Christmas, Czech-style

The Czech Republic is reputed to be the most secular country in Europe.  Something like 60% of its citizens either don’t practice their religious affiliation or are agnostic.  Yet the Christmas holiday season is in full swing and appears to be a serious matter here.  Go figure.

The Christmas market outside my flat at Namesti Miru is the picture postcard of charming.  A huge tree is decorated and lit in the middle of the square.  Small wooden stalls surround the tree, selling handmade crafts.  And, more importantly, some sort of fried dough with cinnamon is on offer.  And hot mulled wine that you consume at stand-up tables.  Meanwhile, the beautiful church of “Saint Ludmila” looms in the backdrop.

All across the city, beautiful old buildings are adorned with lights.  Even the street lamps have holiday lighting attached.  Several days of snow have made the city more charming and festive still.  Including Old Town Square:

Christmas market at Old Town Square in Prague

Then there’s the vacation time off.  When planning a recent product release, we assumed that no development work would be done for the last two weeks of the year. Everybody is off for at least a week, and many for two.  You would otherwise assume that Christmas is one serious religious observance for the country as a whole.

In the few months of writing this blog, my Czech friends have demonstrated that they don’t get my irony and sarcasm.  So let me be clear.  I am not criticizing those who are in fact religious and for whom Christmas is a big deal.  Somehow the spirit of this holiday has transcended religious meaning if you’re to believe the statistics about secularism.

In the end, how is that a bad thing?  Merry Christmas!

Coming: the year in review.

2 thoughts on “Christmas, Czech-style

  1. I disagree with the usual notion that holidays based on religion should be reserved to people practicing said religion. Czech (and, for that mater, that of most of all Europe, as well) culture is based on several funding stones, one of which is Christianity. While now the country is secular, the holidays, as you have noted, lost their religious merit. But that is true in most of the world, if not all, including the US. That is to say, the American christmas tradition is even less religious as in here, as some fat, bearded dude in red costume brings the presents, as oposed to baby Jesus around here. Even though the guy apparently is a morph of St Nicolaus, at least by name, he has nothing to do with traditional bishop, who brings kids treats (or coal) around here on 5th/6th Dec.

    Still, Czech for Christmas, Vanoce, has nothing to do with religion ethymologically. Just so you know 🙂

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