Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Czech, Slovakian and Hungarian Christmas Traditions

This month I decided to research Christmas traditions of some of the countries I have visited since one of my travel goals is to spend Christmas in a foreign country.
Last week I posted about Denmark and Sweden - this week it is the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
I visited Hungary in 2007 and the Czech Republic (with a quick side trip to Slovakia) in 2008.
Once again I riffled through some old photos scanned and cleaned them up in Photoshop. I know they aren't Christmassy, but I'll post those sometime in the future when I spend a Christmas in Eastern Europe!

Czech Christmas Traditions
  • Carp is the featured dish on Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Eve dinner is filled with traditions and superstitions foretelling the coming year, marriages and wealth
  • Certain foods must be consumed at the Christmas dinner to bring good luck  - including garlic, honey, mushrooms, Vánočka (Christmas bread), and apples
  • The tree is decorated on Christmas Eve
  • Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) brings presents – not Santa
  • Children leave the room and do not reenter until a bell has rung – indicating that Jesus has left the presents for the children
  • St. Mikulas (St. Nicholas) brings presents in early December

Read about my brief Slovakian adventure here.
  • Traditions and superstitions regarding the future(similar to those in the Czech Republic) are carried out during the celebrations that center on family
  • The tree is decorated on Christmas Eve
  • Some Slovakians fast before the big meal
  • On Christmas Eve there is a feast and breaking and eating wafers precedes the meal
  • A white table cloth representing the Christ Child’s swaddling is used on the table for the feast
  • The Christmas Eve meal consists of twelve dishes for the number of apostles
  • Straw is spread around the house to represent the manger
  • Just like in the Czech Republic Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) brings presents – not Santa
  • Santa’s counterpart is Father Frost (I rather like that name!)
  • Hungarians countdown to Christmas with Advent calendars and wreaths
  • Christmas trees are never decorated until Christmas Eve
  • Decorations stay in the house – never outside (hear that Clark Griswold?!)
  • Christmas is an intimate family celebration and Hungarians do not typically go to parties
  • On December 6th the Day of St. Nicholas children leave shoes on window seals overnight in the expectation of receiving gifts
Budapest, Hungary
St. Stephen's Cathedral - Budapest, Hungary


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Danish and Swedish Christmas Traditions

One of my travel goals is to spend Christmas in a foreign country – preferably one that I have previously visited. This made me curious as to how Christmas traditions varied by countries. So I thought I would pick some of my favorite past trips and research their Christmas traditions.

I have picked four sets of countries and put them into blocks - meaning I have grouped them together in the way that I first visited them. For example, I will start with Denmark and Sweden. I visited both countries in 2006.

I am also in the process of teaching myself Photoshop, so I have been rifling through the past trip photos, organizing, scanning and cleaning them up with my new Photoshop skills.

Therefore I am going to include some of the photos from my 2006 trip. I know they’re not Christmas photos, but I’ll post those one I spend Christmas there – eventually!


  • Swedes enjoy the process or preparations that lead up to Christmas time particularly gifts, decorations and food
  •  The Christmas season kicks off with a glögg party in which mulled wine is consume
  • December 13th is Lucia Day this tradition involves a young woman rising early and serving coffee and  Lucia buns to everyone in herhousehold while wearing a traditional Lucia costumme

  • There are many countdowns to Christmas with Advent calendars and candles

  • Every Christmas Eve at 3pm EVERYONE in Sweden stops and watches a Walt Disney classic cartoon starring Donald Duck
  • A typical Swedish Christmas revolves around a nice fire and many candles
  • The Julbord is the Christmas buffet and is consumed on Dec 24th
  • On Christmas Eve Santa arrives in person to pass out gifts
  • Christmas trees are bought the day before Christmas Eve and are kept until January 13th known as the Twentieth Day Knut
  • When the tree is ready to be disposed of every one gathers around has a party and then the tree is ‘plundered’ or thrown out the window
Stockholm, Sweden

