Prague is preparing for Christmas

Some city districts will spend will spend up tp Kč 1.5 million on the holiday

The Christmas holidays are still far away and advent begins late this year, on Dec. 3.

The first decorations are already turning up on street lights, on trees, and at shopping centers.

The trend of putting up decorations earlier and earlier has been happening across countries where Christmas is celebrated and has moved from the start of Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, to the start of November, just after Halloween. This is to extend the shopping season.

In the Czech Republic, Christmas is celebrated Dec. 24, which is a Sunday in 2017. The following two days are also national holidays.

Due to a law that took effect last year, most stores will be closed from noon on Dec. 24 and all day Dec. 25 and 26. Small stores and ones at airports and rail stations will be open though, so people who forgot to plan won't starve.

Aside from the three days of Christmas, another big part of the holidays, especially for children, is the eve of St Nicholas Day (Svatý Mikuláš) on Dec. 5, when people dress up as an angel, devil and St Nicholas. Recently, devils by far outnumber the others.

Each district of Prague has its own budget for holiday decorations. Expenditures range from several hundred thousand crowns to well over a million. These are in addition to decorations at holiday markets and malls, which are paid for by the firms operating the establishments.

Several districts will be serving free carp soup on the morning of Dec. 24 to anyone who comes. Typically, the mayor of Prague serves soup at Old Town Square, though details have not been disclosed yet for this year.

Some districts have already announced their holiday plans.

Prague 3 will spend less than Kč 500,000 for decorations, roughly the same as last year, according to daily Metro.

The district will have completely new ornaments on its streets and the Town Hall building. There will be a total of three Christmas trees plus one in the Christmas market at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad.

Carp soup will be served at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad. The church at the square, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, will have concerts featuring, for example, violinist Václav Hudeček. There will be special Žižkov Nativity (Žižkovský betlém) at the Prague 3 infocentrum.

Prague 6 will have a new light installation at the square between Wuchterlova and Kafkova Streets. A market for holiday trees will have a Nativity scene with live animals. Evropská třída will have about 250 lighting displays and as a symbolic welcome for those who coming from Václav Havel Airport Prague. The airport entrance gate will also be illuminated.

Prague 8 will spend Kč 1.5 million, twice as much as last year, and put holiday lights on every other lamp post. For the first time, the district will have four Christmas trees. Each neighborhood will also have its own tree.

In the south of the city, Prague 11 will decorate its the most popular streets. Christmas trees will be in front of the district office in Ocelikova Street and in front of the Mother Teresa Community Center (Komunitní centrum Matky Terezy). An ice rink is also planned. The exact figures haven't been determined, but if it is similar to previous years it will be around Kč 500,000.

Prague has already made several lists of top places to visit for the holidays, such as on CNN and U.S. News & World Report.

The Christmas markets at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square start relatively late this year, on Dec. 2, due to the late start of Advent, and run until Jan. 6, when Christmas is celebrated on the Orthodox calendar.

For the past few years, there has been no single tree lighting ceremony at Old Town Square for security and safety concerns. The crowds had been reaching such a size that there was the potential for accidents. The details of this year's opening day have not been disclosed yet but most likely will follow the same pattern, with the tree going dark and relighting several times during the first day.

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