Christmas in Czech Republic

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Christmas in Czech Republic and Slovakia is stretched across the 24th, 25th and 26th, with most of the celebrations actually being on Christmas eve otherwise known as Štědrý den', which mean "open-handed day” or “generous day”. Gifts are exchange in the night after dinner and are believed to be bought by Ježíšek meaning "baby Jesus".

A lot of the old traditions are still followed by all generations to this day. On Christmas Eve people are taught to fast before their dinner so they can see a ‘golden pig’.The meals themselves are often made up of food groups that are very different to western Christmas meals, the most popular meal being carp.

There are lots of old meals traditions that are not still followed today, understandably as they’d be very hard to hold up and enjoy a meal, they include;

• Lights are not to be lit till the first star comes out and that is when dinner shall be served.
• All set places on the tables should be even, if an uneven number of guests are seated an extra place should be set.
• Table legs should be tied together to prevent the house being broken into throughout the oncoming year.
• 9 courses should be served at dinner.
• On Christmas eve there shall be no alcohol.
• Nothing should be left on plates, everyone should finish their meal.
• Any leftovers (crumps, bones etc) should be buried under a garden tree.
• No-one should be hungry on Christmas Eve so the animals/pets should be fed after dinner.

They are very particular about their Christmas dinner carp.
It must have been reared in a manmade pond and be fresh, it is sold in big barrels on market streets, if families buy it before Christmas they have been known to keep it in the bath tub as a temporary pet for their children.

After dinner they carol and then proceed to their Christmas trees to open presents, which they believe to have been left by baby Jesus, who sneaks through the window to deliver the gifts. Baby Jesus himself has no symbolic image held to him.

A lot of people also visit a midnight mass at their local churches.

With Christmas also spreading across the 25th and 26th more festivities and meals continue, they’re also referred to as the First and Second Christmas Holidays, or the Christmas Feast (Boží hod vánoční) and St. Stephen's Day (Sv. Štěpán).

On St. Stephens day teachers and students originally visited poor people to carol for them, but these days it’s usually treated as a relaxing day or a day to visit friends and families.

Other traditions are also followed over the three days including cutting apples crosswise; if a star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, while a cross suggests a bad year. After girls throw shoes over their shoulders if the toe points to the door the girl shall soon be married.