The Czech Republic is amongst one of the most atheist countries in the world yet Czech people are incredibly keen on upkeep of various (sometimes rather unorthodox) traditions. Every time I mention any of these to my friends here in the UK they either shake their head in disbelief or straight up don’t believe me. Let me introduce you to a handful of these strange Czech Christmas traditions I guarantee will raise your brows (in amazement and perhaps even dread).
🎄 Which Czech Christmas traditions are the weirdest?
⭐ There’s no Santa
Czech people don’t do Santa. It’s a little Baby Jesus who brings all our presents! Don’t ask me how he does it since he’s a little toddler rather than an old hunky man but well, we all get them so it must work. And a crazy story to top it off? When I was about 5 years old Baby Jesus came to bring our presents when we were watching the telly in the evening. To this day I have absolutely no idea how he’s done it. Because both my mum & dad were with me the whole time and I genuinely believe magic must have been involved. There’s just no other way.
⭐ Christmas Day isn’t all that festive
Christmas Day doesn’t mean a lot to us. It’s more like Boxing Day here in the UK. You go to see your family, maybe go for a frosty walk and just enjoy all your presents. We get our presents in the evening of the 24th December. Once you hear a bell ring you know that Baby Jesus has been & left presents under the Christmas tree. Go & get them!
⭐ The Golden Pig
Christmas Eve is a fast day for us. If you manage to fast all day without eating absolutely anything at all you’ll feel pretty sick get to see the Golden Pig which brings you good luck!
⭐ Killing the carp
One of the cruellest traditions – yet not many people bat an eyelid over it is killing the carp. Just like English people eat turkey on Christmas Day Czech national dish on Christmas Eve is fish soup, potato salad with mayo and fried carp. Traditionally you get your carp at the Christmas markets where the fisherman takes it out of a tub and cuts its head off right there in front of you or you take the carp home, put it in the bath tub for a couple of days and either kill it yourself just before the Christmas dinner or release it into a pond (which usually ends in the carp’s death anyways because they suffer from a temperature shock). I suppose you could buy a pack of fillets in the supermarket but that wouldn’t be very traditional, would it?!
⭐ You’re not excused from the Christmas table
Traditionally no one is allowed to be excused from the Christmas table until everyone’s finished their dinner. If you do have to get up and leave the table the tradition says you’ll die the following year. Yeah, we don’t mess about.
⭐ Purpura & Raucherkerzen
No, I’m not talking about a nasty skin disease (which is what Purpura means in English apparently – do NOT google it). I’m talking about a traditional mix of fragrant herbs which we burn on the stove – it makes your whole house smell like an old school candy shop! Or you can burn Raucherkerzen – tiny black incense domes that smell like Christmas with a waft of a really old church.
⭐ Carp scales in your wallet
To avoid an empty wallet in the year to follow make sure you keep a carp scale or two in your wallet at all times. Yeah, one from the carp you just killed will do just fine.
⭐ Pouring lead
We’re big on Czech Christmas Eve prophecy. If there’s a way to foresee what happens in the year to come, Czech people are on it. One way to do that is to pour hot lead. You can buy little lead balls in all major supermarkets. Or even Christmas markets together with little ladles to pour the lead with. Heat up the lead above a candle or a hob and pour it into cold water. Once the lead’s cooled down it’ll look like a splatter – perfect for reading your future! Does it look like a cross? Damn, someone (probably you) is going to die next year! Is it a heart? You will be loved! Is it a circle? You’re getting married! So. Many. Possibilities.
⭐ And it doesn’t just end there
We can see future in absolutely everything. Czech people cut apples in half. If your half has got a nice regular star in the middle you’re all good, if it looks like a cross – you know, you’re probably going to die. We put tiny candles in walnut shells and watch them sail around a sink or a basin full of water. Each member of the family has his own little walnut boat.
If your boats are sailing together then it means you’ll grow close, if it sinks – chances are you are going to die. And one that’s not all that popular anymore. Girls used to go out just before midnight to shake an elderberry bush and ask where her future husband’s coming from. You get the hint from which way the bush is swaying towards. Back in the day it was much clearer because there was probably just a single house in every direction.
⭐ Doing certain things on Christmas Eve can also mean bad luck (or you know – death)
On Christmas Eve you shouldn’t sow or knit (if you do you’re inviting mice to come & chew on it when the new year comes). You’re not allowed to do your laundry (you know how it goes by now, don’t you). You are also not advised to clean the house or do any sort of tidying up in general (brings bad health to the house). Or write a love letter (which would result in an inevitable breakup).
I love Czech people but damn – we are a superstitious bunch, aren’t we! In my short quarter-of-a-century life I’ve done all of these at least once or even multiple times. From the carp (I didn’t actually DO it – but it’s everywhere around you at Christmas) to shaking an elderberry bush (because what if!). Now imagine all the traditions we have stopped doing because they were just a little too far fetched!
Have a very merry Czech Christmas. Hope you have the most wonderful day, no matter how crazy (or boring) your traditions are! And if you’re in Prague don’t forget to see the markets!