In Czechoslovakia, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25.
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.