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Prague – Christmas Markets in Czech Republic

Přejeme vám veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok

Prague Christmas Markets » ….1st December 2018 to 06th January 2019.… The Prague Christmas markets – Vanocni trh – are open daily at the Old Town Square & Wenceslas Square. A ‘winter wonderland’ awaits, as visitors soak up the festive atmosphere, browse the stalls and enjoy Christmas carols, hearty food & hot wine.

The main markets are held at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (5 minutes walk from each other), with smaller markets at Republic Square and Havel’s market. The Prague Christmas markets are open daily, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

The Christmas markets at the Old Town Square have an animals stable, where children can stroke sheep, goats and a donkey. And there is a large Bethlehem scene depicting Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Kings in a wooden stable. The most popular Christmas Market in the Czech Republic is the internationally renowned market in Prague. Czech Christmas Markets are to be found on a smaller scale in other locations around the country, but they are smaller and much shorter in duration. The Xmas Markets in the Czech Republic, particularly the Prague Market, have a fantastic atmosphere.

The Prague Christmas markets are not just about shopping. You can also observe traditional Czech foods being made, and sample all manner of local food and drink. Large hams are roasted on spits. Traditional Czech pastries are prepared in front of you, such as ‘Trdelník’ – a hot, sugar coated pastry. Plus there are terribly unhealthy, but wonderfully tasty, barbequed sausages. To accompany the food, there are Czech beers like Pilsner Urquell and various warm drinks on offer. Outdoor Christmas shopping is so much nicer with a cup of hot wine (svařené víno or svařák) in your hand!

Prague Christmas Market brings locals and visitors together. A Christmas Market in Prague is an exceptional experience and takes place at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Prague Xmas Market brings out the festive spirit in everyone.

Christmas Markets in Prague

Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) – 01-23 December 2018 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., food stands 10 a.m. – midnight
Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) – 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., food stands 10 a.m. – midnight

Havel Market (Havelské tržiště) –
Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky) –
Peace Square (Náměstí Míru) – 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily
Jiřího z Poděbrad Square (Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad)
Holešovice Exhibition Grounds (Výstaviště Holešovice) – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

Christmas market at Prague Castle. – 24 Nov-07 Jan 2018.. Mon-Fri 9:00-21:00;. Sat-Sun 9:00-22:00

Lighting of the Christmas Tree -at Old Town Sq. 01 Dec-06 Jan Daily 16:30 -at Wenceslas Sq. 01 Dec-06 Jan Daily 17:00

Ice Rink  at Ovocny trh, a square near Estates Theatre, Old Town. 05 Dec-31 Jan 2018.Daily 10:00-21:00

For the children :
Bethlehem scene and animals – Old Town Square: . Daily 10:00-22:00.
Children’s Wooden Cabin – Old Town Square: . Mon-Fri 15:00-19:00. Sat-Sun 10:00-19:00.
Puppet Theatre – Old Town Square: . Mon-Fri 17:00. Sat-Sun 15:00 & 17:00.

Advent

The Christmas spirit can be felt from the onset of advent, which starts the first advent Sunday before Christmas Eve. . Advent (adventus in Latin) means the “arrival”. This is a time of strict fasting, where no joy, dance or singing is permitted. As can be seen from the name, its origins are purely religious. However, in the past, there were times of caroling with folk masks – a combination of old pagan traditions with the religious ban on having a good time. People were not supposed to eat meat, with the exception of fish. Advent fasting ended with the arrival of the first star on Christmas Eve. The tradition of lighting the four candles on an advent wreath is very common now. With the candle light symbolizing the arrival of Christ. Children now get a chocolate advent calendar which makes it easy for them to count the days until Christmas Eve.

