Czech pre- Christmas Traditions

Czech pre- Christmas Traditions

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.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-33-48-pm

Cukroví 

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 😛

Advent Sundays

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.img_7080

Mikuláš

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

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

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!


READ MORE:

Halloween

Scandinavian Airline Review

 

Czech traditions: April 30

Today’s post will divert from the recent reviews and trip tips and go into the Czech culture a little bit. April 30th and May 1st are traditionally significant dates here in the Czech Republic…and you’re about to find out why.

So, what’s the deal with April 30th? Well, it is the night of the burning of the witches., one of the oldest Czech traditions. The closest thing you can equate it to in the English speaking world is Halloween, I guess (even though we also have a version of Halloween in the fall, go figure). But take away the kids in cute Disney masks and add witches being burned at the stake. Quite literally, although not to worry – the witches are made of hay and twigs.

IMG_8925

This night is an old pagan holiday that became ingrained into the Czech lifestyle. It’s the celebration of the beginning of spring (Maypoles sometimes make an appearance). The night between April 30th and May 1st has always been considered to be magical and there are many myths about it. People believed that on this night, witches would fly on their broomsticks to gather and perform rituals. And so to protect against these witches (ghosts and demons also), people would set fires on hills. Eventually, people added “witches” – the aforementioned puppets or broomsticks – on top of the fires to see the witches burn. During this night, people also took precautions to protect themselves, their fields and their cattle with special twigs and holy chalk.

Nowadays, the spiritual reasons for the holiday have long been (mostly) forgotten, save scary stories by the fire, but the tradition remains. While we no longer carry around holy items for protection, we still gather and make bonfires and “burn witches.”

IMG_8928After being gone on this day for quite a few years in a row, Pav and I decided to rediscover the holiday this year and go see a bonfire in a small Czech town. We arrived after the fire had been started (although we did see preparations earlier in the day) and watched. First of all, there were a lot more people than we anticipated. Second, it’s interesting how this night has evolved into something more resembling a music festival, rather than a pagan holiday. There were stands with beer and food, even a small stage with a folk band. It was a great gathering – what seemed like the entire town was there: little kids running around in witch costumes and with broomsticks, their parents drinking beer, teenagers pretending to be too cool to take part, yet sitting on the sidelines and the ever vigilant local firemen, watching to make sure nothing happens. Yet there were still aspects of the holiday that remained intact. And that’s what matters.

IMG_8931

If you watch Gilmore Girls, this event would be right out of the Stars Hollow book and I believe even Taylor would approve. So what do you think? Would you want to come and witness this?


READ MORE: 

Easter in the Czech Republic

5 things I never leave at home


Easter in the Czech Republic

Even though the Czech Republic is mostly an atheist country, we’re pretty big on certain holidays that originate in Christianity. Just like Christmas, Easter is a big thing. So, we’re going to take a break from Pav’s Japan coverage and tell you a bit about it.

Easter markets

In bigger towns, such as Prague, they have Easter markets, similar to the ones at Christmas. Everything is decorated in spring themes and people can walk around various booths, buying Easter decorations and food.

The traditions

An important aspect of Easter traditions are the decorations. People usually decorate their homes in a spring theme – branches, flowers, Easter eggs (which can be quite elaborate), bows in vibrant colors. Yellows and reds are very prominent.

Food is a big part of the celebrations. People bake lamb, usually instead of meat they make a pastry.

Easter Monday

This is actually the biggest day for celebrations and also the hardest to explain to our non-czech friends. Sunday is usually used for preparations for Monday, which is a national holiday and everybody gets the day off. Girls decorate eggs and boys maeaster-1274835_1280ke their pomlazka, which is made of braided twigs and decorated with bows. On Monday, boys walk around their villages or towns, door to door and lightly whip girls with their pomlazka while saying a poem. This is done to symbolica
lly ensure health and youth for the girls for the following year. As a reward, girls give the boy eggs that she decorated the previous day or chocolate (for adults, a shot of alcohol is also acceptable). It may sound odd to outsiders, but it is a part of the culture and history.

What do you think about Czech Easter traditions?


READ MORE: 

Japan

5 things I never leave at home