Christmas abroad is an odd thing. For one, it doesn’t REMOTELY feel like it should be Christmas. We’ve had a long eight-month string of Saturdays and we often have a difficult time figuring out what day of the WEEK it is, let alone a major holiday.
Christmas is a big holiday for the Czechs just as it is at home. It feels much less commercial here, and that may have to do with the almost complete absence of Santa Claus. Oh, Saint Nicholas is around…as an envoy at a traditional dinner on 5th December (accompanied by an angel and devil) to quiz children as to whether they’ve been good or not and provides small treats (sweets or fruit) or other such things (potatoes, coal) for bad kiddies. But he’s not really tied into Christmas itself. And you’ll be hard pressed to even see advertising feature the jolly one; most Czechs despise him.
There is a Christmas tree, and it is elaborately decorated. Presents are put under the tree, but they are not from Santa; they are from Jesizek, or Baby Jesus. He has no visual representation, as his delivery is silent. He doesn’t arrive by chimney, either; in fact, the method in which he delivers presents is considered a mystery. Christmas trees are arguably the most visual of Christmas symbols throughout Prague, the most famous being the one in Old Town Square…but most squares throughout the city have one of their own.
The traditional Christmas meal here is carp and is served on Christmas Eve. All over town you can see tubs full of the fish, which people buy fresh, take home, and cook up. A common tradition says that if you put a scale of the fish beneath your plate, you’ll have enough money in the coming year. And, similarly to the Thanksgiving turkey, some families give their carp a reprieve and release it into a local pond on Christmas.
We plan on spending our Christmas with our new flat mates and some fellow ex-pat friends here in Prague. We miss you all very much and thank you all for your kindness, interest, and support over these last eight months. From Rhys and Indi, have a very Merry Christmas!!