The Czech Republic is one of the ten most visited countries in the world. They come here for a variety of pleasures. Some like the culture of this country, others come for a colorful holiday, and some go “off” in Czech pubs. Once you are in a wonderful European country, it is hard not to notice the special national atmosphere that reigns there. Czechs are quiet, good-natured and cheerful people. They love their homeland, honor the memory of ancestors, reverently refer to nature, have their own customs, similar to ours. Traditions of the Czech Republic start small: with meetings, communication, behavior, dancing, celebrations . So what are they?
Secrets of Czech mentality
Czechs, like no other nation, love everything mysterious, mystical and spooky. In Prague alone there are several sites that confirm this view: the Museum of Ghosts, Museum of Torture. Even one of the most popular nightclubs has somewhat scary interior. During its long history Czechs have developed an ironic attitude to the otherworldly world. Take for example the famous Kostnica, where the exhibits are made of human bones. Creepy, isn’t it?
Each nationality has its own mentality and character traits that distinguish them from each other. Spotted by other peoples, they have become a kind of “sign” of distinction. For example, the French are amorous, the Germans are called pedants, the English are famous as an emotionally reserved nation, the Russians are hospitable, but they like freebies and the odd man out. As for the Czechs, they have not yet found a succinct and succinct definition. Perhaps it is because of the eventful history of the Czechs? In any case, their mentality is peculiar and multifaceted, and in some ways similar to all European nations at once. Czechs are conservative like the English, hospitable like the Spaniards, formalistic and tidy like the Germans.
December is the richest month for holidays.
Most of all, local traditions and customs are expressed in the celebration of religious and national holidays. Czechs are Christians, so like everyone else in Europe they celebrate Christmas and Easter. However, Catholic Christmas in the Czech Republic is preceded by several national holidays, “gathered” in one month:
- December 4 is St. Barbara’s Day;
- December 6 – St. Nicholas Day;
- December 13 – St. Lucia Day;
- December 24 – Christmas Eve.
December opens with St. Barbara’s Day, when it is customary to cut branches off cherries and place them at home in a container of water. According to a popular belief the cherry twigs should turn green by December 25, then the owner will have all his/her wishes fulfilled. By the way, the girl, whose cherry sprig “in time” has blossomed “should” get married in the new year.
Next comes St. Nicholas Day, which in Czech is called Mikuláš. This holiday is accompanied by street performances when Mikuláš (usually a disguised schoolteacher) walks the streets with a “devil” and an “angel.” Meeting parents walking with their children, the “strict” Mikulash asks if the child has behaved well during the year. If parents assure him that their child is obedient, he receives toys and sweets. A mischievous, stubborn child who has no fun gets a charcoal for his or her bad behavior.
St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13. Lucia is a very real character! Many centuries ago, a beautiful Sicilian woman actually lived. The beautiful and wealthy girl, having secretly taken a vow of celibacy, wished to cancel her marriage with the groom chosen by her parents. The rejected bridegroom “surrendered” the girl to justice, who subjected her to cruel torture to make her renounce her faith, and to murder. Lucia’s execution took place on December 13.
A symbol of purity and chastity, St. Lucia is associated in Czechs with the pre-holiday cleaning in honor of Holy Christmas, which primarily concerns hostesses. In some areas of Bohemia, girls wear long white robes, walk through the streets and perform various roles. They may walk into a pub or a pub out of the blue, walk up to an idle man, and sprinkle flour on him. By this action they show, as they say, “a business has its time, a jolly good time”, i.e. first the work, and only then – rest. The modern interpretation of the holiday looks different: on this day women just take a day off from cleaning, cooking and other household chores.
Traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
On Christmas Eve, otherwise known as “Bear Christmas,” it is customary in the Czech Republic to feed bears something tasty. Real bears can be found in the castle Cesky Krumlov – the second largest castle in the Czech Republic after Prague Castle, the symbol of which is a bear. Bear “dynasty” is kept in the special place around the castle since times of Rozhnbergs – owners of Krumlov in XIII-XVII centuries.