The view from Drottingholm Palace - Sweden


  • Like the Swedes the Danish countdown to Christmas with Advent calendars and candles
  • The Danish also celebrate Lucia Day on December 13th – the Swedish tradition was introduced to the Danes by The Norden Association during the German Occupation in 1944
  • Christmas lunches are celebrated throughout the Christmas month- these are primarily in the work place and consist of traditional Danish recipes and lots of alcohol (one reason I love the Danes!)
  • Danish breweries always produce a special Christmas brew
  • The Christmas tree is decorated one the day before Christmas Eve or on Christmas Eve
  • Because of the war with Germany Danish Christmas decorations are usually dominated by the national colors of red and white
  • Christmas is celebrated December 24 -26 and most shops and businesses are closed
  • Most people go to church during the day on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the holiday at home with their family
  • Christmas Eve dinner starts the celebrations and once dinner is finished it is time to light candles and open presents
  • Father Christmas brings the presents replacing the pixie and the old farm leprechaun of the pre-Christian era
  • The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen, Denmark
    Copenhagen, Denmark
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art - Denmark



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chile 2012 - Restaurants and Food

Truly one of the best things about Chile was the food. Not for the calorie counter, Chileans consume on a regular basis empanadas, steak, potatoes, some kind of corn mush, bread, salsa, and various types of seafood. On top of that factor in the growing number of tapas, French, and German restaurants and there is always a good meal to be had in Santiago. Here are a few of the places I visited and enjoyed immensely.

Located one block from the Le Reve Hotel in the Providencia neighborhood Liguria is a wonderful restaurant that serves good traditional Chilean food. So good I went twice!


The fabulous bar where the bartenders shake, shake, shake it as they mix up Pisco Sours -
the National drink of Chile.
Don't eat raw seafood the travel nurse in the US told me! What did I do? Ordered seafood.
 It was not raw (thank goodness because I didn't really know what I was ordering) and
quite tasty!
Chicken Pil Pil - so good! I want to try and make this at home. Tender chunks of chicken
in a spicy broth. Wow, I can taste it now. I wish I had some now. Perfect on a chilly day!
This is the lunch portion!?!? 
Restobar Pimienta
Actually the food here wasn't anything special, but what made this place memorable was the view. Tucked into a quiet and winding street in the London Paris neighborhood of Santiago it was the perfect hideout from all the crowds consuming El Centro.


De la Ostia

Literally next door to the Le Reve Hotel this was a standard tapas restaurant. What really made it unique was the waiter. He didn't hesitate to speak English - and I rather enjoyed our conversation. A great insight into the Chilean people.
The menu is on the table. Which is handy (literally)! Just point at the pretty picture!
El Huerto 
Okay so this restaurant was across the street from the Le Reve. Wow - what a great location huh!? If you happen to have an El Huerto in your neighborhood chances are it's some hot, fast, greasy Tex Mex. This on the other hand is good clean vegetarian fare and it was so nice!
 How about some music while you nosh on the patio?
Rayuela Wine & Grill

Best. Meal. Of. The. Trip.
Absolutely fabulous. Good food. Good wine. Amazing scenery.
This was the stopping point for lunch during the Colchagua Valley Wine Tour. Perfect.
This is the sweet corn mush. The one thing I didn't care for it's not bad just too sweet for me.
Los Dominicos - Handicraft Village 
The guide from the wine tour suggested we do some shopping here. We also took lunch at one of the two cute outdoor cafes.
Nice warm bread and a fantastic salsa and the 'spicy' mashed potatoes below were good.
The empanada - the staple of the Chilean diet. I saw a lot of stall owners munching on these with a glass of wine. Not a bad idea!
 Somebody call Adam Richman - this should be on Man vs Food. A fried egg on top of steak and sausage on top of fries. Wow!
Grocery Store Picnic

When ever I visit another country I love to hang out in the grocery store (which is odd because I hate going to the store when I am home!). I love to see what products are out there and snoop in other people's baskets to get a feel for what the public in general are buying. Here are a few pictures of the items I bought for a grocery store picnic.   
Complete with a world map of your cheeses!
The red wine was amazing and cheap. This bottle was about $4.00 US.
 Chilean Beer Just like the wine Chilean beer was delicious. There is a history of Germans settling in Chile over the years and they obviously passed on their beer making skills.