A beginner's guide to festive Czech baking, cooking, and holiday traditions

Now is the time to start prepping for Christmas and New Year's Eve entertaining with these tips for recipes, gifts, and more

Samantha Tatro

Written by Samantha Tatro
Published on 01.12.2020 15:34 (updated on 02.12.2020)

Shops and services may be reopening just in time for the holiday season, but online retailers are still bracing themselves for a surge in Christmas orders as shoppers seek to avoid the crowds.

Some retailers such as Rohlík will be extending their delivery hours due to an increased demand that began already in November as people seek to truly stay "home for the holidays".

We asked Rohlik's recipe coordinator Žaneta Kratochvílová how to go about sourcing everything you need to make a traditional Czech Christmas or New Year's Day feast entirely online. Her stress-free guide to holiday gifts, cooking, baking, and entertaining will help you cross all the Czech and international holiday essentials off your list -- without checking it twice.

Czech Christmas baking

Czech Christmas cookies / photo via Rohlik
Czech Christmas cookies / photo via Rohlik

Traditional Christmas cookies can seem like a complex topic to tackle. Did you know that Czech folklore says that the 12 different varieties of cookies represent the 12 months of the year?

It's customary for many Czechs to start baking and cleaning their homes well in advance of Christmas -- most start as early as November! In addition, Czechs will start stocking up on all the supplies they need to bake around this time of year, like flour, sugar and butter.

In order to bake your holiday cookies, your shopping list should include a number of essentials. According to Kratochvílová, quality ingredients will make or break your cookies, so it's important to use the best possible ingredients. That means real butter instead of Hera, genuine chocolate instead of cheaper chocolate coating, and organic eggs.

Recipes

Czechs make a variety of tasty Christmas cookies, from wasp nest cookies to vanilla crescents and more. Some can be easy to execute (for example, Linzer cookies) and some can be a bit more tricky (like wasp nest cookies). Try your hand at some of these recipes for traditional cookies.

TIP: You can cheat and buy pre-made dough for vanilla crescents, gingerbread, Linzer cookies, and more through a variety of online sources, including Rohlik (which has gluten-free cookies and healthier Christmas cookies as well).

Czech Christmas dinner

Fried schnitzel with potato salad is a Czech classic
Fried schnitzel with potato salad is a Czech classic.

A traditional Czech Christmas dinner features fish soup as a starter and includes fried carp and potato salad as the main course (vánočka, a braided sweet bread, is typically enjoyed earlier in the day for breakfast though some families may serve it after dinner with sweet tea and rum).

The dinner isn't just about the meal, though. Czechs tradition dictates a modest day of eating leading up to the big feast. Legend has it that if you fast all day on Christmas Eve, you will see the elusive "Golden Pig" (zlaté prasátko) in the evening. Many families no longer fast but instead choose not to eat meat on Christmas Eve.

Recipes

These easy recipes for Czech Christmas classics of fried carp and potato salad are best paired with a chilled light beer. Did you know that you can also use beer to give your carp a crispier crust? Beat 4 tbsp of beer into the two eggs called for in the recipe below for a more distinctive crumb.

TIP: If you're looking to lighten the workload, many online retailers, including Rohlík, offer a variety of ready-to-eat options for Christmas Eve dinner. Check out your options here.

Czech New Years' Eve celebration

New Year's Eve celebration / photo via Rohlik
New Year's Eve celebration / photo via Rohlik

Czechs ring in New Year's Eve with chlebíčky, or open-faced sandwiches, with an array of different toppings. You'll also find jednohubky, or one-bite canapes, homemade brambůrky, or potato chips, and other nuts and nibbles, on the buffet table.

Historically, Czechs have eaten boiled pork head with grated horseradish and apples (vepřový ovar se strouhaným křenem a jablky) at midnight. But nowadays, pork is eaten on New Year's Day with a side of čočka (lentils) topped with a fried egg. The dish is a sign of prosperity -- and it makes for a pretty good hangover cure, too. Eating anything with wings is also said to make your luck fly away.

Recipes

Czech gift-giving traditions

Wrapping paper and supplies for Christmas / photo via Rohlik
Wrapping paper and supplies for Christmas / photo via Rohlik

When it comes to gift giving Czechs traditionally go with small, useful gifts. In fact one study counts them among the most practical gift givers in Europe, with 70% saying they received a practical gift for Christmas last year. Gifts like socks and underwear are a big hit as are boxes of soaps and shampoos and scents and fragrances for men and women alike. This year market analysts predict a big boom in board games as everyone stays home. And, of course, in a nation of pet-lovers Ježíšek doesn't skip four-legged family members!

Mixed Czech and international traditions for blended holiday fun

International Christmas goodies / photo via Rohlik
International Christmas goodies / photo via Rohlik

Many of our readers say they have adopted Czech Christmas while teaching their Czech families about their own. Traditions such as advent calendars are universal but Czechs also make room for the advent wreath, lighting a candle each Sunday in advent. Slicing an apple to reveal a star and floating walnut boats, are important local customs. Many international families say they enjoy Christmas turkey and all the trimmings, Marks and Spencer Christmas puddings, fruit cakes or panettone, and visits from Santa alongside the traditional Czech Christmas festivities.

This article was written in cooperation with Rohlík. To read more about our partner content policies see here.

Would you like to present your story to Expats.cz readers? Find out more