Czech Christmas traditions you should not miss

08/11/2021

Although Czech Republic is a very atheist country, the christmas traditions are close to hearts of Czech people. Especially little children are very excited about the upcoming winter time, where they receive a lot of gifts and the household is full of sweets.

Here are some tips on how to celebrate the Christmas season the Czech style.

Advent Candles

This probably does not come as a surprise but a lot of Czechs make advent wreaths for their door and an advent candle wreaths or decorations for the home interior.

Make it yourself:

  • Prepare four candles. Ideally, they should not be the same size (as they will perish at a different speed), but it does not matter too much.
  • You can decorate the candles, add some dried orange slices around or glue them to a wreath. You can also add numbers to the candles if you want.
  • Each Sunday (starting November 28 this year) light the candles:
  • First Advent Sunday, light the candle nr. 1
  • Second Advent Sunday, light the candle nr. 1 and 2
  • Third Advent Sunday, light the candle nr. 1, 2 and 3
  • The final Advent Sunday, light all the candles together

Advent Calendar

Who does not love chocolate and surprises? Advent calendars come is all possible shapes and sizes. Opening a new window every day since December 1st is a great joy that you can give yourself even as an adult.
You can try to DIY an advent calendar or check the shops - they now offer a great variety of these calendars, so you are surely to find the one for you 😊

Mikuláš - St. Nicolas day

On the night before the St. Nicolas day (6th of December), there is a tradition of St. Nicolas and his group to go around the town and give children little gifts depending on how good they were.

Nice children get a package with fruit and chocolate. The naughty children get coal, potatos (or potato peals) and face a danger of being taken by the devil to the hell.

This tradition is not celebrated everywhere the same. Children can receive the package in way that they prepare the sock on a window and St. Nicolas fills it with gifts overnight.
But people also dress in costumes as St. Nicolas, devils and angels and visit children directly in their homes. The children then receive the package after they recite a poem or sing a song. Recently, there were several studies pointing out that seeing the masks can be very traumatizing for children, so this tradition is on a slow decline.

Make it yourself

  • The adults usually celebrate this event by going to a theme party
  • You can also prepare a package of tangerines, bananas, wallnuts and chocolate for your loved ones and leave it behind their window

Christmas Eve

On the 24th of December, families get together and celebrate over a lot of food and drinks (stay tuned for our next blogpost, where we give you tips for the best Czech Christmas recipes).

Gifts are put under the Christmas Tree (which is decorated however you like) by "baby Jesus" - a mystical figure which is used as a story for small children on how the gifts are being delivered. The children create a list of things they wish for themselves for Christmas during December and leave it on the window or send it via post to baby Jesus.
The gifts are usually opened directly after the Christmas dinner.

In some families, it is a tradition to turn on the TV afterwards and watch a fairytale together (Czech TV releases a new one every Christmas just for this ocasion).

Magic on Christmas Eve

Christmas is connected to a lot of magical ceremonies that vary region by region. Here are a few you can try 😊

  • Open 4 walnuts one by one. Each symbolizes a season in an upcoming year. If the walnut is good, you will be healthy. Bad walnut symbolizes sickness in that season.
  • Leave one seat and a place setting free at a table. It is meant for an unexpected guest.
  • Buy a "Lead pouring" set (available in supermarkets around christmas time) and try the fortune telling out!
  • Take a whole apple and cut it in half - if you see a star in the center, it means luck.
  • Stand with your back to the door. Throw a shoe to the door direction. If the shoe points out the door, you will marry soon.
  • Use the empty halves of walnuts and put mini-candles inside. Assign each one to a family member. Put the "ships" in a large pot of water and see what they do. The "ships" then predict if you will stay together or go your own ways.
  • Give a mistletoe to a friend! It should be hanged in your home, but the tradition tells us that you should never buy it for yourself - it needs to be gifted.

Other ways to celebrate

For Christians, the celebrations have a much deeper and more spiritual meaning. During the whole christmas time, you can visit the churches. Very often, choirs have performances during the advent period in the church or on various squares in cities.
Very special for Czech people is the Midnight Mass during the Christmas Eve. Even atheists usually go to see that mass in their local church.

Don't forget to also visit your local advent market and go see a town's Christmas tree on a square. These occasions often include meeting friends or family, drinking punch (or hot chcolate) and having fun. Just don't forget a warm clothing, as you will be staying outside quite a while.