12/26/17

Holiday traditions - Czech style


The holidays are a special time of the year because every family has its own special traditional celebration. And when you only celebrate a tradition once a year, you look forward to it year after year. Because traditions are important, there's a good chance that you spend the necessary time and effort on the traditions that make the holiday extra special for you and your family/friends. 

Consider your favorite movie, song, meal, dessert or game that you always look forward to on your favorite holiday. When something occurs only once a year, on a very special occasion, it's much more enjoyed compared to taking part in that tradition week after week, month after month. Let's not forget about the meaning behind the rituals, traditions and celebrations that have been in your family for longer than you can remember. 

If you are someone who gets overwhelmed and annoyed with a holiday that is heavily commercialized, consider exploring (or better yet, celebrating), a holiday with someone who is from another culture or nation. While you don't need to stop your own traditions, embracing a new culture can be an educational, enriching and inspiring part of life. 

As you may know, Karel is from Czech Republic and all of his family lives in Czech Republic. It's been 17 years since Karel has celebrated Christmas with his family. For the past eleven years, Karel has shared his holiday traditions with me - which is very important to me as I love learning about the rich customs, traditions and celebrations that take place in other cultures.

Here are a few of the Czech Christmas traditions (from this link):

During the evening of the 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve), children are very excited and watch for St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš) to arrive. He normally is accompanied by one or more angels and one or more devils. He asks the children if they've been good all year and also asks them to sing a song or recite a poem, and gives them a basket of presents, often containing chocolate and fruit. If you've been naughty, the devil might give you a lump of coal. St Nicholas' Day is a very separate holiday than Christmas.

In the Czech language Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Veselé Vánoce'

The main Christmas celebrations are on Christmas Eve. Some people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of 'the golden pig' appear on the wall before dinner! This is meant to be a sign of good luck! (Karel's family didn't do this).

The Czech traditional Christmas dinner is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. The meal often consists of fish soup (made of carp), and fried carp with potato salad. (We modify this meal with tempeh for me and trout for Karel. Karel always makes his famous potato salad, where the only cooked vegetable is the potatoes. Everything else is raw. It tastes incredibly good!). 



Ježíšek 'Little Jesus' (the Czech version of Christkindl) brings presents during the Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the Christmas Tree. Czech children have their dinner in a different from where the tree is located. When they hear the bell ring (usually after the children have finished eating their main meal but when they are still at the table), that means that Ježíšek had been and has left their presents under the tree. The presents are normally opened right after dinner. (The Christmas tree was never purchased or decorated until Christmas eve and he never saw the tree until the bell rang, which told Karel that "Little Jesus" came. The tree stayed up until the New Year.).

During the holiday season apples are used a lot by Czech people to predict the future. After Christmas dinner, every person is given a apple which they cut in half from the stem down and they study the shape that the seeds inside show. If the seeds appear in a star shape, it means that health, happiness and unity is predicted for the new year. But if it’s shaped like a four-pointed cross that means bad luck will be brought to someone at the table and someone will get sick or even die. (We have never done this but Karel told me about this tradition).

We hope you enjoyed your holiday traditions!