Christmas is coming! Since, many different cultures celebrate Christmas, so, obviously this means there are many different spins on it. I have had to explain Czech Christmas traditions so many times in the past, I can’t even remember all the reactions I got. A lot of people find our traditions weird and some just funny. I agree that some of the traditions are a little silly, but hey, I grew up on them and Christmas would not be the same without them. Here are just a couple of things we do in December before Christmas.
Cukroví are Christmas cookies. We usually make around eight or ten different types of cookies, and the grand total is usually somewhere around 800-1,000 pieces. It takes a lot of time to bake and a lot, a lot of time to then decorate them, but what would Christmas be without them? Of course we then share some with our family and friends, if they deserve it 😛
The four Sundays before Christmas Eve, we celebrate advent. There are a couple of traditions linked to this. First, we get a wreath with four candles on it, one to be lit each Advent Sunday. So every Sunday, usually in the evening, you sit down with your family have some tea or coffee and some cookies and light the candles, until all four of them are lit.
Mikuláš, or St. Nicholas, comes around on the 5th of December and brings chocolates, advent calendars, clementines and other little gifts to the children that have been nice. However, he does not come alone. Along with him, he brings the Angel and the Krampus, to represent good and evil. If you have been good all year and you recite a poem or sing a song, you get the nice little gifts from St. Nicholas. But if you have been naughty, you will get coal from the Krampus or, in the worst case scenario, he will take you away. Usually this wonderful tradition ends up traumatizing children.
Advent calendars are popular all around the world. And they are the same in Czech Republic, except for the fact that Mikuláš, or St. Nicholas, brings them on the 5th of December. The calendars can be either christmas themed or they can have different cartoon characters on them. Each day, until the 24th, you can eat one chocolate.
Christmas markets are my favorite. Nothing puts me in a Christmas-y mood like one of these markets in Old Town Square in Prague. Yes, they are insanely crowded, but the atmosphere is absolutely amazing, with the giant Christmas tree in the middle and little stands selling all sorts of products. Anything from tree decorations to sweets and hot mulled wine!
Svařák (Mulled Wine)
Nothing keeps you warm like a nice cup of mulled wine. If you are going to a Christmas market, forget the hot chocolate and tea, and have some mulled wine. Every stand has its own recipe, so naturally, you have to try several to find your favorite :). It perfectly completes the Christmas atmosphere at the market, so it is a must (unless you are under 18, then just stick to the hot chocolate, which is great as well)! But, if you are absolutely opposed to wine, then there are alternatives. Medovina (mead) is a great, very sweet substitute. Another substitute is grog, which is rum, hot water and lemon juice with a little bit of sugar to make it sweeter.
Hope this gave you a little bit of an insight into the Czech pre-Christmas traditions and hopefully you can visit Czech Republic and experience these first hand. If you do, enjoy the Christmas markets and the mulled wine!
Czech Christmas Eve traditions coming soon!