Christmas in Prague

Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní Mesto Praha,
Thursday, December 24, 2009

The transformation started about 5 weeks ago, with decorations going up at major metro stations and piazzas around the city. Since then, Prague has continued to morph into what it is today – Christmas crazy. Eighty-foot Christmas trees have been erected at major gathering places around the city. Lights in the shape of bells and holly line all of the city's main thoroughfares, and everyone I order a beer from is wishing me a "Hesky Vanoce". The city is a very popular Christmas destination, probably most famous for its Christmas markets (feel free to google image search it). The main squares in the city – old town square, Wenceslas square and Namesti Miru – are filled with dozens of stalls that attract locals and tourists alike. The markets look almost like a life- sized version of those Christmas villages people set up over cotton snow in their living rooms. Groups of stalls are attached to one another, creating small avenues for customers to walk through. At each vendor, something unique awaits. Christmas candles, homemade hot wine, extravagant glassware, delicate tree ornaments, roasted chestnuts, jewellery, wooden toys, coffee beans and anything else you can think of are all on offer. My favourite little tradition here is definitely the unique way people procure their seafood for Christmas Eve (no meat 'til the 25th). At nearly every metro station in the city, there are four or five cement kiddy-pools filled to the brim with live fish. And at nearly every one of those kiddy-pools there is a line of 10 people waiting to hand-pick their holiday feast. It’s awesome. Gruesome, but awesome.

It’s the eve of the big day now, and the city seems to have finally slowed down a bit to catch its breath.  The subway cars are almost empty, and the streets are clearing out. Most of the vendors have closed up their shops, and those remaining are making one last push to clear their merchandise. The city’s musicians are settling into the biggest week of their years, preparing for Christmas concerts at the churches and outdoor venues around town.  The Italian, German, Polish and Spanish tourists that one hears complimenting the sausage or tredlnik (a stiff pastry shaped like a cuff and dipped in powdered sugar) around town have bought the supermarkets out of cheap beer and are holed up in a hotel room or restaurant downtown. And Czech men are now finally getting to their Christmas shopping – procrastination is a universal custom.

As for Nat and I, we’re all set up at home with our tree decorated, advent calendars emptied, presents wrapped, and cookies baked. We managed to get a pretty good Christmas feel in the apartment – Nat sprayed a faux-frost on our windows, we got a wreath and candles from her preschool, we found a few spare nails in our walls to hang our stockings, and the tree fits perfect in the corner under our sloping ceiling.

Anyways, despite our plans of having this blog reach the masses, we know that most of the people reading are close friends and family. So we’ll take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, wherever you are. We miss you.

Vesele Vanoce

Buon Natale

Wesolych Swiat

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas,

James and Natalie
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