Prague Christmas market

The Vanocni trh Christmas market in Prague

Prague is a remarkably musical city, with concerts and caroling sessions ranging from the Festival of Advent and Christmas Music (Dec. 14–16, to the famed 30-bell carillon of the Loreta pilgrimage church, which peals carols in December (

Then there are the Vanocni trh (Christmas markets) scattered around town. (Dec 1–Jan 1; and The two best are on the long slope of Wenceslas Square and in the medieval movie set of the Old Town Square around a giant Christmas tree, manger scene, and small petting zoo.

The markets’ brightly decorated stalls sell wooden toys, Bohemian crystal, handmade jewelry, classic Czech marionettes, and plenty of potential for tooth decay: honeyed gingerbread, vánoc[v]ka  (a braided pastry studded with raisins), vosí hnízda’ (“wasps nests” nutty cookies heavy with rum), and to wash it all down mead and svarene vino (a sweet mulled wine).

Christmas Eve dinner consists of wine sausages and carp—you’ll see barrels of the fish everywhere, later to be variously fried and made into soup, accompanied by potato salad. Slip a carp scale into your wallet to ensure an adequate cash flow for the upcoming year.

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St. Nicholas and his bipolar cohorts. The original St. Nick (the one with a bishop’s mitre and staff, not the one with a belly like a bowl full of jelly) is a hugely popular saint in Prague, so a highlight of Christmas season is Mikulas, or St. Nicholas Day.

The Czech St. Nicholas doesn’t do Christmas presents; that’s the Baby Jesus’ job. Instead, this kindly saint takes his own day (Dec. 5) to roam town accompanied by an angel and a demon.

The trio wades through the crowds of kiddies in the Old Town Square, tallying the naughty and nice record. The angel gives candy to good little children, who prove their worth by singing songs or shouting poetry.

The demon hands coal or hard potatoes from his sack to any children St. Nicholas deems naughty. Parents warn their children that if they are overly naughty, the demon will shove them in his sack and take them back to Hell.

Merry Christmas!

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.