We love the Christmas season!
We celebrate various Christmas traditions here at the office, as we gratefully have people from different corners of the earth!
Here are some of the Christmas traditions as explained by the “locals”
Czech Christmas traditions
Everything starts on 5th of December and all children are very excited to see St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš). Usually he is accompanied by devils and angels. Kids have to sing a song and the devil asks them if they have been good all year, if yes, usually kids get a lot of sweets, advent calendar and fruit. If not, devil might give them a lump of coal or „take them to hell“ with them. Kids also send a letter to Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) and put it behind a window to let him know what they wish to get under the tree.
Czech people, like most Europeans, keep the tradition of Advent Sundays, and burn a candle each Sunday for 4 weeks, counting down to Christmas.
Czech people call Christmas “Generous day” which leads to variety of food what they usually have for a Christmas dinner. During the day some people try to fast all day in order to see a Golden pig on the wall in a hunger-hallucination 😉 That should be a sign of good luck but usually does not always work. We also have some other traditions as cutting an apple or lead pouring.
The Christmas tree is usually decorated with traditional Czech Christmas ornaments, under the tree Czech people put a crib made of paper or wood. For everyone there are also some homemade sweets on a table.
Christmas dinner isn´t served until the first stars come out. We usually have fish soup (or lentils – means a lot of money for the next year) and for the main course fried carp with potato salad. This carp is usually bought the day before and we keep it in our bathtub over the night – alive! The table should be set for an even number of guests. We also should have an extra plate in a case we have an unexpected guest. No one should ever get up from the Christmas table before dinner is finished.
After dinner kids wait in their rooms and expect a „Baby Jesus“ to come through an open window to give them some presents. Kids usually sing few carols under the tree before unpacking. After unpacking, some families go to church for a Midnight Mass. We continue on 25th and 26th by having a great meals and visiting our relatives.
German Christmas Traditions
As in most European countries Germans celebrate the time leading up to Christmas starting from December 1st. Of course every child and every adult who is young at heart has an Advent calendar.
The four Sundays before Christmas Eve are celebrated as well. We always buy or make ourselves an advent wreath out of fir branches and decorate it with ribbons and four candles. On every one of these Advent-Sundays you light up one more candle, usually when having some Christmas cookies and coffee with your family until all four are lit and you know it is Christmas. It just brings the family together and helps you to countdown the days 🙂
In addition, in the evening of Dec 5th every child polishes their shoes and places them outside. The next morning, on Dec 6th, they will find chocolate or small presents in their shoes. Whoever wants to believe it believes that a person called Saint Nikolaus brings these goodies. This tradition stems from the very gracious Bishop Nikolaus of Myra. The story goes that he always gave everything he owned away and even begged on the streets to get money for the poor.
There are many traditional dishes and sweets that are only sold in this time of year: Chocolate covered fruits, Gingerbread in the shape of hearts and „Schmalzkuchen“ (small cakes similar to donuts, with powdered sugar on top, always served hot). Of course you can also opt for the all time favorites like Bratwurst and potato pancakes. „Glühwein“, a hot wine punch with Christmas spices or almonds can be bought everywhere and is the go to drink in this cold season.
Christmas and the handing out of presents is on Christmas Eve Dec 24th. In some families the children have to sing some Christmas carols or recite a poem before unwrapping the presents. Afterwards we celebrate with a big family dinner. Traditions about the food vary depending on the region or family even. It could be a roast dinner with pork or fish or potatoe salad with sausages (very German indeed :D). The two following days mainly consist of big family meals and eating Christmas cookies for dessert and travelling to see all your relatives for this special occassion.
Merry Christmas – Or Scary Christmas?
Icelanders love Christmas! Due to lack of daylight every house is lit with Christmas lights and candles are all around. Christmas songs, family gatherings and exchange of presents are some of our traditions along with drinking delicious Jólaglögg (similar to Glüwein) and delicious cookies.
There is however a twist in this whole “oh-so-cute-Christmas-Island-filled-with-snow”. That is, the scary lores of Icelandic Christmas: The two huge trolls who eat children during Christmas called Grýla and Leppalúði, their 13 sons – The Icelandic Santa Clauses (and yes, you read correctly, Thirteen Santa Clauses) – that give children cute presents if they behave well. Then there is the huge Christmas cat that eats children as well (as if two trolls weren’t enough). These trolls have even been an inspiration for a horror movie called the “Child Eater”.
Aside from all these scary trolls, cats and Santa Clauses, the Icelandic Christmas celebration is actually very cosy and heart-warming.
Hope you will enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas!