Cultures all over the world have their unique Christmas superstitions. The Czech Republic is known for being one of the most atheist countries in the world. Ironically, according to Czech tradition it is baby Jesus, not Santa Claus, who brings gifts. Instead of lining up to sit in Santa’s lap, Czech children wait in line to pick out a live carp fish and watch it get clobbered to death.
Alternatively, families with younger children may decide to terrorize them by placing them in the tub with the live carp that will later become dinner. Fortunately, no part of the fish goes to waste. Discarded fish parts are used to make the traditional Czech fish soup. Carp scales are dried and saved for luck. Keeping a carp scale in your wallet is believed to bring good fortune for the upcoming year. Weird, right? Well, we haven’t even gotten to the Christmas superstitions yet!
Czech Christmas Superstitions
Czechs celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December and most families don’t actually believe in most or any of these superstitions. However, many are still told to children and are passed on to keep the traditions alive. The following Christmas superstitions come from my memory being raised in the Czech Republic, Prague Extravaganza and My Czech Republic.
One of the most known superstitions, is that if you throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas day and the toe points towards the door, you will be married soon! I’m not quite sure what happens if you do this when you are already married. I guess it’s a sign to start prepping paperwork for your upcoming divorce and new marriage.
Another one is that an unmarried girl is supposed to shake an elder tree and if a dog barks, she will marry a man who lives in the direction from which the dog bark came. I wonder if girls ever took fate into their own hands and went around shaking elder trees near dog shelters or the homes of sexy single men who have dogs.
Oh, and it’s a little too late this year, but there’s the cherry tree twigs… On December 4 or St. Barbora’s Day, an unmarried girl is supposed to cut a twig off of a cherry tree and put it in water. If the twig blooms by Christmas Eve, the girl will marry within a year.
Basically, go volunteer at dog shelters, practice throwing and study plants to improve your chances to get married. Alternatively, if the thought of being stuck with someone forever terrifies you, you can still work on these skills to avoid marriage at all costs. The great news is, these Christmas superstitions can be used to your advantage. Although in the old days this could label you as a witch.
- Celebrating Christmas the wrong way is a really easy way to die. Avoid an early run in with the grim reaper by avoiding the following:
- Do not set the table for an odd number of guests. Odd numbers bring bad luck or death. It is also traditional to prepare an extra plate in case an unexpected guest or a person in needs comes by the house at dinner time.
- Do not leave the table first after dinner or leave anything on the plate. The first person to leave will also leave the land of the living in the upcoming year. What happens if you need to pee? I’m not sure… it is actually possible to die from holding pee in, so it’s a pretty deadly situation.
- Not only can you not leave the table first, but you also can’t get up before dinner is finished. Doing so brings bad luck and death in the family. I told you that Czech Christmas is dangerous!
- After Christmas dinner, no field is to be crossed until the midnight mass. He who does so will die within a year. If you are a sleepwalker, beware running naked through the fields.
More Death… Christmas is Dangerous
If all this isn’t bad enough, you will be tested one more time… after dinner, every person present at the table receives an apple and cuts it in half. This must be done crosswise, from the stem down. Both halves are shown to everyone around the table. If the core is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year.
Fine, there’s one more way to die… or have bad luck. Little boats are made out of empty walnut shells and each family member places a little burning candle into a shell. Everyone’s shells are then floated on a bowl of water. If the shell makes it across the bowl, its owner will live a long and healthy life. A shell that sinks brings bad luck to its owner. Or, you know… DEATH.
Money – Christmas Superstitious
- I already mentioned this, but keeping a carp svale in your wallet will keep you from losing money.
- Not giving a present on Christmas Eve will be met with poverty!
- Finally, he who fasts all day until dinner will see a golden piglet on the wall. A golden pig is a sign of good luck! And dolla dolla bills y’all.
To protect the house from thieves and burglars in the coming year, the legs of the table should be tied with a rope. For more tips on how to foil burglars, binge-watch the Home Alone movies.
A pregnant woman will know whether she is carrying a boy or a girl once the first Christmas Eve visitor enters the house. If the visitor is female, she will have a daughter. Imagine the poor woman’s face if her guests involve quintuplets.
Other Customs: Christmas Superstitions
- No one should sit with their back to the door.
- No alcohol should be served on Christmas Eve.
- Everyone should finish their dinner and leave nothing on the plate.
- Any leftovers from dinner (crumbs, fishbones, etc.) should be buried around the trees to ensure they will bear lots of fruit.
- Garlic is an essential part of Christmas that should not be missing at any Christmas dinner to provide strength and protection. A bowl of garlic can be placed under the dinner table.
- Honey is believed to guard against evil. A pot of honey can be placed on the dinner table.
- Mushrooms give health and strength. Mushroom soup can be served before dinner.
- A bundle of grain dipped in holy water can be used to sprinkle the house to prevent it from burning down in the next year.
- If given to the hens on Christmas Eve, lots of eggs will be laid in the coming year.
- Feeding a piece of vánočka to the cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year.
- Putting a few vánočka crumbs in front of the bee hive will make sure that the bees will produce enough honey next year.
- Throwing a piece of vánočka into the well will ensure good quality of the water.
- A piece of lead is melted over fire and then poured into a container of water. The resulting shape will tell the pourer’s destiny.
Summary: Christmas Superstitions
Czechs are awesome people who happen to have some kooky traditions. As I already mentioned, these are all old-wives tales and I doubt that many people take them to heart. That being said, it is fascinating that people all over the world have some sort of Christmas superstitions and unusual traditions. Follow The Travel Bug Bite for more great content including weird traditions from all over the world.