Christmas time in Prague
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Oct 25, 2007 12:15 AM Last Post By: makai1976
Oct 21, 2007 11:13 AM
Christmas time in PragueChristmas in Prague ... with the whole family.
After throwing caution to the wind in my last stages of pregnancy. I went ahead and booked a family trip to Prague for Christmas arriving on the 23/12. Now I have a 7 month old and apartment accommodation booked in the Old Town for four nights. Coming from a backpacking background as a rule I am happy just visiting a new country and soaking it all in, however given I have other family with me on this trip there needs to be a little more planning.
Christmas Day in Prague will there still be markets open on the 24th? Or have we left it too late? Any advice on how to make this special for my son's first Xmas?
Is it worth considering having Christmas lunch at a hotel or restaurant? If so any recommendations?
We are considering going to the Opera in Prague as I've heard that it's very good. Given we are also heading to Vienna should we consider taking this in this location or opt for Prague?
Appreciate your time, thank you.
Mother of Angus
Oct 21, 2007 1:03 PM
I would not bet on the market being open on 24th. Try to get onto the Old Town Square on 23rd evening, that should be nice.
For the Xmas lunch, usually only the upmarket hotels and restaurants are open and they have a special menu for Xmas, usually reflecting the US traditions more than any other. The main Xmas meal in the Czech Republic is the Xmas Eve dinner, which is traditionally carp (or fish anyway). I dont know your budget but if you are prepared to put down about 100 Euro per person (probably including wine) then go for it. But book ahead through internet and bring smart clothes.
As a kid I had loved the walks around the old town on Xmas Eve evening, looking up other people windows on the lit Xmas trees, the darkness and sometimes fog just slightly penetrated by the street lamps. It is also very romantic because there will be no people outside on the streets.
Please be aware that if you need any shopping to do, you will probably be able to do it only on 24th in the morning, most shops close around noon and the large supermarkets only a few hours later. Nothing is open on Xmas day apart from those few fancy restaurants.
I would probably go to the Opera rather in Vienna. The questions are: if they do play anything at all while you are in Prague / Vienna, if you are prepared to leave the baby with a sitter and go by yourselves (either of the houses are not friendly to small children) and how much you are willing to spend for a ticket. Also, if you do not plan to bring smart clothes, I dont recommend the Vienna opera house. But I allways dress smart even in Prague, but I have seen other people not to do this here. For the Prague opera house click here
As you are travelling with a small child, I would recommend that you take down this telephone number: 1212 which is for a private medical facility Sante where they speak English and serve also home calls. I use them as well.
If you need some specific advice, PM me. Have a nice time in Prague,
Oct 22, 2007 10:37 AM
Thank you so much for the advice.
Unfortunately our flight into Prague is late in the evening on the 23rd so time will be limited to take in Xmas eve traditions. It may be easier to opt for self catering in the apartment on the 24th for the lunch meal if we are looking at a US inspired meal at a Hotel.
Given our son is the most precious thing in our lives; opera may be given a miss if it is best to leave him behind. We’ll opt to buy the CD.
Thanks once more and your experience at Xmas time sound wonderful, so very different to the summer and traditions we experience here in Sydney, Australia.
Oct 23, 2007 1:33 AM
3Everything will be open on 24th morning (until 1-2pm) - no need to worry. What I always enjoyed as a kid was ice skating ring - behind estates Theatre and especially huge tubs with live carps everywhere in the city. (The Czech custom is to bring it home live, keep it in a bath tub for one or two days and then its the manly task for a father to prepare it for dinner:)
The Xmas markets will be open as well and the whole mix of splashing water, fish, stalls with Christmas trees, scents, hot spiced vine sold at the stalls and Christmas carols will be enchanting:)
Maybe buy a small tree and traditional wood, straw or glass decorations for your own Christmas tree for your Prague apartment.
Just walk the markets - with a little baby maybe consider some of the less crowded ones - like Namesti Miru - 5 min by metro from Old Town. They have very nice live program set up, nativity scene and carols played all day. You may take a funicular up Petrin Hill for very nice views of the city - without the strenuous walk.
For 24th Dec dinner I would book some of the hotels/restaurants. They will welcome your baby and menu is traditional czech Xmas dinner. For Xmas day lunch very nice will be Cafe Savoy or Cafe Louvre - they will be open and brunch there is very nice. I suggest to post question regarding restaurants on Prague branch of Trip Advisor - very knowledgeable people there:)
Eg. Hilton Prague has both evening finner and following day Xmas brunch - 70 and 39Euro per person respectively, children free of charge.
If you still have the energy - then Midnight mass is a must (in some churches they are earlier - 10pm or 11 pm). You will enjoy great music and meet other families with little children. Famous is St. Vitus or English mass at St.Thomas. The best organ and music in town will be at St. Jacob in Old Town.