During advent, towns put up Christmas trees and shop windows are decorated in traditional themes. The largest Christmas trees in the country can be found in Prague in the Old Town Square and at the Prague Castle, where Christmas carols and songs are sung. Boxes for charity purposes are usually placed under these trees. The historic districts of towns throughout the country host Christmas markets where traditional Christmas items can be found – Christmas decorations: straw, wooden, glass, gingerbread, etc. as well as candles, sparklers, nativity scenes, advent wreaths, ceramics, Christmas cards, toys, sweets, mistletoe, chocolate decorations, traditional Christmas dough decorations, etc. There are also demonstrations of traditional folk crafts – blacksmiths, glassmakers, woodcarvers and makers of holiday decorations.

The first Christmas tree, then called The Christmas Tree of the Republic, appeared in the Old Town Square on 20 December 1925. Under the auspices of the city charity collections took place there every year until 1941. After the WWII the tradition was restored for a short time, but in the early fifties it was cancelled. The first post-Velvet revolution Christmas tree in the Old Town Square appeared in 1992.

St Nicholas ( Mikulas )

The evening before St Nicholas Day, December 5, St Nicholas strolls around the city, accompanied by an Angel and a Devil, visiting children and handing out presents. First, he asks the children whether they have been good and if not, they must promise they will be better next year. In Central Europe, there is no association of this St Nicholas with the Western character of St Nicolaus, also known as Santa Claus (like in England, USA, Sweden or elsewhere) who brings presents at Christmas. The St Nicholas tradition is based on the legend of St Nicholas, a bishop who lived in the 4th century in Asia Minor and was renowned for his religious life and charity. St Nicholas gives presents in all Slavic countries. This tradition became very popular and the character of St Nicholas, dressed in a long coat with a crosier in his hand, is now always accompanied by a devil and an angel, representing the antimony of good and evil.

Christmas Tree and Christmas Eve

Christmas trees are usually decorated on Christmas Eve, December 24, or earlier in some families. Nativity scenes are arranged, Christmas presents are wrapped and preparations for Christmas dinner are made. The Czech traditional Christmas dinner consists of fish soup, breaded fried carp fillets and potato salad. As the Christmas menu varies from region to region as well as family to family, there are indeed a whole host of recipes used. Tourists can also enjoy the Czech Christmas atmosphere as most of the restaurants and hotels offer traditional Czech Christmas meals.

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees is not very old in the Czech Republic. Legend has it that the first Christmas tree in Prague was erected for Christmas in 1812 at the Liben Chateau by the director of the Theater of the Estates J. K. Liebich for his guests. Soon after, the Czech aristocracy and wealthy townspeople followed his lead and in the 1840, the tradition of Christmas tree decorating was wide-spread. In the past, trees were decorated with sweets, various folk ornaments made from wood, ginger bread or dough, although nowadays they have mostly been replaced by blown glass and colorful tinsel. However, traditional ornaments made from natural materials are slowly making their comeback including straw ornaments, apples, nuts and the orange fruit of the Chinese lantern plant. Originally, the Christmas tree was hung tip-down, not standing upright. Nowadays, the trees are taken down on the day of the Magi or the following Sunday.

Christmas is a family holiday where no one should stay home alone. That’s why the entire family usually meets at the Christmas dinner table and if someone lives alone, they are invited over by friends or neighbours. The festive dinner is followed by the special moment which children look forward to all year long – unwrapping the presents from under the tree that were left by baby Jesus. To get the presents they wished for, many children write letters to baby Jesus before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus enters each home and leaves presents under the tree. He lights the candles and lights on it and then disappears without being seen just before the Christmas bell rings. Christmas carols are usually sung under the lit Christmas tree. The most famous are: Christ the King is Born (originated in the 15th century), Wanting Him to Fall Asleep (17th century), Merry Feast of Yuletide (late 17th century), Come All Ye Shepherds (from 1847) and Silent Night (originally Austrian from 1818), as well as Czech carols: Pujdem spolu do Betléma (Come Together to Bethlehem), Stojí vrba kosatá, Dej Buh stestí (May God Bless You). At midnight, people usually go to church for J. J. Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass.

