples and candy, as well as traditional decorations, but modern homes sometimes use commercially purchased Christmas decorations.

Santa Claus is not the gift giver in the Czech Republic. Instead, the Child Jesus (Ježíšek) brings gifts for children on Christmas Eve. Children usually leave the room where the Christmas tree has been placed until they hear the tinkling of a bell (rung by the parents) indicating that the Child Jesus has delivered the gifts. The Child Jesus is said to reside high in the mountains, in the town of Boží Dar, where a post office accepts and stamps letters addressed to him.

Saint Mikulas, or Saint Nicholas, also brings gifts, but in early December, on Saint Mikulas Day. Saint Mikulas is dressed as a bishop in white clothes, rather than in Santa’s red suit. Christmas Eve can culminate with midnight Mass, or the family can go to Mass on Christmas Day and then enjoy the midday meal together.

A common holiday superstition in the Czech Republic is that food and home can predict the future of the coming year. To see if good or bad luck awaits you, cut an apple in half and check the inner core. If the core shows four corners, that means bad luck is on the way, while a five-corner core translates to good fortune ahead. For young women waiting for love, the tradition is to throw a shoe over one shoulder at the nearest door: if the shoe is pointing at the door, then marriage is in the cards.

Czech events and activities

Visitors who are not lucky enough to get an invite from a local family can enjoy the season with a variety of public festivities.

In Prague, the Christmas tree in Old Town attracts thousands each year. The public square is the site of the city’s most famous Prague Christmas market with dozens of stalls selling local treats, gift options, and decorations. Visitors to Prague can enjoy live nativity scenes, ice skating and other Czech Christmas traditions throughout December.

A few hours from Prague awaits the castle, Český Krumlov. The best known residents are a quartet of furry friends who are the centerpiece of the Christmas event with the Castle Bears. In town, there are Christmas carols, an Advent photo studio, and even a winter river cruise.

The southern Bohemian town of České Budějovice is known for its musical entertainment. Bugles, bagpipers and folklore groups entertain the crowds in Přemysl Otakar II Square and provide a melodic backdrop to the annual Christmas market.

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