Ultimate holiday playlist: the top 10 greatest Czech Christmas songs of all time

We asked Janek Rubeš, Ondřej Pivec, and a few other familiar Czech names to pick their all-time favorite festive tunes.

Tom Lane

Written by Tom Lane
Published on 22.12.2020 11:00 (updated on 22.12.2020)

It's that time of year for listening to Mariah Carey, Wham, and Nat King Cole. But what are some of the most playable Czech Christmas songs to queue up this season?

With help from some well-known Czech personalities (and in no particular order) we've put together a list of Czech holidays hits, from folk standards to pop tracks, that are a must for any festive playlist.

Sliby se maj plnit o Vánocích (Janek Ledecký)

On the recommendation of the Janek Rubeš of the Honest Guide, the first hit on our list is "Sliby se maj plnit o Vánocích" which translates to "Promises to be fulfilled at Christmas." Harmonica and accordion feature on Ledecký 's '90s gem.

Rubeš tells us: "Of course I love the usual stuff. My favorite may be "Driving home for Christmas," but out of the Czech ones I do like is Janek's Ledecky's "Sliby se maj plnit o Vanocich." Since I share the same name with him, I was kind of forced to listen to his music when I was a kid, so that's where it's coming from. The video is as 90s as it gets!"

He also recommends another Janek Ledecký Christmas song in "Ryba rybě."

A photo of Janek Ledecký, one of our Christmas picks! Photo: Radka K. Martiníková
A photo of Janek Ledecký, one of our Christmas picks! Photo: Radka K. Martiníková

Půjdem spolu do betléma

A slightly longer, slower song for your playlist, "Půjdem spolu do betléma" translates into English to mean "Let us all go to Bethlehem."

A traditional Czech Christmas carol, this moving piece has its roots in folk culture. Maybe one to attempt to sing along to after a few glasses of Christmas wine...

Tichá noc / Silent Night

The Czech version of "Silent Night," this song was recommended by pianist and composed Beata Hlavenková, who recorded a version for her own album.

She said: "For a long time I chose carols for my piano Christmas album 'Bethlehem.' I love 'Silent Night' and 'Wanting to Sleep,' but otherwise, I'm a big lover of all carols, from the swing music of Ella Fitzgerald, through to beautiful simple arrangements of a choral orchestra.

According to the Václav Havel Library, this was also a favorite Christmas songs of the former Czech President. Another Havel favorite features later on in this list.

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Purpura (Jiří Suchý a Pavlína Filipovská)

This classic Christmas song was the brainchild of Jiří Suchý and Jiří Šlitr some 58 years ago and remains a constant of radio stations and playlists across the festive period.

In an interview released by Seznam Zprávy last year, Suchý said they wanted to create a song like "White Christmas" which is how it came about.

"Irving Berlin with his song 'White Christmas' was actually an inspiration for Purpura. That summer, Jiří Šlitr came and said: Look, in that America, the Berlin song 'White Christmas' plays every year and it's been coming back for many years. What if we tried to make a song that came back. So we tried it!"

This is, according to the Václav Havel Library, another of the former Czech President's favorites as he was apparently a friend of songwriter Suchý.

Jsou svátky (Karel Gott)

A Czech music list wouldn't be complete without an entry from the legendary Karel Gott.

"Jsou svátky" from 1976 translates literally as "It's the holidays." If you've ever heard the song "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, this song may ring a bell.

Gott actually released a song posthumously for Christmas this year, teaming up with the band Kryštof to produce the song "Vánoční," literally meaning Christmas.

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Chtíc, aby spal

We included "Chtíc, aby spal" on the recommendation of Ondřej Pivec. The song is a carol dating back to the 1600s.

Pivec, a renowned Czech jazz pianist, had a great year, with his playing featuring on two Grammy-nominated songs.

He told us: "Not the most classic one, but I love 'Chtic aby spal'. My grandma used to sing that one!"

Vánoce na míru (Ewa Farna)

A slightly more modern song to add to the list, "Vánoce na míru" was released by Ewa Farna just a few years ago as part of a Christmas album released in 2017.

Speaking to musicserver.cz about the song at the time Farna said:

"When the offer came to make a Christmas song, I said it was a great opportunity to set a clear time limit, summon the great musicians I have around me and throw myself into it. Thanks to people I trust, a gentle song was created with the participation of a child choir, which allows me to perform as a singer in a different light."

Půlnoční (Václav Neckář)

This is another more modern Czech Christmas song, with a laid back feel that came up in our survey. It has a partially animated video.

"Půlnoční," meaning midnight, was released in 2011 by Václav Neckář. Despite it's relatively recent release, the song has become a classic, heading to the top or near the top of the advent music charts for years after it was released, in fact it was the most played Christmas song in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

The song was originally used in a film called Alois Nebel; Neckář himself is an actor who has appeared in a number of Czech Christmas fairy tales including 1968's beloved "Šíleně smutná princezna" (The Incredibly Sad Princess).

Narodil se Kristus Pán

Going back to a traditional Christmas song, "Narodil se Kristus Pán" translates as "The Lord Christ Was Born."

It has been dated back to the 13th century and is associated with Catholic mass. Sadly due to the COVID situation, it is unlikely you will hear any choirs or carol singers singing it this year.

Jak to kapru říct

It wouldn't be a traditional Czech Christmas without an ode to the carp. A fun and quirky song to end our Christmas music list on.

Vladimír Zahradníček is a Czech composer who together with lyricist Ivo Plicka wrote this 1975 Christmas jam sung by Miluše Voborníková. He told us:

"The sound effects of splashing water at the end were provided by a cleaning lady at Czech Radio [where the song was recorded] splashing a mop into a bucket. For many years she kept asking for a small portion of royalty performance fees for her contribution on the record."

BONUS SONG: Not every Czech personality we interviewed shared a Czech song. Some holiday tunes just seem to transcend time and place.

Just ask Czech pianist and composer Nikol Bóková, whose second album UNRAVEL came out in 2020 which holiday tune gives her a "wave of delight":

She said: "I’m in the car, on the way from Brno, where we just shot a live version of my album “Inner Place” for Brno Jazz Fest. Half-way between Brno and Prague, an email lands in my inbox: a poll question about my favorite Christmas carol. I tell Jan, who’s driving; I’m thinking and watching the landscape behind the window go by when he starts humming: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...A wave of delight runs through me, I remember all the beautiful moments Christmas has brought me in the past. And now I know: my favorite Christmas song is “The Christmas Song”, by Nat King Cole."

What's your all-time favorite Czech song?