Czech Christmas

The Christmas mood gets underway at the beginning of Advent, the four-week period before Christmas Day (December 25). During Advent, the city is beautifully adorned with holiday decorations. In many places around the city, Christmas trees are lit – a typical symbol of the holiday season. The most famous and largest Christmas tree is traditionally on Old Town Square, where you can also find the largest Christmas market in the city. The first harbinger of Christmas is St. Nicholas Day. On the evening of December 5th, you can often see this protector of children out on Prague’s streets and squares. A devil and an angel usually accompany him as he visits young children and gives them small gifts. Before Christmas, everyone rushes to buy presents so that all their loved ones will have at least one small surprise under the Christmas tree. Big tanks with live carp swimming in them appear on the city streets around December 20th. Every good Czech housewife bakes many different kinds of Christmas cookies, braided buttery Christmas vánočka (a kind of sweet bread), and fragrant apple strudel. On Christmas Eve, December 24th, the whole family eats a special holiday meal together. The menu traditionally includes fish or pea soup, fried carp with potato salad, and Christmas cookies for dessert. After dinner, a bell rings to announce that Baby Jesus has brought the presents, and the family gathers around the festively lit Christmas tree to sing carols and open gifts. Christmas in Prague means plenty of concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events.

Old Czech Traditions

Christmas Eve used to be a day of strict fasting in the past, accompanied by a slew of folk traditions from manifold superstitions to poetic customs. Parents promised their children that they would see a golden piglet if they keep the fast. People also believed that there could not be an odd number of people sitting at a Christmas table therefore, they would be sure to invite guests ahead of time. Dinner has always been plentiful with several courses. The old traditional meals included Cerny Kuba (Black Jack or barley and mushroom casserole), pea or lentil soup, fruit, nuts, apples, roasted flat bread. Sometimes people would eat fish but it was not very common, as it was thought to be a meal fit for fasting. Not until the 19th century did carp find its way onto the Czech Christmas table.

Folk traditions and superstitions Christmas Eve according to the popular belief, was an ideal day for performing various folk customs. These fall in three groups: taboos, fortune telling and superstitions concerning fertility and abundance.

Taboos These were most often connected with St Lucille’s Day, Christmas Eve, Holy Innocents and The Magi. Some of them manifest a visible connection with worshiping the souls of the dead. The taboo of sweeping on Christmas Eve was based on the belief that sweeping could injure the souls of dead ancestors, whom may take revenge on the perpetrator later. For the same reason the following activities were also considered taboo: lifting fallen objects, painting walls, milling grain, crushing fruit, pouring water on the courtyard, getting up from a table quickly (this has persisted to this day) and throwing ashes away. Work taboos – spinning, winding, weaving, knitting, sewing, threshing – also to prevent injuries to the souls of the dead. The revenge of these souls could manifest itself later by producing a poor crop (flax, hemp or grain). Holy Innocents (December 28): people were not allowed to wash laundry, because the laundresses would then be tired the following year, as would the livestock and in addition, the livestock would limp. Washing laundry was prohibited because it was believed that this washing was done in the blood of murdered innocents and they, in turn, would then be unhappy. Sewing was banned because this would cause children to have their eyes poked and if the lady of the house were to get up before Christmas dinner was finished, the hens would refuse to sit on their eggs. Christmas Eve is abound with multiple taboos – no buying, selling, borrowing, lending, sneezing or sitting across from a door. These taboos were taken seriously, as no one wanted to invite bad luck, disaster, bad crops or the wrath of the spirits.

Fortune telling Fortune telling has always intrigued people. A seemingly dead twig when put in water in a warm room, sprouted leaves and bloomed. This twig is called “barborka”, because it should be cut from a fruit tree on St Barbara’s Day. Sometimes girls would cut more than one, each representing a different boy and the one which would bloom first would symbolize her future fiancé. There were several superstitions concerning marriage – the shaking of a bush or a fence which would reveal the direction the fiancé would be coming from. The girls would say: “I’m shaking this fence, calling on all my saints. Let the dog bark, where my love is today.” This fortune telling also involved family members. People would place candles in walnut shells and put these “boats” on the water. By what the boat did on the water, or whether the candle would go out or reach the shore, people could see their destiny. Pouring hot lead in water, a person’s future could be foretold for the coming year by the shape the lead would create. If a cross is revealed in the middle of an apple it means illness or death, while a star brings good luck and wealth. People to this day split apples in half for this reason.

