Tis’ the season to be jolly, merry and full of delicious food. The Czechs load up the dinner table on Christmas Eve with foods that will ensure good health or even predict the future. Here’s a list of a few holiday foods and the stories behind them.
Who would’ve thought that apples could predict the future? Turns out the Czechs did. After Christmas dinner, everyone is given an apple to cut in half. The arrangement of the seeds tells what is to come. A star means health, happiness and unity for the new year, but a four-pointed cross means bad luck will come to someone at the table (even insinuating someone will get sick or die). Here’s hoping everyone finds stars this season.
Another use for apples during the holidays: a young girl will peel an apple on Christmas Day and throw the peal above her head. When the peel lands on the ground, the alphabetical letter it looks most like will be the first letter of the name of her future spouse.
For homes with goats, give goats apples on Christmas Eve so their milk will be plentiful and sweet.
Honey has many functions on Christmas. To bring romance and love, Czech woman rub honey on their cheeks. It’s also placed in a saucer on the Christmas table to ward off evil spirits and bring good health to family. And, it’s also just a delicious snack on bread or in tea.
Peas are the ultimate garnish for the holiday season in the Czech Republic. Potato salad is a staple at the dinner table, but peas are scattered in it on Christmas because they have a supposed heavenly origin. Eating split pea soup or sweet peas sprinkled with sugar and gingerbread is less common, but still a Christmas tradition for some.
The day after Christmas, peas, poppy seeds, wheat and barley are fed to chickens. This assures delicious and plentiful eggs for the coming year.
Mushrooms are believed to bring more health and strength. There’s a traditional Czech dish called Kuba that calls for a mixture of wild mushrooms, barley, onions, spices and garlic that is served at the table. Garlic is believed to provide strength and protection, so some put a bowl of garlic under the table for Christmas dinner.
Vendors with tanks of live carp line the streets of Prague in December. Carp is used for fish soup and is fried as a traditional Christmas meal. In some households, they put the carp in the bathtub until Christmas Eve. The father will kill it that night to make the meal. This is less common now.
The common carp would swim from Europe to Asia and are native to central Europe. The fishing industry was huge in the Czech Republic and Christmas meals used to be very modest, so carp was always a centerpiece for dinner. It just made sense. Watch this video to learn more.
Banana & Oranges
During the communist era, the only time tropical fruits were imported into Prague was in December. They were only allowed to have bananas and oranges this time. This is why chocolate oranges are a popular Christmas treat.