Looking forward to Christmas for the entire month

We start to prepare for the greatest feast of the year well in advance, and we don’t mean the Christmas ads that are already starting to appear at the end of summer. True, the four-week Advent has Christian origins, but its traditions and customs date to a long time before that. With the crops harvested and nights getting longer, people would spend their time telling mysterious stories, impatiently awaiting the winter solstice – the arrival of the solar deity and longer days. Not all the original traditions have survived, but Advent still provides an atmosphere of magic all the same.

brnoregion_christmas_banner-09.jpg

Have you been good this year?

The time before Christmas has been always associated with the names of several saints, but one of them – Mikuláš (or Saint Nicholas) – is still remembered by every child. On the fifth of December, the eve of St Nicholas’ Day, you can come across dozens of bishop Nicholases downtown, as they walk together with Angels and Devils, bringing small gifts to children. To the ones who have been good, that is. The naughty ones are given only potatoes and coal and the Devil can even take them to hell (at least that’s what people say). If the children say a rhyme or sing a song, though, they may soften the Devil up. And if Saint Nicholas, the Devil and the Angel don’t catch you at home, they’ll leave a package for you on the window.

Did you know that the first days of December are especially suitable for various magical rituals? On the fourth of December, the feast of St Barbara, girls would cut twigs off fruit trees, hence called “barborka”, and put them in a vase full of water. If the twig came into bloom, the girl could look forward to getting married the next year. It’s still magical to have some fresh blooms in December, so the “barborka” twigs are put in vases these days as well.

According to a very popular proverb, “Saint Lucy shortens the night without prolonging the day.” It dates back to the times of the Julian calendar (used until 1582), which marked the winter solstice on December 13th. And even though today we know that the days start to get longer only over a week later, our ancestors believed that the night wouldn’t get longer anymore. That’s how strong their desire was for longer days!

Stay away from those sweets!

Anyone with a sweet tooth is going to enjoy Advent in #brnoregion to their heart’s content. Or belly’s content, to be more precise. Czech housewives still compete to be the first to start baking Christmas sweets and have the most types (ten may not be enough for some!). And since they start baking well in advance, every child trying to sneak into a cold basement or balcony on a secret sweet-hunting mission was often met with “Stay away from those sweets! They’re meant for Christmas!” And then one day Advent turns into Christmas, and the trays overflow with the sweets that suddenly nobody really feels like eating, especially after all the other Christmas specialties. At that point, the phrase changes to “Why haven’t you even touched the sweets??”
brnoregion_christmas-05-(1).jpg

We kind of spoil ourselves on Christmas, you know. And that’s perhaps another remnant from the past when it was necessary to properly honour the solar deity. Only our “golden pig” has survived from the Advent fasting. They say that only those who fast for the whole day until Christmas Eve dinner will see it! And no wonder, really – go an entire day without eating anything and you’ll see all kinds of stuff!

Christmas Eve is upon us

There’s a lot of cleaning and cooking before Christmas Eve dinner. Those who worked hard during Advent go for a walk or take a rest, and it’s a good thing because if you sweep on Christmas Eve, you may actually sweep luck out of the house! People decorate the tree, prepare fish soup and potato salad, cover pieces of carp or pork in breadcrumbs and fry them, and bake “vánočka”, which is a Czech type of holiday bread, also called stollen.

Vánočka is a type of cake woven from several strips of dough, symbolizing Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes. People also used to believe that the cross weaving would protect them from evil powers.
brnoregion_christmas_banner-10.jpg

Did you know that our potato salad is a source of numerous Christmas disputes? It’s because everybody prepares it in a different way. Of course the main ingredient is potatoes, but what else? Some people add mayonnaise, others yoghurt. Some can’t imagine their salad without root vegetables and pickled cucumbers, others prefer peas, boiled eggs or even ham. In short, there are as many versions as there are families that prepare it.

Christmas Eve magic

Sweeping the luck out of the house isn’t our only superstition – we have so many on Christmas Eve! There has to be an even number of people at the table, or at least an extra plate should be set. People put fish scales under their plates to make sure they’ll have enough money next year, and those who get up from the table during dinner are not likely to live long enough to enjoy next Christmas.
brnoregion_christmas-07.jpg

There are other ways to predict your luck for the coming year, though. After dinner people cut apples in half and if the seeds form a star they’ll be healthy next year. People place small candles into nutshells and float them on a bowl of water – the longer the candle burns, the longer they will live. Melted lead is poured into water and the shapes it forms show you what to expect next year. And the list of customs goes on and on, and though some of them may be forgotten, many of them are still around today. 

A baby brings us gifts!

We are one of the few countries where the national symbol of Christmas and the person who actually brings the gifts has no visual representation. This may also explain why a growing number of things and decorations depicting the American Santa Claus have made it into our shops. Our gifts are brought by Baby Jesus. And the idea that a new-born is bringing gifts is… well, a bit weird. However, that’s how it is and at least we get to use our imagination.
brnoregion_christmas-08.jpg

Visits, visits, and even more visits

Christmas Eve isn’t the end of Christmas for us. It’s followed by two more feasts during which our ancestors were supposed to rest (perhaps to recover from the attack of the Christmas Eve delicacies on their stomachs) and refrain from cleaning. Some were said not to even wash themselves. And it may still be like that in smaller families. However, for the big ones a marathon of visits to relatives begins, during which more gifts Baby Jesus “left under the tree” are distributed and even more sweets are sampled.

