Czechia is where East meets West. This may sound like an empty cliché that many other countries or even cities use to promote themselves. But it is definitely true that this country in Central Europe is roughly divided into two culturally distinct parts. Doctor Jana Poláková is an ethnographer in the Moravian Museum in Brno. As she explains, Christmas is a good time to observe the differences between the folklore in different parts of the country.
Joy Bellefontaine is Acadian French and proud of it, but having married a Czech husband and living in the Czech Republic for nearly 20 years she admits her family’s Christmas contains a mix of local and Acadian traditions. Tom McEnchroe, visited her to find out how foreigners living in the country celebrate their Christmas.
His ancestors were among the most influential nobility in Bohemia, but unlike many others, they chose to remain in Czechoslovakia after the communist takeover. Now Děpolt Czernin is doing his best to protect a famous Czech tradition – “Ježíšek”. He has founded a society devoted to bringing the likeness of baby Jesus back into the public sphere.
Lodged just before Christmas, December 22nd may at first seem a rather unremarkable day. However, it marks the anniversary of the first recorded Christmas tree being introduced on Czech soil. Today Christmas trees have not only established themselves in nearly every household but also dominate many town squares. This despite an initial struggle against Czech revivalists, who saw it as a German import.
The festive dinner on Czech Christmas Eve is mostly associated with fried carp and potato salad, but few people know that this is a fairly modern tradition, established only after the Second World War. In the old days before the tradition of fried carp and salad was established, Czechs used to eat more humble meals, although they came in a rich variety of styles.
It is not just at local markets where gingerbread in all shapes and colours can be found. Baking the delicacy is a treasured tradition among most Czech families as well. On average each household bakes around eight types of gingerbreads, known as the perník, ahead of Christmas and children are often excited to partake in their preparation. To find out more about the way they are made, Radio Prague visited a museum that specialises in the baking of exquisite gingerbreads.
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