Some go to Český Krumlov, and some take a walk on Vltava, and not just for fun, but with a purpose. Czechs have a good tradition – to buy a huge carp before Christmas and send it free. At the height of Christmas fairs in the streets of the Czech Republic set up huge barrels with live carp. The kids are thrilled when the adults throw the fish into the Vltava River. The carp lives in any body of water in the Czech Republic and in the main waterway of the country as well. This action is a symbol of generosity and leniency, because Christmas Eve in Czech Republic is also the Day of Generosity!
Carp cannot be substituted with other kinds of fish – bad luck! Some of the fish (the luckier ones) will disappear into the waters of the Vltava River, while the rest have a different fate, no less honorable – to be the main dish on the Christmas table. The fact is that Christmas is preceded by Advent, a four-week Lent, when it is not allowed to eat meat. The festive Czech table features carp head soup, and the main treat is fried carp with potato salad.
This holiday is celebrated with family and invite relatives or friends. It is not recommended to celebrate it alone, so lonely people are invited by neighbors or distant relatives. At the table should sit an even number of people or stand an even number of instruments, and the table should be nine different dishes. And the owners should take care of all the necessary things, so that never during dinner to get up from the table: happiness will scare away.
One should sit at the table not earlier than 6 p.m., with the first star in the sky. Under the plates in the old days and today necessarily hide fish scales or a coin, as a good luck charm for the year. Then this talisman is put into a purse and carried with you.
Dinner must be eaten to the last crumb on the plate. Only when the meal is finished can those present get up from the table. Dinner is also given to the pets. The remnants of their food in the old fashioned way should be buried in the garden or where there are fruit trees. There is a belief that after such an action, the trees will bring an excellent harvest of fruits in due time.
The festive dinner is finished with tea drinking and fortune telling about health, luck in the next year, and success in business. Czech girls, like in other European countries, fortune-telling about the future husband-in-law. For example, if you crack walnuts, which turn out to be with a whole kernel, it means that the whole year will not have problems with health. Girls used to use the shells of cracked walnuts to understand “whence” (from which side) would come betrothed. For this purpose, the shells were thrown into the water and looked where they would swim.
Officially Christmas Eve “ends” with a Christmas mass in churches, and on the next day there are festive hymns and ceremonies. At home, the holiday takes its course: the whole family participates in the preparation of holiday cookies, with the obligatory inclusion of children in the baking process.
The “magic” of the holiday
Holiday baking is an obligatory and “delicious” attribute of Christmas. For example, the girls must bake more than 10-15 kinds of sweets, and they begin this work in early December. The main ingredients of baked goods: honey, vanilla, candied fruits. All kinds of cookies, strudels, vizovicka pastry or vanochka (wicker buns) are made at home. Cakes are also on sale at Christmas markets, in beautiful wrappings or as loose packages:
- Zukrovi – various kinds of Christmas cookies: “wasp’s nests”, “bear’s feet”, “baskets”;
- Honey spice cakes – a must-have Christmas treat, sprinkled with powdered sugar or covered with chocolate glaze;
- Stolls – different shaped cupcakes with the addition of candied fruits, dried fruits, cognac.
It is clear by the magical transformation of towns, villages and the capital of the Czech Republic, how much the Czechs love and look forward to Christmas. Festive garlands, colorful lights, advent wreaths on the doors of houses – indispensable accessories of beloved winter holiday.
Christmas fairs are filled with all kinds of goods: Christmas wreaths, Christmas decorations, souvenirs, gifts, pastries, and incense. You’ll also find grilled sausages, which are a favorite of Czechs, and pork “hog’s knees”. The smell of roasted chestnuts, one of the Czech treats, is everywhere. Warm yourself in the freezing December weather with a glass of mead or hot punch. The street audience is energized by the fairground performances and concerts.
