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