The Czech Republic has a rich cultural heritage, with unique and centuries-old holiday traditions that are still celebrated today.
Probably the most unique on this list is the Christmas Carp. Families eagerly await the Christmas markets, where live carp are sold in large tubs of water. This centuries-old custom involves purchasing the carp a few days before Christmas, taking it home, and keeping it in the family bathtub until December 24th. It then serves as the star of Christmas dinner, prepared in various ways, often fried and served with potato salad. The taste varies based on preparation, and it is quite often bony.
Today, this tradition has died out in popularity, but you can still find those who observe it every year. For those wishing to partake in this tradition, carp can be purchased in front of the Kotva Department store at Námestí Republiky or at the end of Charles Bridge, on the Mala Strana side.
Mikuláš Day, also known as St. Nicholas’s Day, is celebrated on December 5th. On this day, children eagerly await the arrival of Mikuláš, accompanied by an angel and a devil.
Mikuláš visits homes, schools, and public spaces, where he interacts with children. He carries a large book where he keeps track of children’s behaviour throughout the year, rewarding those who have been good with small gifts and treats. The angel represents goodness and rewards, well-behaved children, while the devil serves as a reminder to behave and encourages children to improve their behaviour.
Walking around Prague on December 5th, especially around Charles Bridge, you will be sure to come across this lively trio.
The tradition of the Nutcracker holds a special place in Czech culture. The Nutcracker ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is a beloved Christmas tradition worldwide, and Czechs have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Many families make attending a performance of the Nutcracker ballet a cherished holiday tradition. In addition to watching the ballet, Czechs also incorporate Nutcracker figurines into their holiday decorations.
This tradition highlights the importance of the arts and sharing time during the holiday season.
Finally, a special Czech tradition occurs on New Year’s Eve — apple reading. Participants gather round to cut open an apple and examine the arrangement of seeds inside. Some believe that the pattern of the seeds can predict fortunes for the upcoming year, such as love and health. If the seeds form a cross, it is interpreted as bad luck for the following year but, if they form a star, one can expect good fortune.
Although this is well understood to be superstition today, it is still a fun tradition to participate in – those wishing to observe can simply purchase any apple and get to predicting the future!
There are so many ways to get involved in Czech traditions and immerse yourself in the local culture. One of the easiest ways is to stay up to date on cultural events and to frequently check Facebook events. Another good resource is to check the websites of larger venues that host these celebrations. Some good ones are: Prague Zoo, Riegrovy Sady, and Výstaviště Praha.