Christmas in the Czech lands – a magical time for children and adults
Christmas in the Czech Republic is one of the best times of the year. The streets of towns big and small are bedecked with yuletide decorations and town squares come alive with the hustle and bustle of Christmas markets. Old folk Christmas traditions are revived at open-air museums and children and adults alike stop at the sight of well-crafted figures in nativity scenes with delight in their eyes. Christmas and Advent music can be heard in concert halls, churches, castles and chateaux. A Czech Christmas is above all a time of cheer and friendship so accept our invitation and spend the festive season with us.
The appearance of St Nicholas means Christmas is on its way. While for adults the period leading up to Christmas is like no time at all, children impatiently count off the days on the Advent calendar. This agonizing wait for their Christmas presents is alleviated somewhat by the arrival of St Nicholas, who visits every child in the country on the eve of St Nicholas day December 5. This august figure is traditionally accompanied by an angel and a demon. He may scare the children a bit, but his main task is to give them some small gifts, fruit and sweets. This will be the scene on Charles Square in Třebíč (www.kviztrebic.cz). Christmas markets will be taking place in this UNESCO-listed town December 19 and 20.
The Czechs’ distinctive nativity scenes
The story of Jesus’ birth has always been an inspiration for the creators of nativity scenes. These are made of various materials including wood, ceramics, paper and even gingerbread. Some of the nativity scenes you will discover in the Czech Republic are some of the finest in the world and can be found in churches, museums and open-air museums. The museum in Jindřichův Hradec (www.museum.esnet.cz) houses the largest mechanical scenes in the world – the Krýza Nativity Scene. It took the creator more than 60 years to complete this gargantuan undertaking which holds almost 1400 figures! In Třebechovice pod Orebem (www.betlem.cz) the villagers have even created a Nativity Scene Museum housing nativity scenes from across the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Their most valuable exhibit is the Třebechovice mechanical nativity scene. The prized possession at the Nativity Scene Museum in Karlštejn (www.obeckarlstejn.cz) is the Karlštejn royal nativity scene containing figures representing Czech kings. And be sure not to miss the museum’s exhibition of gingerbread nativity scenes.
Music for Christmas and Advent
Czech classical music is some of the world’s finest cultural heritage and there can be no better Christmas present for fans than special concerts of music for Christmas and Advent which take place at concert halls, markets, churches, castles and chateaux. These will often feature the Czech Christmas Mass called ‘Hej mistře, vstaň bystře’ composed by Jakub Jan Ryba at the end of the 18th century. This year it will be performed twice by the Prague State Opera (www.opera.cz) December 25 and 26. Concerts of organ music with a Christmas theme will also take place December 25 until January 6, 2007 at the Basilica of St James in the Old Town (www.auditeorganum.cz). The popularity of music specially written for Advent and Christmas can be seen from the number of festivals taking place.
My father’s grandparents were from Vsetine, Moravia, and they emigrated in 1892 to Texas.
|Leroy Eugene “Lee” Frederick|