In Czechoslovakia, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25.
Czechoslovakia was a country in Central Europe that existed from 1918 until its peaceful dissolution in 1993, resulting in the formation of two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Christmas was celebrated in Czechoslovakia with a mix of customs and traditions, which varied depending on the region and the cultural background of the people. Some of the traditional Christmas celebrations included:
The Christmas season in Czechoslovakia began with Advent, a time of preparation leading up to Christmas. Advent wreaths with candles were commonly used in homes and churches.
Saint Nicholas, accompanied by an angel and a devil, played a significant role in Czechoslovakian Christmas traditions. On the evening of December 5th, children would eagerly await the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who rewarded well-behaved children with sweets and small gifts. The devil, on the other hand, was known to tease and threaten those who had misbehaved.
Czechoslovak towns and cities hosted Christmas markets, where people could buy gifts, decorations, and traditional holiday foods.
The tradition of buying a live carp to keep in the bathtub until Christmas Eve was common in Czechoslovakia, as it is in the Czech Republic today. On December 24th, families would butcher the carp and prepare it for the Christmas meal.
Homes were decorated with Christmas lights, ornaments, and other festive decorations. Christmas trees, adorned with candles and ornaments, were commonly displayed.
Christmas Eve was the most important part of the holiday celebration. It was a day of fasting until the Christmas Eve dinner, which typically included fish, potato salad, and other traditional Czechoslovak dishes. After the meal, families would exchange gifts, and children believed that "Ježíšek" (baby Jesus) would deliver their presents.
Caroling, known as "koledy," was an important Christmas tradition in Czechoslovakia. Groups of children and adults would go from house to house, singing carols and receiving treats or small gifts.
Many people attended church services, particularly the Midnight Mass, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Keeping a carp scale in one's wallet or purse was a common tradition to ensure prosperity in the coming year.
Christmas was a time for giving to those in need, and many Czechoslovakians participated in charitable activities and donated to those less fortunate.
Christmas in Czechoslovakia was a time of warmth, family gatherings, and the continuation of long-standing customs and traditions. The festive atmosphere, music, and delicious traditional foods made it a special and meaningful holiday in the region.
The preparations for Christmas begin here with the commencement of the Advent season. It starts from four Sundays before Christmas Day and continues until December 25. For devout Christians, Advent is a time to keep away from dairy and animal products (like milk, meat, eggs and the like) and indulge themselves in penance and religious reflection.
But the Christmas festivities are actually believed to begin here after St. Lucille's Day, the last holiday of Advent. Gift shops in the country stuff themselves with gifts, apparels and decorative items for the season and these are whisked away by enthusiastic buyers. On Christmas Eve, family members gather to set up Pine trees in their homes and decorate these in a beautiful manner. Other than in individual homes, these are also erected in public spots. These are usually taken down before January 6th, the Day of Epiphany.
On Christmas Eve, families attend the Midnight Mass at local churches along with their friends and family members. Fishes are the main highlight of the Christmas dinner. Fish scales are traditionally under Christmas dinner plates or under the tablecloth with the belief that doing this would usher in wealth to the house. Carrying a fish scale in the wallet all year is also said to ensure that the person will never be short of money.
An ancient tradition still practiced here involves putting a cherry branch in water indoors to bloom. If it blooms on Christmas Day, it is believed to be an omen of good luck, and also a sign that the winter may be short.
In the 19th century, Christmas in Czechoslovakia was more of a secular holiday. But the Second World War and the subsequent Communist regime saw the holiday become even more secular. Being atheists, the Communists tried to do away with the religious connotation of the occassion. But they failed to replace Baby Jesus, who is believed to be the bringer of presents to the children here, with Grandfather Frost. They were also unsuccesful in moving the celebration of Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve.