czech customs

4 Czech Christmas Customs Travelers Should Know

in Culture by

Czech Christmas customs and traditions are different than what most people are accustomed to in their native countries. Yes, there are some similarities, but the actual customs are an excellent opportunity to experience life as a Czech.

Travelers should be aware of some of the most common customs and traditions if traveling to the country this Christmas season.

1. Christmas Markets Are Traditional in Every Sense

If you’ve never been to a “true” Christmas market, it’s time to visit one of Prague’s local markets. Old Town Square has the best-known and largest Christmas market in Prague. You’ll find everything in the Square, including:

  • Street stalls
  • Trdlo
  • Ham
  • Cinnamon

You’ll see Christmas markets are heavily trafficked by travelers, and the prices can be very high – especially for the ham.

2. Mikuláš

Prague has something extraordinary on the night of December 5th. If you’re out and about in almost any square that has a Christmas market, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the area at around 5 pm.

On this particular night, you’ll find St. Nicholas roaming the streets, but it’s a bit different than what you would expect.

St. Nicholas is accompanied by devils and angels. They roam the streets looking for the kids who misbehaved all year and those who have been good. Kids will be seen singing carols and reciting poems.

It’s a fun way to see how Czech natives view St. Nicholas.

3. Plates Filled with Fatty Foods

Fatty foods are a true delight, but a lot of people that aren’t accustomed to a high-fat diet may have trouble digesting all of the rich food they eat while on holiday in Prague. The problem has grown so out of control that the fat from a traditional Christmas causes the local sewer systems to become clogged.

Even with new technologies, such as trenchless sewer repair, the issues continue to be a real problem.

Prague consumes some 350,000 fish during Christmas Eve, and all of these fish are the friend in oil. Roast duck and goose are also on the menu on Christmas. Grease is often poured down the drain, leaving 9 to 10 tonnes of fat at one sewage plant alone during Christmas.

But the food is delicious and the perfect fit for anyone who enjoys fried, fatty foods on their plate.

4. Telling the Future

Foretelling is a major part of the Czech tradition, and this is a lot of fun for someone that has never experienced one of these events before. The future is told as well as foretelling marriage. You’ll find that there are many options available for predicting the future:

  • Floating Walnut Shells: Little boards made of walnut shells are placed in a bowl of water with a bit of burning candle on the shell. Boats that make it across the bowl mean the person will live a long life. It’s bad luck if the boat sinks.
  • Cutting the Apple: An apple is cut in half at the dinner table, and both halves are then shown to the entire table. A core that has a star shape indicates everyone will get together the coming year. If the core has a four-pointed cross, it means that someone at the table will fall ill or die before the next Christmas holiday.
  • Lead Pouring: During the pouring of the lead, lead is melted and then poured into a water container. The shape of the lead will tell the pourer’s future.

You’ll also find shaking the cherry tree twigs of the elder tree to be a way to foretell marriage.

Christmas customs are a fun way to catch a glimpse into the lives of Czech natives. If you’re in the country this Christmas, make sure you partake in some of these traditions, too.

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