The Czech Republic’s best known exports may be Skoda cars and beer, but you might be surprised to find out that Czech blown-glass Christmas decorations are also big business. And they may well even be stocked by a department store near you – they end up on the shelves of Macy’s in New York and Harrods in London, and even the White House is decked out in them come Christmas time.
In this special programme, we offer a taste of Czech Christmas music through the centuries. We’ll be hearing from the 17th century “Christmas Songbook” of Adam Michna z Otradovic, one of the founding fathers of this country’s rich tradition of carols, with recordings by the Moravian Madrigalists, and a new CD by the Zvonecek (Little Bell) children’s choir. There’ll be a stirring Christmas Mass from the 1770s by Frantisek Xaver Brixi, and we’ll even be finding out what happened when the Angel of the Lord broke his sled, in a traditional Moravian Christmas
In the Czech Republic Christmas is a mixture of pagan and religious traditions. The gifts are brought by baby Jesus, but it is a mixture of pre-Christian pagan rituals that ensure health and happiness in the coming year – like cutting an apple in half, floating candles or putting a fish scale under your plate on Christmas Day. Now Christmas has also become a matter of fashion.
Welcome to a Christmas edition of SoundCzech – Radio Prague’s weekly Czech language course in which you can broaden your Czech vocabulary with the help of song lyrics. Today we’ll hear the traditional Christmas carol “Dej Bůh štěstí tomu domu” or “Let God Bring Good Luck to This House”. The phrase to listen out for is “dát požehnání” or “give blessings”.
Every year, thousands of tourists come to Prague in order to visit the city’s Christmas markets. The numerous markets offer visitors a chance to shop for traditional Czech crafts, while sipping on a cup or two of mulled wine or mead. But do they live up to their promise? Earlier today, I interrupted a couple of British tourists on Old Town Square to ask them precisely that. Here they are introducing themselves:
What do you associate with a Czech Christmas? Carp and potato salad, maybe? Advent wreaths perhaps? Or maybe those festive markets selling mulled wine and gingerbread? Well, now there is a new exhibition which aims to present some of the Czech Republic’s slightly less well-known Christmas traditions. Namely, the festive customs of the country’s minorities. The exhibition, titled ‘Rozlicny cas vanocni’ (‘Various Christmas Traditions’), has just opened in Prague's Hrzansky palac.
Christmas is everywhere in Prague at the moment, from the sparkling lights in the city’s trees to the festive markets selling mulled wine and mistletoe. But one outpost of festive activity that you might miss if you didn’t look out for it is the exhibition of nativity scenes currently running up at Prague Castle.
Packed parking lots, packed stores: that’s the situation in most Prague shopping malls these days in the final weeks before Christmas. According to reports, Czechs are spending more than ever: economists are predicting that this holiday season Czechs will plonk down record amounts, a rise in the billions.
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