Securing fertility and abundance Leftovers from Christmas dinner were buried in the ground and under trees as a sacrifice. Livestock received special treatment too – cows got bread with parsley, rose-hips and butter, so as to have enough milk in the coming year. The farmer would knock on his beehive, so the bees would survive the winter. Poultry – hens would get a mixture of grain, peas and barley to lay more eggs. Roosters and ganders were given garlic to make them brave and healthy. In the morning people would wash in the river or their well to be healthy throughout the year. Burning incense in churches and frankincense at homes were purgative rituals. These are just a selection of customs and superstitions.

Christmas and Easter are two of the main holidays in the Christian year. They are based on the biblical story of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The Czech name for Christmas – Vánoce – indicates a number of holy nights (noc = night). Today however, only three days are widely known – Christmas Eve (December 24), The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (December 25) and St Stephen’s Day (December 26). The 25th and 26th of December are holidays which are marked by families visiting each other, family lunches and dinners. Usually the traditional Czech roasted goose, duck or turkey with sauerkraut and dumplings is served. People also visit churches where nativity scenes are displayed.

Christmas and New Year’s concerts

Christmas in Prague is full of concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events. In addition to traditional Czech Christmas carols, you can also indulge in the sound of music from around the world.

Christmas

Christmas is also a time when we tend to think more about food and drink as we like to treat our family and friends when they come to visit, but have you ever thought about what foods are traditional in other countries of the world? Why not take a look at the page below and see what other nationalities are cooking up this Christmas. Christmas is also a time for trying out traditional and new ways of cooking meals, cakes, snacks…….. the list goes on, here we have a selection of Christmas recipes from around the world for you to take a look at, and maybe try out … and if you have a special recipe that you would like to share with the world, then you can send it in to us for others to try out to World-wide Christmas Recipes. Who are the most important people at Christmas? yes, of course, its the CHILDREN and we have not left them out, there is a page packed full of Christmas activities to keep them busy ( and Mums everywhere heave a sigh of relief ! ) … take a look at this page and download the information Children’s Christmas page Read about the Christmas Customs and Traditions of the nations of the world and how they differ, or are maybe the same as, ours. … What is the feast of the “Epiphany” or that of “St Lucia“ which countries are these important too? See here the origins of the most beautiful of all the Christmas Carols “Silent Night“, where it came from, who wrote it and listen to the song itself ( look to see which very famous person is singing it!) Have a look at the main Christmas page and see who Father Christmas is, where did he come from, where is he now, and who is St Nicolaus? Send him a letter from the children, browse through some Christmas Market Tours or listen to a new Christmas song on the page there is so much to see and read, so why not do it !! For those of you who want to travel a little further than the local shops this year have a look at Father Christmas in Lapland or maybe (the ultimate treat for Mums – Dads take note ! ) Shopping in New York we have it all right here for you. As Christmas approaches we also think of snow and with that thought comes skiing, skating, sledging and all manner of “Fun in the Snow” things to do which will last for weeks after Christmas time has been and gone. Around Europe there are many places to visit where you can enjoy the winter activities, whether it is before, during or after Christmas. Below you will find a sample of activities and places to look at which you may find will interest or even surprise you. Please take time to have a look.

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Christmas Recipes

Food plays a very important part in the season of Goodwill and Festive Cheer. Here we have a selection of recipes from around the globe which we hope will help you to prepare for Christmas.

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Discover all you need to know about the history of Silent Night, the Lyrics and listen to Silent Night

Discovwer all about St Nicholas. Find out who he was, how he become a saint and why he is associated with Christmas. Discover St Nicholas here

Find Puzzles, word searches, letters to print of for Santa plus much more here, in the Kids Corner

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