I. Love. Christmas. SO. much. Baking cookies, making paper snowflakes, listening to Christmas music, the whole shebang. However, I worried that being 5,000 miles away from all my normal traditions would take some magic out of the holiday. Alas! This is not the case! Christmas time in the Czech Republic has been an absolute DREAM, and my Christmas spirits are soaring high. Here’s what I’ve learned about how Czechs celebrate this season:
First off, let’s talk about CHRISTMAS MARKETS! If I could bring one thing back from my trip, it would be this concept of Christmas markets. If you’ve ever been to a Christmas bazaar where local companies make goods and sell them, imagine that-but much grander! In nearly every city square you’ll see little wooden booths set up will small
companies selling soaps, ornaments, food, tea, you name it. While this may sound fairly similar to a Christmas bazaar, it’s the environment around these markets that make it so special. There’s Christmas music playing all the time, concerts and events in the larger squares, and people hopping booth-to-booth, testing out each different type of mulled wine. In my city, Brno, there’s even a special tram that’s covered in Christmas lights that can take you between each Christmas market! The atmosphere is hard to describe, but after visiting these markets I can confirm that the Christmas spirit may have been invented here.
Additionally, there’s something similar to a second Christmas that comes early- December 5th to be exact. This is known as St. Mikulas day, where a bishop, followed by an angel and a devil, judge how good a child has been. If the bishop deems the child “good,” then the angel may give them candy or nuts. However, if the child is bad, then they receive a potato or coal and then get taken away by the devil. A little dark for my taste, but I’m sure it provides great incentive for children to be on their best behavior.
Finally, the concept of Christmas is totally different here! Santa doesn’t deliver presents to the good children, but instead leaves that job to baby Jesus! On Christmas Eve, (after a dinner of fresh carp and potato salad) children are told to go into a separate room from the Christmas tree. Once they’ve left, baby Jesus places presents under the tree and then rings a little bell to signify completion. If you thought the logistics of Santa delivering presents to every child was difficult, try explaining how an infant does it!
Of course the holidays aren’t the same when I can’t bake cookies or decorate trees with my family, but learning how Brno, Czech Republic celebrates Christmas has been incredibly fascinating and just as festive-if not more!
CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL
Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking forward to eating a lot of chocolate.