With seven days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, those who don’t have to go to work after Christmas can enjoy some rest. It’s a school holiday, so people take the week off if they can. And as we wrote in our article on Easterwe do like our days off and celebrations.

04. 12. 2018
Photos: Aja Voráčková, Pixabay

More articles

Who will show me around Brno? Live

Who will show me around Brno?

You’ve decided to visit Brno, packed all the essentials and are more than ready for some exotic experiences. Congratulations! But wait, the most difficult part still lies ahead of ... Read more
30 years ago, we beat communism Live

30 years ago, we beat communism

A true miracle happened towards the end of 1989: the communist regime collapsed and the countries of Eastern Europe set out on their path to freedom. And Czechoslovakia was one of ... Read more
Ernst Mach - the great teacher of Albert Einstein Live

Ernst Mach - the great teacher of Albert Einstein

He criticised Newton and rejected atomic theory, which he considered merely a product of theoretical physics. He recognized only things that could be proven in a practical experime... Read more
World champion from the oldest velodrome in Europe Live

World champion from the oldest velodrome in Europe

What’s the magic of the world’s fastest cycling sport? According to Tomáš Bábek, one of the best sprinters in the world, it’s mainly about overcoming your fear of a bicycle with no... Read more
Open Gardens Live

Open Gardens

Open Gardens is an educational and consulting centre located in the centre of Brno where a unique passive house lies, literally, hidden away. It’s the perfect inspiration for build... Read more
Czechs – the masters of hiking markers Live

Czechs – the masters of hiking markers

It’s free, healthy, enjoyable, and widely-accessible – what could that be? Hiking! A hobby the Czechs have been enjoying for over a century. And you can tell wherever you go, liter... Read more
Saving the rainforests Live

Saving the rainforests

In 2018 alone, around 8 thousand square kilometres of Amazonian rainforest were destroyed, and this number continues to grow at an alarming rate. This largest rainforest in the wor... Read more
Mendel is… A beekeeper! Live

Mendel is… A beekeeper!

We think highly of the giants from our region. And since Johann Gregor Mendel is one of the most interesting people to ever live in #brnoregion, we decided to throw him a huge birt... Read more
Music as a chemical reaction Live

Music as a chemical reaction

Have you ever wondered what sound carbon would produce? Yes, #brnoregion boasts top-quality research in chemistry, but sometimes we even provide answers to seemingly insane questio... Read more
Brno in maps Live

Brno in maps

Find the capital of South Moravia on a map? Easy. But where can you find out which part of the city people feel best in or where the largest number people live at the same place? T... Read more
Artist Kateřina Šedá connects people not only in #brnoregion Live

Artist Kateřina Šedá connects people not only in #brnoregion

Despite being a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Kateřina Šedá’s projects leave her working mainly with people, communities, and relationships. She conducts her soci... Read more
Journeys to the Beginning of Time Live

Journeys to the Beginning of Time

#brnoregion – not only hot now for its spirit of science and research, knowledge economy and universities, but equally interesting in the very distant past. If you’re a fan of preh... Read more
The air is our sea Live

The air is our sea

The Czech Republic is an aviation superpower. It’s one of a handful of countries that can manufacture an entire airplane – from nose to tail. In fact, the history of Czech as well ... Read more
Brno is a great place to do research and raise our daughter Live

Brno is a great place to do research and raise our daughter

Stefania Pagliari and Giancarlo Forte have been living in Brno since 2013 and aren’t planning to leave, not even after their daughter was born here in 2017. Read more
Brno Festival wins opera Oscar! Live

Brno Festival wins opera Oscar!

Janáček Brno won The International Opera Award for the best festival of last year. Read more
The things they call “impossible” are the most interesting Live

The things they call “impossible” are the most interesting

“A lot of innovations are made by the artists simply trying out various technologies without knowing exactly what they can do,” says Martin Králík from the 3D studio at the Faculty... Read more
The best gaming weekend is coming! Live

The best gaming weekend is coming!

Just two weeks from now, the gaming industry’s biggest developers, stars and fans will all come together in Brno to get inspired, share experience, and, above all, have some fun. O... Read more
Blue and white fairy-tale from #brnoregion Live

Blue and white fairy-tale from #brnoregion

Around four thousand years ago in far-off Asia, people learned to use the indigo plant to dye fabric. Then, via Silk Road, this art spread to Egypt and – several centuries later – ... Read more
From the computer to the stove and global success Live

From the computer to the stove and global success

Food and drinks are our never-ending passion. Just look at how many people – without any experience or relevant education – hurl themselves into the hospitality business and manage... Read more
Mendel University celebrates 100 years of stories Live

Mendel University celebrates 100 years of stories

Mendel University is yet another institution to celebrate its 100th birthday this year, as it was established right after independent Czechoslovakia. The celebration in the spirit ... Read more
Taste the whole world in #brnoregion Live

Taste the whole world in #brnoregion

Based on an analysis by Bott and Co Solicitors, you can find 94 national cuisines in New York, making it number one in the world. No, #brnoregion isn’t this cosmopolitan, but our s... Read more
Too crazy for ordinary sports events? Live

Too crazy for ordinary sports events?

