Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok" and "Vesele Vanoce" in Bohemian
Location: Eastern Europe
Tree Type: Traditional
Decorations: The Christmas tree is not a longstanding tradition in most Western European countries, many of them including the Czech Republic have adopted it in the recent past. As fruit is considered luxurious during the cold Czech winter, the apples and pears that ornament the tree of the Czech Republic are special gifts that identify the Christmas season as a special time. Also found on Christmas trees are homemade angel, wreath, bell, heart and snowflake ornaments that are considered heirlooms in many families. Cornhusks, pinecones, and glass ornaments imported from the Czech Republic have also become Christmas traditions in some parts of the country. While they aren't found on the tree in the Museum, gingerbread, sweets, walnuts, and candles are also traditional ornaments in the Czech Republic.
Traditions: The Czech Christmas season begins with Advent four weeks before the 25th. St. Nicholas, who visits each village on the 6th accompanied by an angel and devil to symbolize the opposition between good and evil, provides another sign of Christmas' approach. The Christmas season is traditionally a time for fortune telling in the Czech Republic. On December 4th, St. Barbara's Day, people cut branches from cherry or morrello trees. They are placed in a warm corner in the hopes that they will bloom by Christmas Eve, a sign that the family will enjoy good fortune in the coming year.
The shapes seen inside apple cores or those created by pouring hot lead into water were also thought to prophesize the major events of the next year. The three days from the 24th to the 26th are a time of family closeness and religious reflection for many Christians in the Czech Republic. Those without close family members are often invited to join their neighbors in their celebrations, provided that no table has an odd number seated around it, as odd numbers on Christmas Eve are thought to bring bad luck.
Nativity scenes in all sizes from miniature to larger than life are set up in churches and in homes. In contrast to the more somber celebrations of Christmas, New Year's Eve festivities are extremely animated. Some people throw rowdy parties and others some have more sedate gatherings in restaurants, but almost everyone spends the evening of Silvester, December 31st, with friends celebrating the close of the holiday season.