An obligatory attribute of the coming Christmas are the bethlems – artificial sculptures depicting the infant Jesus, his parents, the Magi and the manger with the domestic animals. Bethlehem began to be installed in Bohemia in the 16th century. They were made from improvised materials: bread, nutshells, sugar. Today cardboard, wood and clay are used. On the streets of modern Bohemia you can see a real crèche, where sheep, donkeys and goats graze peacefully.
Christmas tree at home is usually decorated on Christmas Eve. On the streets of the trees appear somewhat earlier. The largest green beauty is placed on the Old Town Square in Prague.
Caroling, or carolers walking through the streets and homes, is another Czech tradition. If a caroler comes to the house, it means happiness and prosperity. Carols in the Czech Republic is adopted during Advent, but a special “binge” of carolers falls on December 26 – St. Stephen’s Day. And the next day, December 27, celebrates the day of St. John the Evangelist, when Czechs hold a rite of “purification” of wine.
The 31st of December is the Feast of St. Sylvester. On this day, the citizens of Prague go to Letenské Square, where you can see the fantastic panorama of the city in a festive fireworks display.
Festivity of Bright Easter
Easter in the Czech Republic is preceded by three special days:
- Green Thursday (interestingly, in some regions of the country, people eat exclusively green vegetables on this day);
- Great Friday – on this day the Cross Procession is held;
- White Saturday – solemn Divine Services begin in the Temples.
On the day of Bright Easter, Czechs congratulate each other with painted eggs, gingerbread. And on the festive table should be a dish of hare. On Easter days there are festive fairs, folk festivals and merry events. The height of the fun is on Red Monday, which comes right after Easter Sunday.
Another festival that cannot be ignored is the Five-Petalled Rose Festival, which has been held in Český Krumlov every year since 1986 on June 19-21. It is a festival of the Middle Ages, when the town suddenly presents itself as a whole picture from the past. Men in chivalrous armor or pompous costumes accompany beautiful ladies in period garb.
The name of the feast is symbolic, because the rose with five petals is the symbol of the old coat of arms of the Roznberg dynasty, the last owners of Krumlov Castle. Krumlov still keeps its medieval flavour, therefore the Five-Petalled Rose Festival is a particularly harmonious addition to the atmosphere of the beautiful Czech town.
The celebration lasts for three days with colorful processions, knights’ tournaments and medieval bazaars taking place everywhere. It is interesting that every resident or guest of the city can dress up in a medieval costume, and appear at the carnival a knight, a lord, a squire, a fakir, a wandering artist and even a royal jester. Women, of course, love the finery of furs and leather.
These days there are concerts and musical events in the city. The atmosphere of the holiday is saturated with the spirit of antiquity, even in the pubs and restaurants sell dishes based on recipes from ancient books.
About the traditions of Little Bohemia we can write a lot more, but better to see once than hear a hundred times. Beauty, hospitality and variety of this beautiful European country can’t resist even the most travel-savvy person!
Traditions of Czechs – Feast of Roses and Witches at Fires
Both in the distant past and today Czech customs are of interest to representatives of other nationalities. Traditions of Czechs are like a “bouquet” of ancient pagan beliefs, Christian rituals and folk festivals. In my opinion, the influence of neighboring countries gives them a special flavor.
Almost all Czech history was at the junction of Slavic and European cultures, which in combination turned into special customs peculiar to a particular people. What are the traditions of communication in the modern Czech Republic? What holidays of the Czechs are associated with the kings? And when can you see the “devil” in the Czech streets?
The Procession of Kings – a striking tradition of the Czech Republic
Traditions of Czechs in communication
If you’ve been to the Czech Republic, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the special social rules of the locals. Czechs do not like to demonstrate their wealth, so they prefer to dress modestly and without frills. These people are very polite.
