10 Czech Christmas Traditions That You Will Love
Christmas time is the period of the year one should spend at home with their beloved. I think that this way of spending the feast is common to every culture – no matter where do you originally come from, you just want to be somewhere where you feel at home.
In the Czech Republic, we have some special traditions that you will love, even if you’re spending your holiday somewhere else. So, if you’d like to get some inspiration, you can read through this short list of our Czech traditions, and maybe try one of these – no matter where you are, you can still have a lot of fun.
A lot of Czech Christmas traditions are somehow connected to food and to the future telling – which is not surprising. During Christmas, we eat a lot, and by the end of the year, we retrospect the past and think about the future.
The food you will need is nothing really exotic. The main ingredients of typical Czech Christmas would be carp, apples, walnuts, honey… and then, of course, cinnamon, sugar and other spices.
Once you’ll get tired of eating – which could eventually happen – you should then try our traditions. As I said, they could help you guess what you should expect during the following year, no magic or crystal ball needed.
So, if you are brave enough… and you really want to know whether you’ll be lucky or not, married or single, rich or poor… you can choose one of these typical ways to guess – no guarantee included, yet fun guaranteed for sure.
1. A star in the apple means ‘health’
Autumn and winter is the time that all the Czechs perceive not only, but also, with a sense of smell. A typical scent of this period of the year is the smell of štrůdl (strudel), a home-made cake consisting of apples and cinnamon. You can surely try this cake in almost every Czech café, and of course not only – the recipe is typical and varied all over the Central and Eastern Europe, and you can find your piece of strudel in Austria, Poland, Slovakia, or even in the East of France.
But what would you do with those apples that simply did not fit into your cake? Well, that is a good question, since there’s always been more apples than the cakes.
You take an apple and cut it lengthwise, which means, not the usual way. In the middle, you see a symbol. If you’re going to be healthy next year, you will see a star. If some health issues may occur to you, there’d be a symbol of a cross or of, how we call it, “červíček”, “a little worm”. Normally, all the members of a Czech family would give it a try.
2. More apple symbolism
If you did not run out of apples, you can try another future telling, this time much less personal. You take twelve apple seeds and put them all in a bowl with water. The number of the seeds that would rise to the surface, is also the number of sunny and dry months. Unfortunately, you never know which months it would be.
3. Shoes are tied to marriage?
If you are asking yourself, whether you’d get married or not next year, there is a way to guess this, too. For this, you just need your shoe and a doorway. You stand back to the doorway, take the shoe, and throw it in the direction of the door. If the toe of your shoe is pointing to the doorway, it means that you are leaving the house, and, therefore, you are going to get married. If not, you’ll have to wait for the next year.
4. Walnut Traditions
Walnut is also a typical food that you’ll eat all the Christmas holiday – even if you do not want to, they’re just everywhere. Once you finish yours, some neighbors or relatives would bring you a new package from their garden. So, if you are tired of eating them, there is something more that you could do.
This time it’s very easy. You take a walnut and you crack it. If the interior is healthy, you have a great future ahead… if it’s black and rotten, well, you know what to expect…
5. And the walnuts strike back!
Once you eat all the walnuts, leave the shells. Each person takes one piece. Then take a bit of warm wax and stick a little candle inside the nutshell. Once it’s inside, you put all the shells in a bowl filled with water. You light the candles and let your little boats flow. If all the shells would remain together, it means, that the family would stay together, too. If there is a little boat that flows in another direction, it means that this person should expect some traveling in the upcoming year. Pro tip: always use different colors of the candles so you know which boat is actually yours!
6. Honey, honey, honey
This time it’s not about future telling. According to the tradition, you should put some honey on your face on the Christmas Eve. If you do so, everyone’s going to like you in the upcoming year. Very popular among children, and healthy for your skin, too.
7. Christmas is time for the Golden Pig
Since a lot of Czech traditions are also connected to food and consumption, I feel obliged to tell you about the golden pig. To see the pig is actually one of the main goals of the Christmas eve, but it’s not very easy to succeed.
The golden pig has been a symbol of Czech Christmas since the medieval time, and it should appear to you on the 24th December before the family dinner. Needless to say, only under certain circumstances!
The legend says, that the golden pig only appears to those who keep fasting on the 24th December. Some say, you are not allowed to eat any meat, and some say, that you should be starving the whole day.
Frankly, I tried both and I have never seen any golden pig, but maybe I did something wrong, who knows…
8. Lead Pouring at Christmas
This is probably the most funny, the most dangerous and strangest tradition that we have.
You take the lead (yes, you are right, the metal) and you melt it by heating it. Once the lead is melted, each member of the family take a part of the liquid and spill it into very cold water. The shape of the metal would then predict your future. Attention: there are no instructions for the future telling. It could just remind you of the Rorschach test – what crosses your mind, counts. A great work with your unconscious state of mind!
And, by the way – if you do not have any lead, which is actually not a shame, you can replace it with hot wax from your candles. The results would be the same.
9. Fortune and the Fish
There is yet another typical tradition that I did not mention. On the Christmas Eve, the Czechs eat carp – fried carp or a carp soup. Or both. Today, a lot of young Czechs actually do not really follow this tradition, since it is actually quite cruel.
The fish is sold on the streets of Prague from the beginning of December, and the fish is either killed in front of your eyes, or kept alive in your bath. And then it’s up to you to kill it yourself and prepare it for your dinner. With a great boom of vegetarianism and veganism, the present generation does not really approve of this carp home slaughtering as much as their ancestors. Still, there are some people who still like to do it.
And – now to the tradition. Once people prepare the fish, they keep the scale and put it in their wallet. If it’s there, it means that the person will be rich during the whole year. And, by the end of the following year, you just replace the scale by a new one. You can try to ask the Czechs if they have “kapří šupinka” (carp scale) in their wallet.
10. Love and Mistletoe
The mistletoe tradition is not as unique as the others. But I mention it so that we won’t forget about love. Love is still a universal aspect of the Christmas time and should not be forgotten. So, even if the toe of your shoe is not pointing to the doorway, do not forget to kiss your beloved one!
You get a mistletoe on the market (natural, silver- or gold-plated), hang it in the house. People then kiss under the branch. You keep the mistletoe in the house until the next Christmas time. That means that the luck, happiness, love and courage will remain at your home.
Veselé Vánoce! Merry Christmas!