Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

In Czech Republic, and Slovakia, there are three distinct days to the holidays over here. The 24th is Christmas Eve (Štědrý den), the 25th is Christmas Day (první vánoční svátek), and the 26th is St. Stephen's Day (druhý vánoční svátek).

Today is the last day of the Christmas market.

Czechs decorate the Christmas tree during the day (December 24th) or the day before. The tree will stay up until January 6th for the Feast of the Three Kings.

Many families choose to fast until evening. Children are told that if they are able to wait until the evening meal that they will see a golden pig on the wall, which brings luck.

After dark, families sit down to a traditional dinner of fish soup and fried carp with potato salad (made with carrots, peas, pickles, celery, onion, eggs and mayonnaise).

A few days before Christmas Eve, huge barrels, with live carp swimming around in them, showed up in town. The buyer points to the fish he/she wants and takes it home. Most often the carp is taken home alive and allowed to swim in the bathtub until the morning of the 24th. I think I would freak out if I went to someone's house and saw a fish swimming around in the bathtub.
A common tradition here is to put a fish scale under the dinner plate, or in one's wallet, in order to have enough money in the upcoming year.

After Christmas Eve dinner comes the unwrapping of the presents. According to tradition, the presents were put silently under the tree by Ježíšek, the little baby Jesus.

It used to be St. Nicholas who distributed the presents. But during the 19th century the German tradition of the little baby Jesus was adopted by the Czechs. Today, Czech kids take advantage of both traditions by receiving gifts from both Ježíšek and Mikuláš.

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