Czech Christmas Customs and Supersitions
Czech folklore is rich in
customs and superstitions and there are hundreds of those
related to Christmas. The purpose of many of them is to
find out what the coming year has
Magical Powers of Foods and Plants
Christmas Customs and Superstitions
Czech Christmas dinner (December
24) is connected with a great number of different customs, rules
and superstitions. Very few of them are still observed today,
and for good reason. It must have been quite a challenge to put
together and go through with it without a mistake if all the
customs were to be followed! Here are some of them:
- No lights
should be lit in the house before the first star comes out.
After it does, dinner is served.
- The table
should be set for an even number of guests. An odd number brings
bad luck or death.
extra plate can be used to even out the number of guests.
An extra plate should also be prepared in case
- an unexpected
a person in need comes by the house at dinner
The legs of the table can be tied with a rope to protect the
burglars in the coming year.
- 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 -
Christmas bread), and other foods.
- No alcohol should be served
on Christmas Eve.
- 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.
- 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
Certain plants, spices and foods
are said to have special qualities and have been an important
part of Czech Christmas celebrations throughout history.
Garlic is an essential part of Christmas that should not
be missing at any Christmas dinner. It is believed to provide
protection. A bowl of garlic can be placed under the dinner
Honey is believed to guard against evil. A pot of honey can
be placed on the dinner table.
Mushrooms give health and strength. A traditional meal called kuba,
prepared from dried mushrooms, barley, garlic, onions, and spices, used to
as the main meal in the past. Mushroom soup can be served before dinner.
Sheaf of Grain
A bundle of grain dipped in holy water can be used to sprinkle
the house to prevent it from burning down in the next year.
peas, wheat, barley
If given to the hens on Christmas Eve, lots of eggs will be
laid in the coming year.
Feeding a piece of vánočka to the cows on Christmas
Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year.
Putting a few vánočka crumbs in front of the bee hive will make sure
that the bees will produce enough honey next year.
Throwing a piece of vánočka into the well will ensure good quality
of the water.
If the goats are given apples on Christmas Eve, their milk
will be sweet.
The foretelling of the future and
predicting the well-being of the family in the coming year is
connected with many popular Christmas customs some of which are
still practiced today.
of Walnut Shells
Little boats are made out of empty walnut shells and each family
member places a little burning candle into a shell. Everyone's
shells are then floated on a bowl of water. If the shell makes
it across the bowl, its owner will live a long and healthy
life. A shell that sinks brings bad luck to its owner.
of the 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 piece of lead is melted over fire and then poured into a
container of water. The resulting shape will tell the pourer's
Lots of Christmas customs
help young girls in the family
if they will get married in the upcoming year.
On December 4, St. Barbora's Day, an unmarried girl is supposed
to cut a twig off of a cherry tree and put it in water. If
the twig blooms by Christmas Eve, the girl will marry within
of the Shoe
An unmarried girl is supposed to throw a shoe over
her shoulder and towards the door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing
towards the door, the girl will marry within a year.
of the Elder Tree
An unmarried girl is supposed to shake an elder tree and if
a dog barks, she will marry a man who lives in the direction
from which the dog bark came.
Although Czech Christmas has
traditionally been focused on spirituality and family
rather than on material possessions, there are a few
customs relating to money and wealth.
Fish scales should be placed under Christmas dinner plates or under the tablecloth
to bring wealth to the house. Carrying a fish scale in a wallet all year
will ensure that money will not run out.
- He who fasts all day until dinner
will see the golden piglet on the wall.
- After Christmas dinner, no field is to be crossed until the
midnight mass. He who does so
will die within a year.
- He who fails
to give a present on Christmas Eve will be met with poverty.
A pregnant woman will know whether she is carrying a boy or a
once the first
Christmas Eve visitor enters the
- house. If the visitor is
will have a daughter.