What are some of the Christmas customs and traditions in this country?
Anyone who has been in the country over the Christmas season is fully aware of the tradition of eating carp with potato salad for Christmas dinner. (For more information on the reason behind this tradition, click here.)
What other activities are traditional during the Christmas season?
On December 5, Mikuláš makes an appearance, along with an angel and a devil, to terrify and delight small children.
On December 24, the Czechs celebrate Štědrý den (Generous Day). This is also the name day for Adam and Eva. The Christmas tree is decorated, and a large dinner is prepared.
One tradition is to fast all day, until dinner is served (which should take place once the first star has appeared in the night sky). The person who accomplishes this feat should be able to see the vision of a golden pig, which will bring good luck.
When eating, nobody should sit with his or her back to the door. If the legs of the table are tied together, the residence will be protected against thieves in the upcoming year.
During dinner, Ježíšek steals through a window and leaves presents under the tree for the children (who are, of course, eating in a different room to that in which the Christmas tree is located). The presents are gleefully ripped into after dinner, assuming the children can wait that long.
Dinner, traditionally, consists of a whopping nine courses, and everyone is expected to finish their meal, leaving nothing on the plate. The leftovers are buried around trees, so that these trees will bear lots of fruit (or whatever it is they bear). Any household animals are fed after the humans eat, so that nobody goes hungry.
It is important for everyone at the table to rise at the same time after the meal; if one person leaves the table before the others, he or she is destined to die within the year. Christmas carols can be sung at the table before everyone surrounds the tree and begins to open presents.
A single woman is supposed to be able to tell her matrimonial future by throwing a shoe over her shoulder, in the direction of the front door. If it lands with the toe pointing to the door, she can start making out her guest list for the wedding, because she will marry within the year. Or, she can go outside and shake an elder tree. If a dog barks, she will marry a man who comes from the direction from which the bark was heard.
Some will attend midnight mass, and many churches will offer a special Mass for children, held earlier in the day. Many people spend December 25 and 26 (which are also holidays here) taking it easy and visiting relatives and friends.
Luckily, you don’t have to eat a carp, or potato salad, when you spend Christmas here. Some of the traditions have been modified to suit more modern tastes, and carp is far from the only food you can buy for your dinner!