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Unlike many other countries, our main Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve and it is called Generous Day (Štědrý den). A Christmas dinner is served just after the sunset and as everyone dines, Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) brings presents and leaves them under the Christmas Tree coming through the open window.
The tree is in a different room from the dining table and when children hear the bell ring, it means Ježíšek has been there. After the dinner, we gather around the Christmas tree to sing carols and open the presents. Dec 26th and 27th are days of visiting extended family and friends, or just relaxing.
Yes, it is believed that having a Carp scale under your plate, and keeping it later in your wallet, will ensure good fortune.
Czechs have some pretty unusual traditions connected with this fish.
Fried carp and potato salat is a typical Czech Christmas dinner and, in the week leading up to Christmas, there are massive tanks full of carp in front of supermarkets. Customers choose one of the fish, and it is killed in front of them and packaged to take home, or they can buy a live fish and take it home. Traditionally, families bought their carp a week before Christmas and let it live in the bath. It was to keep the fish fresh and to clean the carp and get rid of the slightly muddy taste it gets from the pond.
While many families including my own happily abandoned this tradition years ago – and I try to avoid mere sight of the tanks – still many people like it and it can be a source of shock for foreigners witnessing the carp sale in the streets.
It is not a particular tradition, it is the Christmas atmosphere I love. Prague is especially charming after Dec 24, when the shopping and all Christmas preparations are over (and the carp tanks disappear!). People slow down, we all try to be kinder, reflective and that makes it “the most magical time of the year”.
It was definitely challenging, but it brought many new opportunities and turned out to be a really good year work wise. There was a surge of innovations and high demand for new leadership among technology-driven companies and I am very happy there was a strong shift in priorities of our clients towards sustainability, purpose and social responsibility.
Every little joy it brings – ideally without a need to keep a distance and wear a mask.