Christmas Season in the Czech Republic
December in the Czech Republic is one of the most exciting times
December in the Czech Republic is one of the most exciting times for many residents and tourists during the lead up to Christmas. Decorations come out, the famous Christmas Markets are in full swing and when it snows the whole country is transformed into a winter wonderland, creating perfect postcard scenes. Most people will be busy shopping and preparing for Christmas Eve, which is the biggest date in the Czech Christmas calendar, but there is more to do in the country than just visiting Christmas Markets.
In Mikulov, South Moravia, from mid-November until early next year, hour long tours led by local guides around the ancient town are being put on. Along with a cup of mulled wine (from the nearby vineyards) it is a great chance to explore the place and its wintery wonders with an informed guide explaining the history. From the Baroque chateau to the Jewish quarter, the historic town has plenty of interesting parts to discover.
Český Krumlov in South Bohemia conjures up a great pre-Christmas atmosphere with its castle lit up above the Vltava river, Christmas Markets, concerts and a live nativity scene. A unique aspect is the Christmas bear festival that takes place in the moat of Český Krumlov castle every Christmas Eve. Trees decorated with sweets, biscuits and fruits (attached by a special thread that dissolves when eaten) are placed in the moat, and children put other pastries, vegetables and food, inspected by the bearkeeper, underneath the trees. The bears are usually fed a healthier diet but, much like a lot of people, are allowed to pig out at Christmas. The music group Kapka play traditional Czech carols as visitors stand on the bridge watching the bears devour every last bit of food.
The Moravian museum in Brno is opening a new exhibition entitled ‘World of the mysterious Baltic people’ at the beginning of December. Not particularly Christmassy but it does show the medieval history and culture of the Baltic region and its relationship with the Czech lands. If learning about an even colder part of the world doesn’t get you in the winter spirit then there’s always the Brno Christmas Markets as well.
In Prague there are of course numerous Christmas Markets but as well as them from the 5th December until the end of January an outdoor ice-rink opens at Ovocny Trh in the Old Town. From 10am to 10pm anyone can skate on the rink for free, although hiring ice-skates is 50 CZK. Up at Prague castle sculptures by Olbram Zoubek will be on display from the end of November until February next year. Over 200 of the individual sculptures, made between the 1950s and the present day will be around the grounds and available for all to see. This will be the first time some of the pieces have been seen by the general public .
The Church of Our Lady of the Snows in central Prague will have a huge Nativity scene with moving figures, built by Jirí Votruba. Opening on the 30th November until early January, entrance is 40 CZK and the shop sells items and materials required by any visitors wishing to make their own Nativity scene at home.
Into the New Year and on the 1st January the cultural event ‘The Year of Czech Music’ will be occuring in various venues across the country at the same time. This commemorates important figures in the history of Czech music and next year in Smetana Hall of the Municipal House in Prague, Dvořák’s ‘Slavonic Dances’ will be performed. If Dvořák’s not your style then works by other Czech composers will be aired in Prague’s Rudolfinum, the Janáček in Brno and the Great Hall of the Municipal Meeting House in Plzeň.
Also from New Year’s Day onwards the Czech painter Alfons Mucha’s ‘Slav Epic’ will be on display in the Trade Fair Palace in Prague. The cycle of 20 paintings, all inspired by Slavic and Czech history and mythology took almost 20 years to complete and was first exhibited in 1928 to celebrate ten years of Czecholslovakian independence. It is now back where it first started for all of 2014.
With the winter Olympics in Russia starting in February, what better place to get some practice or watch some warm-up action than in the mountains bordering the country? In northern Bohemia in Bedřichov the 47th Jizerská 50km ski race, the third-oldest ski race using the classical technique in Europe, should get those into winter sports in the mood. On the 12th January participants will face up to the Jizera mountains to determine the winner among hundreds of skiers.
The same weekend in Nové Město na Moravě, South Moravia, the world cup of classical skiing will be taking place. Visitors will get the chance to see some impressive sprints at the Vysočina Arena as well as cross-country skiers and have a go themselves.
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