I wrote this blog post primarily for my colleagues from ON Semi. Hope you will get closer to our Christmas habits and traditions. This article describes situation in my family but in majority of parts it is valid for whole Czech Republic too.
Contrary to US holidays main Christmas day here is December 24. It is called Generous day and it is the day when people give gifts to each other. To children we usually say that gifts was given by baby Jesus.
In some families children decorate the tree to mark place where gifts should be delivered.
In some families (including ours) Christmas tree is delivered together with gifts. This causes some logistic issues (tree is usually about 2 meters/7 ft tall and fully decorated with a lot of glass decorations;-)) but also some fun to parents as it forces them to be imaginative 😉
Generous evening is most awaited part of the day (especially by children). Gifts are delivered after Generous day dinner that is usually between 4 or 5 pm (when sky becomes dark and there is first star).
When family finishes dinner everybody is waiting for sound of small bell from the room where gifts are expected to be delivered.
In our family we use trick with two cell phones. One has recorded sound of small bell as ringing tone and from the second one I’m calling from table. We have also remote controlled power outlet so the tree starts shining at this moment too. It looks like magic to children.
To make magic atmosphere for children during Christmas dinner adults also say: “I saw something in the garden… It’s not anymore there” or “There was some flash above the house of our neighbors” etc.
Generous day meals
For breakfast on generous day in our family there is served vánočka (Christmas cake plaited from dough) prepared by my wife.
Lunch is usually very light, usually some soup.
Main dish in generous day is dinner.
Most traditional meal for generous day dinner is fried carp and potato salad. There are two styles of potato salads: mayonnaise style (much more common) and vinegar style. Mayonnaise style is made from boiled potatoes with carrots, garden pea, celery and optionally (not everyone does) boiled eggs or apples. Vinegar style is simpler. Just boiled potatoes with fresh onion in water + oil + vinegar dressing.
Alternative to carp is pork coated with breadcrumbs and eggs and flour. This was preferred in my family (when I was young) as we don’t like fish.
During the generous evening dinner we also eat Christmas wafer with honey as starter to be healthy.
Generous day traditions
As major part of Czech nation is atheistic most Christmas traditions is not related to church traditions and they are some kind of superstition:
We say to children that when they will starve whole day until generous day dinner then they will see golden pig. Usually they don’t manage to starve whole day but when they do then we use flashlights and pig flashes for short time in the garden.
Kissing under mistletoe
Every girl and woman has to be kissed under mistletoe to be healthy next year. To have mistletoe in the house we cut it from the tree in the garden or we buy it and hang on chandelier.
Nobody can leave the the table during generous day dinner
There is superstition that nobody can leave the table during generous day dinner. Otherwise somebody from family will die next year.
Giving freedom to small carp
In some families (not ours) they buy two carps. They eat bigger one and smaller one gets freedom.
This is a bit controversial habit. It is because some animal protection activist sais that carp is extremely shocked by changes of temperature (from bathtub to river) and dies in the river.
Splitting the apple
Some people cut apple into two halves and in case that core has star shape then it is OK and in case that it has cross shape then the person that cut apple dies in next year.
Even atheistic people goes to church on Generous day. There is so called midnight mass, that usually takes place close to midnight from Dec 24 to Dec 25.
Hopefully you had fun while reading this post and in case you have any questions or comments feel free to add them as comments bellow this article. You can also share link to this article with your friends.