by Female Abroad

Some people only think of Christmas Markets when they think of Europe and normal these markets are only views as being in Germany. Well if you can't make it to Germany then the Czech is a great place to go instead.

A lot of people can't wait for Christmas Eve (Štědrý den - "generous day") to be able to celebrate with family as well as to eat the abundance of food. Traditional Czech Christmas ornaments decorate Christmas trees and preparations are made for the most festive dinner of the year.

At Christmas dinner, alcohol is forbidden and everyone must keep from sitting with their back towards the door. Once seated, if someone needs to leave the table then everyone will rise at the same time as it's believed the first person to leave the table is the first person to die in the new year. Christmas dinner usually is nine courses and everyone is supposed to eat all of the food on their plate but if they don't then they need to buried outside by a tree to ensure that the tree will bear fruit in the coming year. Carp is one of the main dishes that is served throughout the courses and these can be bought from large tubs in town squares a few days during Christmas and since you can only get them this way at Christmas time, some people will buy a few as family pets but eat them the following year.

Following dinner, Christmas carols would be sung at the table before moving to into the area with the Christmas tree. This is where people would start to open gifts who were bought by Baby Jesus (not Santa) who brought them in through an open window (kids even send their letters to Jesus instead of Santa). At midnight, the family heads to church for Midnight mass.; some places will do afternoon masses for children.

For the day after Christmas (called Second Christmas or St. Stephen's Day) is when some families will visit homes and sing Christmas carols but most will visit relatives instead.

Now besides Christmas, there are a variety of other holidays that are celebrated in the Czech Republic such as:

Name Days: Children are normally given a name day from a name day calendar and most originate from the saints of the Catholic or Orthodox church. This allows for each person in the country receives a gift at least once a year as people normally present a small gift card and wishing them happiness.

New Years Day - January 1

Foundation of the Czech Republic

St. Joseph's Day (Den Svatého Josefa) - March

Like a calm version of St. Patrick's Day, it's televised and celebrated throughout the county.

Burning Fire - The Burning of the Witches - April

In the evening, Czechs build bonfires and create an effigy of the legendary witch who perpetuated winter. Next, old shirts, pants and socks would be stuffed with straw and a pointed hat would be placed on top, tied to a broomstick. Over the roaring file, people roast sausages, plays instruments, and sing folk songs before the effigy is burnt. As the effigy burns so does the winter cold. Sometimes a large ugly doll portrays a witch and is paraded through the village before being burnt. In old times, it was believed that witches have the powers the diminished as the weather warmed therefore the idea is that by doing this, to get rid of the cold weather faster.

Czech Easter (Velikonoce) - March or April

During the communist years the religious meaning of Easter was suppressed but in more modern times the Czechs have brought back the Christian meaning of Easter. Although this holiday isn't as religious as other places it's still a cheerful and fun way to observe their own special set of customs that vary from village to village.

Normally children finish school on the Wednesday that week and on Thursday evening, the boys make wooden rattles which they shake through the villages in order to chase away Judas. The boys then go out on Friday to shake the raddles again but also solicit money door-to-door.

The majority of Czech create Kraslice (hand-painted, decorated Easter eggs) that girls then give to the boys on Easter Monday. Yearly in Prague, there are Easter egg contests where people can win money or plum brandy. On Easter Monday (Pomlázka) boys will braid pussy-willow twigs and then go caroling while whipping girls on the legs which is supposed to install youth and health in the women. Sometimes farmer's wives will whip everyone in the house as well as the livestock. It's also supposed to chase away illness and bad spirits.

May Day - May 1

Political parties on the left celebrate a holiday for the working people.

Czech flag - May 8th

End of WWII; marking the day of the liberation of Czechoslovakia from the Nazis.

Time of Love - May

Every year, couples gather at the Karel Hynek Mácha statue in Petřín Park where they lay bouquets of flowers and hang out.

Cyril and Methodius and John Huss Day - July

Cyril and Methodius were Byzantine Greek brothers who brought Christianity to the Great Moravian Empire in 863. They also created the Slavonic language and alphabet as well as translated the Bible.

Anniversary of the Execution of Han Hus - July

This important Czech religious reformer who was burned at the stake in 1415 and his death marked the beginning of the Hussite wars of the 15th century.

St. Wenceslas Day - September

Recognition of the saint patron of the Czech lands.

Czechoslovak Republic Independence - October

Originally celebrated in 1918 when Czechoslovakia became it's own country.

St. Martin's Day - November At 11 AM sharp

on November 11th, every winery and restaurant in the Czech Republic opens the first wines that are produced that year. These are the young wines which are low in alcohol content and are light/fresh tasting. This celebration which dates back to Emperor Joseph II, symbolizes the end of the harvest, or the beginning of winter.

All Souls Day (Dusicky) - November 2nd

This day is dedicated to honoring deceased family members by people going to the cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers.

Velvet Revolution / Gentle Revolution - November 17

The beginning of the Velvet / Gentle Revolution which lead to the Czech loosing Communism.