For many Czechs, Christmas time is the most important and most beautiful time of the year. Loads of food, lots of alcohol and quite a few days off. It’s the best all-inclusive holiday time ever! Even though we are the most atheist country in Europe, we love Christmas. What Czech Christmas is like, you can learn everywhere on Google. I would like to focus on some lesser-known facts, fun traditions and habits we automatically do without realizing how funny or bizarre they can be in the eyes of foreign observers.
1. JESUS BABY SUPERSTAR
I feel like I need to start with this: In the Czech Republic, Santa Claus only brings Coca-Cola (in commercial), not presents. For delivering gifts we have super tuned „Baby Jesus“ called „Ježíšek“ in Czech language, who can carry all the presents and distribute them all over the country and even to Slovakia! Free of charge, always on time, trully a super baby…but nobody really knows how he looks like. Just try to google it, you won´t find a serious image of Ježíšek!
2. NO SHOWER BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Jusk kidding. Well, to make it clearer… the typical Czech Christmas meal on Christmas Eve is carp soup and fried carp served with potato salad. However, many Czechs buy these carps alive before Christmas and keep them in a bathtub at home. Kids like watching these poor slimy guys swimming in the super clean water (they must feel like they’re in heaven already). The Temporary Zoo in the bathroom means no shower for Czechs. Now you may ask what happens later… With the carp and with dirty Czechs… There are two options.
Both a bit cruel:
1) The carp is killed, Czechs take a shower and eat the carp
2) The carp is returned to the river where it usually dies after a temperature shock, Czechs take a shower and eat schnitzel for Christmas dinner.
3. WE STARVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Some people and also kids follow a nice old tradition of fasting on Christmas Day. Because those who don´t eat all day will see a golden pig on the wall in the evening (this is a promise of wealth, happiness and prosperity, so why not participate, right?). After whole day starving, your stomach is shrinked so much that you can barely finish the festive dinner you were looking forward to all day! Nice tradition 🙂
4. WE COOK UP A SCENT FOR CHRISTMAS
Czech Christmas smells like „purpura“ – a lovely, homey, herbal, spice-like scent typical for this season. If you’re asking what purpura is, I say that’s a pretty good question. Even some Czechs don’t know what this fragrance consists of. Czech purpura is a blend of herbs and spices, barks, needles and natural essences resembling mess or sawdust. Once we have a package of purpura at home we need to start to make it smell. How? It needs to be heated up!
We take a piece of tinfoil and place a handful of purpura on it. Then we put it on the stove, heat it up and let it smoulder for a bit. When the scent is intense enough and you still don´t see flames, just take a walk around your apartment and spread the Christmas fragrance all over. We love it! Forget about artificial air fresheners. Czech purpura is sold at every Christmas market, in flower shops or hobby markets. And it costs only 1,5 Euro.
5. BETTER CASH FLOW WITH CARP SCALES
This is a well-kept secret of all Czechs, hidden among coins in their wallet. Old Czech tradition says that if you keep carp scales in a wallet, you will have enough money for the whole next year. A couple of scales are wrapped in a tissue and placed under the plates at the festive Christmas dinner. Once we find them, we put them in our wallets right away.
6. SIT AND EAT!
This part is not dedicated to the tradition of holiday overeating. This is rather scary, dark tradition which causes a lot of stress to the host serving Christmas dinner. Once it starts, nobody can leave the table until everybody finish eating. So everything needs to be ready, prepared, close at hand and served: meals, drinks, salt, pepper, etc. Otherwise, if you leave the table during eating, something bad may happen to you during the next year. And yes, you have to go to pee before you sit down.
7. HOW MANY PLATES?
No matter how many people come over for Christmas dinner, there always needs to be an even number of plates set on the table. If you are a group of 3, you set the table for 4. Why? Because it is tradition and an odd number obviously brings bad luck and illness. Since we are incredibly sensitive and superstitious during the Christmas time, we like to follow all these kinds of (funny & ridiculous) rules and old traditions Just in case…
Merry Christmas to everyone!
Dana | guide for Prague Behind The Scenes Tours