Christmas in Prague starts with the Christmas markets opening up all over Prague on November 26, 2016 and closing on January 1, 2017. The most famous ones are on Old Town Square (Staromestke Namesti) and Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti). Here you can find not only the traditional Christmas trees but also stalls selling anything from hand made items, Christmas ornaments, souvenirs, and lots of lots of spiced wine and great food to go along with the festive mood. However for the Czechs, December 24 (Stedry den) is the most enjoyable day of Christmas holidays. It literally means "Generous Day", probably due to the abundance of food, presents and good cheer.
The day starts out with the children being told to fast so they can see the “golden piglet” – (zlate prasatko). They never make it though and so this famous golden piglet is never seen :-) The mothers and grandmothers tent to the kitchen and the fathers and grandfathers try to hide the tree decorating from the children since it is “Baby Jesus” that not only brings the presents right after dinner, he also decorates the tree with the help of a magic wand! In more practical households where the children no longer believe this fable, this day is reserved for decorating the tree by all the family members. Unlike Santa Claus, Baby Jesus is a rather abstract figure with no particular physical image attached to him, and no one knows where he lives. Just like Santa though, he receives wish-list letters from Czech children a few weeks before Christmas.
Dinner is served after sunset (traditionally, it should not be served until after the first star has come out) and consists of fried carp and potato salad, sometimes preceded by mushroom, sauerkraut or fish soup. In most families other foods are served as well to give variety to the dinner. So, if you are invited, don't worry, there will most probably be something else such as veal cuttlets, other fish, etc.
The carp are raised in manmade ponds and then sold from large tubs placed on the streets and town squares a few days before Christmas. You will not see this sight at any other time of the year. Some families keep their live carp in the bathtub for several days as a temporary pet for their children. The fish scales are often placed in their wallets by everyone since they symbolise money and ensure that it's full year round. In many other homes, the fish is bought live and then released back into “the wild” – a pond or creek as a gesture of good will. Then other food is eaten. Dinner can be finished with dessert, such as apple strudel. A traditional Christmas bread called "vanocka" (meaning something like Christmas bread) used to be a part of the Christmas dinner in the past but today it has largely lost its Christmas connotation and is available year-round.
After dinner, everyone around the table may sing Christmas carols before moving to the Christmas tree, which is all lit up and beautiful. By then, presents have been placed under the tree. Some people end Christmas Eve by attending the midnight mass at a local church.
December 25 - 26
Czech Republic Christmas stretches over December 25 and 26, which are also referred to as the First and Second Christmas Holidays, or the Christmas Feast and St. Stephen's Day (remember good king Wenceslas looked out on the day of St. Stephens) … this day. (All the lyrics of this favorite Christmas carol are found here Good King Wenceslas Lyrics ) On St. Stephen's Day, children, students, teachers, and the poor used to go around people's homes singing Christmas carols. Nowadays, families stay at home and relax or visit relatives and friends to share the special time.