For Czechs, Christmas Eve is the big day and Christmas Day is spent relaxing, eating and drinking (we are Czech don't forget). But today is our day to go all out and celebrate. I myself have cleaned the home yesterday in anticipation of today, and today will be spent cooking for tonight's meal and wrapping gifts... with a cocktail in-hand, of course.
Let me share some of our traditions with you...
Czech's spend the afternoon of Christmas Eve at home with their families, decorating the Christmas tree and preparing food for the evening celebration. I have already failed my Czech traditions as I've had my tree up for well over a week now. Tsk Tsk
Traditionally, on Christmas Eve Czechs are only allowed to eat sauerkraut soup during the day in order to see the "golden piglet". This lasts until early evening, when Christmas dinner is served around 6pm.
Um, I have failed at this as well.
After dinner, a bell is rung signifying that Ježíšek has arrived and placed gifts under the tree. Once all the gifts are opened, families play games, or watch christmas movies, or just have a merry time together boozing it up (err, the adults, that is). Midnight mass is attended by some. I always mean to attend, but never quite seem to make it. Shame!
That all being said, this is important so listen up!
Here are some Czech traditions you may want to follow...unless you want to end up dead! (not really)
You should know by now that we're a superstitious bunch.
Christmas Dinner Customs
Disclaimer: Very few of these are still observed today (phew). Can you imagine sticking to them? Although, the superstitious Czech in me is struggling at this very moment...
- No lights should be lit in the house before the first star comes out. After it does, dinner is served. - It's a cloudy day...what does that mean for tonight? No dinner if no star??
- The table should be set for an even number of guests. An odd number brings bad luck or death. - Great, we have three this year. The dog will have to sit at the dinner table
- The legs of the table can be tied with a rope to protect the house from thieves and burglars in the coming year. - Easy enough.
- No one should sit with their back to the door.
- Christmas dinner should consist of nine courses including soup, bread with honey, carp, potato salad, fruit (dried, fresh or canned), dessert (apple strudel or vánočka), and other foods.
- No alcohol should be served on Christmas Eve - GASP!!!!
- No one should ever get up from the Christmas table before dinner is finished. Doing so brings bad luck and death in the family.
- Everyone should finish their dinner and leave nothing on the plate.
- The first person to leave the table after dinner will be the first one to die in the coming year - that is why everyone should get up from the table at the same time. - On the count of three...1, 2...
- Any leftovers from dinner (crumbs, fishbones, etc.) should be buried around the trees to ensure they will bear lots of fruit.
- All household animals should be fed after dinner so that no one goes hungry on Christmas Eve - well since the dog will be sitting at the table already...
And if that's not enough... here are some more tasks for us to do:
The Cutting of an Apple
After Christmas dinner, every person present at the table cuts an apple in half (crosswise, from the stem down). Both halves are shown to everyone around the table. If the core is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year.