Christmas is a popular holiday season in Czech Republic, and three public holidays are provided to the people on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day afterward.
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Although Czech Republic is a very secular nation, the people nonetheless have many longstanding Christmas traditions that are still commonly practiced today.
Several weeks before Christmas, “Jezisek” (Baby Jesus) takes on a role much like that of Santa in other countries. Children send out letters to him, informing him of what they want for Christmas. Later, on Christmas Eve, Jezisek sneaks presents under the Christmas tree while everyone is enjoying Christmas dinner.
Just after dinner is finished but before anyone has left the table yet, a bell will be heard ringing. That is the sign to go open presents brought by Jezisek, and in many families, to then sing Christmas carols together around the tree.
Christmas Eve is called “Stedry Den” in Czech, meaning “Generous Day.” This is likely because it has long been a day of abundant feasting, even for poorer families. It is a day to be generous to everyone.
An old tradition is that if you fast on Christmas Eve up until dinner time, you may well see a “vision” of Zlate Prasatko (the golden piglet) on the wall. Such a sight is supposed to bring you good luck. Also, it is thought bad luck to leave anything uneaten on the Christmas dinner table or to be the first one to get up and leave the table after eating. Thus, all traditionally get up simultaneously.
Another old Christmas tradition is the practice of casting a shoe over your shoulder. Should it land with the toe-end pointing towards a door, this indicates you will soon be married.