Do you want to know what foods Czech families eat at Christmas? Which customs are associated with the Christmas Eve dinner?
Come join us at the table, we‘re going to taste the Czech Christmas!
Which Day Do We Eat The Christmas Eve Dinner?
Czechs consider December 24th to be the most important day of Christmas, and it‘s called „Štědrý večer“.
The literal translation to English would be the Generous Evening, but it‘s commonly translated as Christmas Eve.
The entire family eats the Christmas Eve dinner together between 4 to 6 PM. The dinner is considered to be the single most important meal of Christmas.
After finishing the dinner, all family members move over to the Christmas tree, under which Baby Jesus (Ježíšek), who is the gift-giver in the Czech Republic, lays the gifts.
The gifts are then unpacked while watching a Christmas fairy tale on TV, spending a nice time together.
Czech Christmas Dinner
The typical Czech Christmas dinner consists of 3 courses: soup, main course, dessert.
Fish soup is eaten as the first course of the dinner. It‘s easy to make, healthy and tasty.
The classical Christmas soup is formed by fish head consommé, soft roe, fish eggs, and root vegetables. The fish soup is thickened with roux and served with homemade croutons fried in butter.
While the finished soup is served, it´s garnished with a sprig of parsley.
The fish soup is followed by the main course, usually schnitzel or fried breaded fish (traditionally a carp).
The reason why a fried fish is simple: as touched on later, Czechs are supposed to fast on Christmas, which excludes any meat except the fish.
The carp is a common fish here in the Czech Republic, so it was almost always the first choice.
As a side dish is served classic Czech potato salad.
The potato salad is made out of boiled and then refrigerated and diced potatoes.
After this is done, canned vegetables (pickles, pea, carrot), boiled eggs, mustard, and finely diced onion are added to the mix.
The salad is then flavored either with vegetable oil or mayo.
Every recipe for the potato salad differs, one family may prefer to add grated apples, and someone else diced salami as a part of potato salad.
As a dessert and a sweet ending to the Christmas dinner, apple strudel with whipped heavy cream is served.
Strudel is a Czech favorite, its history reaches way back when the Czech lands still formed a part of Austria-Hungary. Strudel reached the Czech lands from famous coffee houses of the Austrian capital, Vienna.
Instead of strudel, you can also put up a plate with Czech Christmas cookies (vánoční cukroví).
Here are some popular Czech Christmas cookies:
Another typical Czech Christmas dessert is the Christmas bread(vánočka).
Czech Christmas Customs and Traditions
According to the ancient traditions, Czechs should fast on 24th December until the first star appears in the sky. Who manages to do that sees the so-called Golden Piglet (zlaté prasátko), which will grant him luck and money for the next year.
People put notes and coins under their plates at the Christmas dinner. They believe that the money will grant them plenty and luck for the next year.
Above the Christmas table, a mistletoe branch is hung. This custom should ensure the family's happiness and integrity.
The leftovers from the Christmas dinner were in the past usually given to the animals in the barn, or thrown into water and fire. This should have protected the house from fires and floods.
Watch this video on Youtube to learn more about Czech Christmas traditions from Janek Rubeš aka Honest Guy:
How Do You Say Merry Christmas in the Czech
People are closer together at Christmas time, even in the Czech Republic.
If you meet your friends during Christmas, you greet them with „Veselé Vánoce!“.
How to pronounce this? Here‘s the transcription: vɛsɛlɛː vaːnɔt͡sɛ
The greeting „Veselé Vánoce“ is a counterpart of American Merry Christmas.
Jeste prosim pridat Houbovou Kubu, Hrachovou polevku a smazeneho Kapra.
Oh, those are great tips! And it's obvious you know your way around Czech recipes 🙂 The fried carp (smažený kapr) I mentioned in the article is a very traditional Christmas Eve dish. Pea soup (hrachová polévka) is still cooked in certain Czech regions on Christmas Eve; otherwise, fish soup is served. However, houbový kuba is a regional specialty very close to my heart! This dish is made at Christmas in Podkrkonoší area (around the Czech Krkonoše/Giant Mountains), where I come from. My mother still makes this kuba dish today, not with groats, but as a mushroom bread pudding (a real treat)!
We lost my grandmother around six years ago and she had passed along some of her recipes to me, but not all. I was thrilled to find your website and have made many of your recipes - boy do they bring back memories! The only one that I have not been able to find is the fish soup. Would you be able to post a recipe for that? Thank you!
Ahoj Laura, thank you for your comment with kind words! I confess that I have never made Christmas fish soup at home; we make pea soup at Christmas. Any chance you can get your grandma's recipe somewhere? I would look it up and try to make the soup from it 🙂 Greetings from the Czech Republic, Petra
For our Christmas dinner we had both roast duck and goose with potato dumplings. It was spectacular!
Happy to hear that, Bob! 🙂
Hello Petra .
I would like to start my Czech Christmas tradition from this year for my family. So I was wondering if you have these Christmas meal recipes prepared?
Hello Dashka, thank you for your question. Every Czech family plans its holiday menu slightly differently. The foundation, however, is always potato salad and fried carp or fried rizek schnitzel. For dessert, we often prepare apple strudel or vanocka bread. And of course, lots of cukrovi, Czech Christmas cookies! Warm greetings from Bohemia, Petra