7 bizarre traditions you may experience during typical Czech Christmas

We are the 2nd most atheist country in Europe but we love Christmas. What Czech Christmas is like you can learn everywhere on the internet. In this article I would like to reveal some less-known facts, fun traditions and habits we practice every year without realizing how funny or bizarre they can be in the eyes of foreign observers. Enjoy!

czech christmas

Who is writing you this blog?

My name is Dana and I am running a tiny local business called Prague Behind The Scenes where I am showing my clients Prague downtown in a less touristy way. No microphones, no umbrellas, small groups only, no touristic stereotypes. And I also write a lot about Prague. Especially about less known facts you can´t find so easily online. Today about bizarre Czech Christmas traditions. Maybe you will learn something new about us.

czech christmas
This is me, by the mulled wine window. A lovely stop during my Christmas tours. Just ring a bell and this kind gentleman will serve you his delicious home made mulled wine. He doesn’t have a price list. But I always leave him fair amount of money….please do the same if you happen to meet him ❤️

1. Who brings the gifts? Baby Jesus!

I feel like I need to start with this: In the Czech Republic, Santa Claus only brings Coca-Cola (in the Christmas commercial on TV) but not Christmas gifts! For delivering gifts we have a super efficient „Baby Jesus“ called „Ježíšek“ ; who can carry all the presents and distribute them all over the country and even to Slovakia! Baby with super powers! But…nobody really knows how he looks like. Because Ježíšek comes secretly, usually when the family is eating the festive dinner or singing carrols. We think it´s a cute toddler with blond, curly hair. He ropes down from the sky on golden chain.

czech christmas
Ježíšek brings us presents. But I have never met him in person.

2. No shower before Christmas

Just 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, some 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 water. The temporary ZOO in the bathroom means no showers for Czechs.

Now you may ask what happens later… With the carp and with dirty Czechs….there are two options:

1) The carp is killed, Czechs take a shower and eat the carp for dinner.
2) The carp is returned to the river where it usually dies of temperature shock, Czechs take a shower and eat schnitzel instead.

I am a vegetarian and don´t practice any of these things mentioned above.

czech christmas
Most of the people buy the carps in the street stalls or at farmers markets. That´s another pre-Christmas bizarreness: the carps are killed right in the streets all over the city. Photo: licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, Sean a Anne Edison-Albrightovi

3. We starve on Christmas day (December 24)

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. Golden pig on the wall is a promise of wealth, happiness and prosperity. From the hunger you may see various things, maybe even the golden pig…good luck!

czech christmas
Fasting is hard when there is a freshly baked Vánočka on a table….Vánočka is a typical Czech pastry, something like German stollen but made of slightly different dough and without candied fruit. Only with rasins and almonds. Yum!

4. We cook fragrances

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 take it to the kitchen! Look why…

We take a piece of tinfoil and place a handful of purpura on it. Then we put it on the electric cooker or heat it up in the oven. 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! Czech purpura is sold at every Christmas market, in flower shops or hobby markets. And it only cost ca 50 CZK (2 Euro). You can easily bring back home a piece of Czech Christmas atmosphere.

czech christmas
This is a package of Czech purpura. When you put it on the tin foil and heat it up on the cooker or in oven, you will immediately smell typical Czech Christmas.

5. Better cash flow with carp scales

This is a well-kept secret of all Czechs, hidden among coins in our wallets. 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.

czech christmas traditions
Carp scales are put under the plates during the Christmas dinner. They symbolize money and wealth, that´s why we keep them in our wallets all year round. Photo: Eska Restaurant Facebook.

6. Sit and eat, you can´t leave!

This is a rather scary, dark tradition causing a lot of stress. Once the dinner starts, nobody can leave the table until everybody finishes their meal. So everything needs to be ready, prepared, close at hand and served: meals, drinks, salt, pepper, cameras, tissues, water, beer, glasses, etc. Otherwise, if you leave the table, something bad may happen to you during the next year. You’d better go to pee before you sit down.

7. Number of the plates on the table

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 odd numbers bring bad luck and illness. Since we are incredibly sensitive and superstitious during the Christmas time, we like to follow all these funny rules and old traditions Just in case…

czech christmas traditions
The number of plates on the table matters! Photo: Bonami.cz

And that´s it. Czech Christmas are beautiful but probably a bit crazy to you. Let me know what you think 🙂 If you are in Prague during Christmas, I wish you a lovely memorable holidays!

Merry Christmas, everyone 🙂

Dana, owner and guide for Prague Behind The Scenes | small-group tours and experiences.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to see Prague with me: dana@praguebehindthescenes.com

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