It is customary in Bohemia to say hello and establish friendly relations with all neighbors, not to mention acquaintances or colleagues. Traditions of communication of Czechs mean that without prior consent two people cannot pass to “you”. If we are talking about a conversation between a man and a woman, only the woman should offer this friendly form of address first.
Czechs are very reserved by nature. You rarely hear emotional phrases from them, although this does not mean that they are cold. On the contrary, the Czech holidays fully demonstrate the warmth, uniqueness and impressionability of these people.
The special holidays of the Czech Republic
Perhaps the most important holiday in the Czech calendar is Christmas. They begin to prepare for it a month and a half in advance. On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers in the kitchen to make holiday cookies. And on Christmas night, it is customary to ring the bell. Czechs believe that this way you can call Hedgehog, the Czech Santa Claus, to your home.
Many holidays in the Czech Republic are dedicated to the history and customs of the people. One of the brightest events in the life of the Czechs – Beer Festival, held annually in Prague. Participants and staff, the representatives of which wear national costumes, give a special flavor to it.
Czechs are famous for their ancient beer recipes, the subtleties of technology which are often handed down from generation to generation. Beer lovers during the festival can appreciate the taste of more than 100 varieties of beer, and the festival itself lasts for 15 days.
Every year in Prague, there is the Beer Festival
Festivals and history
If you prefer folk festivals, go to the town of Vlčnová in late May. That’s where the Procession of the Kings takes place. On the festive day, young men ride through the neighboring villages and announce the imminent arrival of the king.
This announcement is invariably accompanied by the singing of songs and poems from Czech folklore. When the inhabitants of the town and the surrounding countryside take to the streets, the “king” and his entourage pass in front of them. The role of the monarch at the festival is played by a twelve-year-old boy, accompanied by two horsemen.
At this festival you can not only feel the spirit of history, but also get acquainted with the works of local artists, buy souvenirs made by old techniques.
And in the city of Český Krumlov in June begins no less exciting action – the Festival of five-petal rose. The “highlight” of this festival is a costume march of participants, who are dressed up in medieval costumes.
I must say that this spectacle really allows you to go back in time – so bright and realistic looking characters of the festival. Why is the festival dedicated to the five-petalled rose? The main focus is on the ancient noble dynasty of Rozmberks. Their coat of arms depicts the flower of the five-petal rose.
The Middle Ages in the tradition of the Czechs
Walpurgis night also became a picturesque holiday. In the past Czechs used to light fires and try to scare away the dark forces, but nowadays the celebrations of April 30th look more like a merry carnival and a fair.
I would like to point out that Walpurgis Night is a kind of a second Halloween for the young people of the Czech Republic. On this holiday, you can often see girls and boys disguised as witches, vampires, and other evil spirits. And even nowadays, Czechs continue to “burn” witches. Of course, witches are puppets, which are thrown into the fire at the end of the holiday.
The beginning of December in Czech tradition is the rites of St. Barbara’s Day. This holiday is filled with light and hope. One of the most interesting rituals of St. Barbara’s Day has to do with trees.
A couple of sprigs are cut from a cherry, apple or lilac tree. They are placed in a vase, and then you should wait for the emergence of shoots. If the buds come to life – the next year will bring good luck and fulfill the cherished desires of the family.
In addition, the day when the sprig has sprouted leaves, means the luckiest month. For example, if the shoots turned green on the 7th day, then July will be the happiest. On St. Barbara’s Day, Czech girls often read fortune-telling, trying to find out their fate. No less are little children waiting for this holiday – they are given gifts and sweet treats.
During some holidays Czechs burn “witches”
Traditions of the Czechs have an interesting feature – a combination of modernity and ancient rituals. I think this is what attracts many people that love to return to the Czech Republic again and again. Czech culture is reminiscent of the five-petalled rose – for all its apparent simplicity, it has a lot of sophistication and unique moments. Czech traditions don’t fade into the past, but are complemented with the color of our time.