Czech Republic rings in the Christmas holidays

Dec. 24 is when gifts are exchanged and Christmas dinner is consumed in the Czech Republic, kicking off three days of Christmas celebrations. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 24.12.2022 09:58:00 (updated on 24.12.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Today is Christmas Eve, and Dec. 24 kicks off a three-day public holiday in the Czech Republic. Most of the country's traditions are tied to this day, which is when Christmas dinner is consumed and gifts are exchanged in the evening. Instead of Santa Claus, Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) delivers gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

While the Czech Republic is one of the world's least religious countries, tonight is also when the traditional Christmas mass is held throughout the country. In Prague, Archbishop Jan Graubner and Cardinal Dominik Duka will host a midnight mass at the city's St. Vitus Cathedral within Prague Castle.

This year marks the first time since 2019 that Christmas mass and other events are not affected by pandemic restrictions that limited participation.

The war in Ukraine and surging inflation have cast a pall over Christmas celebrations this year, however. Christmas trees at Prague's Old Town Square and other locations across the country went dark this week in solidarity with Ukraine.

Christmas traditions in the Czech lands date back to pagan winter solstice celebrations in the days long before Christianity. Folk customs related to predictions about the next spring's harvest, and festive dinners included legumes and snails instead of carp and potato salad.

Christmas trees have been around in the Czech lands since the 1800s, but they did not become widespread until the 20th century. They were originally decorated with sweets, pastries, and fruit; glass ornaments that are now traditional in the Czech Republic were produced later on.

The tradition of giving gifts over the Christmas holidays also began in the 19th century, beginning with small gifts given to children. Charitable gifts were also given to the poor over the Christmas period.

In 2022, the Christmas holidays represent a time of rest and relaxation at the end of the year, meeting with friends and family, and enjoying a festive dinner of fried carp and potato salad along with Christmas cookies and other holiday treats.

Christmas traditions include singing carols, hiding carp scales under plates, casting hot lead into water, slicing an apple in half to reveal your fortune, and much more. We recently asked our readers what Czech Christmas traditions they participated in; you can read their responses here.

Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic is followed by the First Day of Christmas (Dec. 25) and Second Day of Christmas (Dec. 26), which are both public holidays. Many shops and stores throughout the country close from around lunchtime today until Dec. 27.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more