Visit #brnoregion! We are just crazy. But laughter heals! (And strengthens your abs.) Fun is a crucial part of our lives – without it, things would just be boring. Here we love to ... Read more
What the IT guys in #brnoregion do after work Live

What the IT guys in #brnoregion do after work

It’s always great if you truly enjoy your work, but sometimes it’s also good to take a break and spend some time on something a bit different. Or someone completely different. We w... Read more
Who’s changing the world for the better? Live

Who’s changing the world for the better?

Let’s talk about those who like to do things right while improving the world around them, no matter whether they’d like to fight the drought or invest the money into building the c... Read more
Do we speak English in #brnoregion? Live

Do we speak English in #brnoregion?

For many companies in #brnoregion, speaking English is completely normal, and – as Austria is so close – lots of us speak German as well. And even if it may not always be simple wi... Read more
Petra Střelecká: In Brno, sitting in a café is an experience Live

Petra Střelecká: In Brno, sitting in a café is an experience

Brno is a city of coffee. And top baristas! The baristas from Prague and Brno keep alternating on the first spot in Czech barista competitions. Petra Střelecká is one of them and s... Read more
The best climber in the world comes from #brnoregion Live

The best climber in the world comes from #brnoregion

Adam Ondra runs on rocks like a chamois and keeps breaking world records. He creates new grades (currently 9c) and reigns supreme in bouldering, vertical rock climbing and also on ... Read more
Long live the Marmalade Queens! Live

Long live the Marmalade Queens!

In #brnoregion we can only dream about trees heavy with juicy lemons and oranges. But this doesn’t stop us from making some of the best marmalades in the world! How is that possibl... Read more
In Vino Veritas in #brnoregion Live

In Vino Veritas in #brnoregion

Do you feel like having a glass of wine (or two, three, ehm…) from time to time? Right now? Cool! In that case #brnoregion is the right place for you because here you come across w... Read more
Gaming stars are coming to Brno Live

Gaming stars are coming to Brno

The third annual game developers conference and festival, Game Access ‘18, is about to kick off in Brno. Beyond novelties from the digital gaming world, it also promises its attend... Read more
Brno as the capital of European coffee culture Live

Brno as the capital of European coffee culture

Premium coffee is a huge trend all around Europe, but Brno is closer to it more than anyone else. That’s because we have been drinking it since the 18th century. We enjoy not only ... Read more
From A to B Live

From A to B

Speaking of transport and transportation, #brnoregion still has some issues to improve but also so much to be proud of. The public transport in Brno in particular is one of the c... Read more
Enjoy Majáles - the biggest student festival Live

Enjoy Majáles - the biggest student festival

The most entertaining part of the student year in #brnoregion? Definitely spring. Before the semester moves into the test period, it’s necessary to recharge one’s batteries and to ... Read more
#brnoregion, Excellent Starting Line Live

#brnoregion, Excellent Starting Line

Four year seasons, varied landscapes and nature, great city with sporting facilities, this is a fantastic background for everyone to find the best sporting activities in #brnoregio... Read more
Spank the Baby! Easter Volume Live

Spank the Baby! Easter Volume

Czech Easter is a big deal. Controversial. Loved and hated. And also magic. Let’s find out what “pomlázka” is, how a decorated Easter egg looks like, and how a bit of symbolic viol... Read more
Armin the Extraordinary Live

Armin the Extraordinary

What a funny paradox it is that insignificant trivia get in the spotlight while very important phenomena go unnoticed. Quite the same with people: there are so many so-called celeb... Read more
Our hearts beat for games in #brnoregion Live

Our hearts beat for games in #brnoregion

Do you like playing? No matter if you prefer board games with a gang of friends or online gaming, #brnoregion will feel like heaven. We enjoy playing games and we love creating the... Read more
INTERCONNECTION & #BRNOREGION Live

INTERCONNECTION & #BRNOREGION

In 2000 Stephen Hawking published his vision that the new century would be the age of complexity. If Mr. Hawking was not mistaken, this century is going to be the age of ... Read more
TO CREATE AND TO LIVE. Live

TO CREATE AND TO LIVE.

#brnoregion is strong and modern background for creators looking for support on their way to success as well as their real home. It provides everyone with high living standarts. ... Read more
15 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING IN TO #BRNOREGION Live

15 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING IN TO #BRNOREGION

Sure, the internet is full of practical information about living in the Czech republic. But not many guides will tell you the real deal of living in the astonishing #brnoregion. Read more
Innovate your travelling! Live

Innovate your travelling!

How can you save money on the road, entertain your kids on a trip or discover the world from your couch at home? We have a couple of great tips from creative and clever heads from ... Read more
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more