The following days after Xmas I remember me and my parents browsing all the churches in the town and judging where is the most beautiful "Betlem" - traditional nativity scene. Some are enormous, the oldest ones with life-size baroque wooden statues. There will be Christmas concerts in most churches between 24th and 31st.
Truth is except for the souvenir stores and Xmas Markets everything will be closed for 24th evening, 25th and mostly also 26th Dec, so do your grocery shopping before - good is the big Tesco on Narodni trida (but for this I would leave the baby with your husband, it will be madly crowded
Prague ZOO has very nice Christmas program for Kids on 24-26th Dec. Opening hoursWinter opening hours
Prague Opera House schedules for 25th and 26th Christmas concert Il Natali Domini - starts at 2pm both days, I would bet they welcome children then.
The National Theatre shows ballet Nutcracker (children friendly:) at 2pm and 6pm on Dec 25th.
These are family performances, no need to overly dress up.
Vienna opera an ballet scene is very nice indeed, but in Prague it will be surely cheaper and more laid back. And the buildings are gorgeous.
Have fun and let me know if I can help some more.
Oct 23, 2007 9:44 AM
4Thank you so very much for all the fabulous advice and information. I was feeling as though I had missed the right time to be there when arriving so late and with many things closed. What has come across is the true magic in just being there and taking it all in. The evening mass sounds wonderful and well worth the effort. The excitement is now starting to build.
Oct 23, 2007 4:05 PM
5You will be just fine..:) It really is about the atmosphere more than anything else and I am sure your son will have great first Christmas.
Try to read into some of the Czech Christmas traditions - will help you understand the different feel of Czech Christmas compared to Anglo/American traditions.
1. Morning of 24th is for walks in the town, markets and decorating a Christmas tree. Fathers would go out with kinds and buy tree and carp while Moms are at home cooking:) Traditional decorations are from straw, wood, apples and walnuts with red garlands and ribbons.
Early 20th century tradition still live in Prague is lunch out with friends with meal of snails or mussels and vine, otherwise the custom is to fast the whole day until dinner.
2. Christmas eve (evening of 24th) is the highlight of czech holiday - after the first star rises family gathers for dinner of fish soup, fried or baked carp and vegetable/potato salad. Traditional little sweets (the more kinds the better:) are baked in each family.
Customarily there should be one extra place reserved at the table for a possible passer by - no-one should be left alone and hungry.
Place coin or carp scale under each plate to bring prosperity and wealth to their finders. Carp scales reserved from the dinner and kept in wallet bring money to you the whole following year (ask at the carp stalls, they would gladly give you some:)
After dinner presents are opened under the tree.
3. Then the family usually engage in some of the traditional activities because the night 24th is believed to have magical powers (not very Christian, stems from pagan winter solstice rituals of prophecy and fertility:) Some of the superstitions and customs are long forgotten, but others are live and most families (especially with little kids) will practice. Its not taken seriously, more just family time together and fun and it makes wonderful kid's pictures:)
- cutting apples - buy some nice red smaller apples and as you cut across either star or cross appears (mostly its a star:) - predicts the health of the person in the coming year.
- candle floating - fill shallow water basin or bowl with water. Carefully open walnuts and save intact half-shells. Place little piece of candles inside, lit and place on the water (floating candles alone would do as well). Each person has his own candle - if they float together the family will be together, if one separates and floats away then the person will go on a journey, if the candle sinks...
- cups - select four smaller cups, turn upside down and underneath place: teat (pacifier), banknote, piece of bread and little soil (wrapped in piece of paper), mix well. Each person makes his pick and what he finds predicts his fortune for the coming year - the first two are obvious:), bread means general well-being and soil means sickness or poor health. (My Mom would cheat and always place two breads instead for the soil:))
4. Then its time for a stroll - as Alexandra said its very peaceful in Old Town and trees are lit and you meet other families...
Lately some families with kids invented new tradition - they would buy the fish in the morning, but instead for killing it they would release it into the river after dinner of fried veal cutlets:) Its very sweet experience especially for children, but experts say the fish has no chance of survival due to cold weather and exhaustion:(
5. Midnight mass is very popular - I suggest heading to the church early - it gets packed easily and you won't be bored while waiting - there is singing and organ and nativity scenes inside...
6. Christmas day 25th is family time here and the activities are similar for the following day as well - people go for a sung mass in the morning, to the theatre, skating, sledging (Petrin Hill if you are lucky and have snow!), visit family, walk in Stromovka, visit to the ZOO...
Czech Christmas customs
Oct 25, 2007 12:15 AM
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