Christmas is very popular holidays in the Czech Republic. It all starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve – this period is called Advent. We have the typical round wreath with four candles and each Sunday one candle is lit, their light symbolize the coming of the Christ. During the Advent we visit the Christmas markets to enjoy time with friends, listen the Christmas concerts, eat the potato pancakes, drink the hot wine and of course the beer. Traditionally we bake many kind of Christmas cookies at home, each family has own secret recipes.
The 6th December, the Day of Saint Nicholas, is very special day for the children. On the Eve of this day, St Nicholas, angels and devils comes to Czech houses. St. Nicholas gives sweets and fruits to children who were good during the year, but they have to sing or say a poem. If they were not good and didn’t listen their parents, they will receive only the coal and potatoes, in the worst case the devil will put them in the bag.
The main day is the 24th December – Christmas Eve. It all starts in the morning, when we have the Vánočka (Christmas sweet bread with raisins and almonds) for the breakfast. After breakfast we decorate the Christmas tree, listen the carols and watch the fairy tales. The most favorite fairy tale is Popelka (Cinderella). If you want to see the Golden Pig in the evening, you must fast for the whole day. The tradition is that the family sits down at the Christmas table with the first appearing star and everyone should put the scale from the carp under the plate (to have money and abundance in the next year). The traditional Christmas dinner consists of the fish soup (pea soup or other vegetable soup is also possible) the potato salad and the fried carp (or other fish). The tradition is to leave one empty place for passerby and people in need, and no one can leave the table during the dinner so that the family can again all gather next Christmas. After the tinkle of a bell whole family goes to see the presents under the Christmas tree, which Ježíšek (the Baby Jesus) brings them. At midnight is the traditional Christmas mass in the church. On the 25th and 26th December continue the celebration of Christmas, we meet our relatives, on St. Stephen’s Day we traditionally eat the duck with cabbage and dumplings.
Text by Michaela Kawanová and Tereza Lišková
Christmas in France
Christmas is a traditional event, celebrated in a lot of different ways according to the traditions of each region. So in France we have a lot of specificities but I’ll tell you how we celebrate Christmas in general.
Most of the religious people in this country are Catholics and our events or traditions are related with this religion. The celebrations starts at the beginning of December, we use a special calendar called Advent calendar used to count the days in anticipation of Christmas in which one we find chocolates hidden behind each day of the month. This makes echo to the Christians people who were waiting the birth of Jesus, so it ends the 24th of December. During this period we also prepare all the decorations in the streets, the Christmas trees, the Christmas markets, it’s a month full of festivities.
The night between 24th and 25th of December, we spend time with our family. Some people are going to the church and after that we give presents to each others. Those gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and supposed to be delivered by Santa Claus (Children believe this part of the story, but usually the parents put it when everyone is in the church). After that, we can finally sit for the dinner. There is a lot of dishes so I’ll write you the most popular. The meal starts with oysters (some sea shells) and foie gras (liver of a goose specially fattened for the circumstances). After comes the main dish which is usually game meat or turkey with seasonal vegetables. Then, we eat salad and cheeses before the dessert, generally a Christmas log. Everything is complemented by fine wine and Champagne.
We party like this all the night long and the festivities continues the 25th which is a public holiday when everyone is enjoying time with family !
Text by Quentin Mauboussin