Christmas is among the most important holidays, with history going back to pre-Christian times and solstice celebrations. The word ‘Christmas’ is derived from the German word Weihnachten which means ‘holy night’.

The Advent starts four weeks before the Christmas Eve and culminates with three ‘holy days’: 24–26 December. In the Czech Republic, the Christmas Eve (24 December) is the most tradition-rich holiday, when the hustle and bustle of preparations comes to a head and the Christmas Eve dinner is served.

On the other hand, the First Christmas Feast (25 December) has a much greater religious significance; Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born on this day. The day used to be such a major date that until the 16th century it was the date on which the new calendar year started. As the name suggests, it is a day for feasting. Traditional dishes are served: roast goose, duck or turkey with sauerkraut and dumplings.

St. Stephen’s Day (26 December) commemorates the first Christian martyr. On this day, the traditional St. Stephen’s carol was sung; this tradition is no longer maintained and only children’s ditties remain.

Christmas abounds in customs and traditions which are passed from generation to generation. Children pass their time waiting for Christmas presents with advent calendars, and the adults have their own way of preparing for the holidays: we make Christmas sweets, hang out the mistletoe, decorate the Christmas tree, build nativity scenes and buy presents. The time to Christmas is clocked by the Advent wreath, with more and more candles on it as we get nearer to Christmas.

Early evening on Christmas Eve (often after a day of fasting) the family sits down for a festive dinner. The traditional dish of fried pieces of carp and potato salad is served, or ‘kuba’ or other regional specialties. A fish scale is put under the plate for prosperity. Carols are sung after dinner, followed by the unwrapping of presents. Another of the many traditions and customs is often followed: casting of lead, throwing a shoe, boating with walnut shells or slicing of apples in half to tell fortune. 

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve DinnerThe Christmas Eve Dinner is one of the highlights of Christmas. Our ancestors sat down at the festive table when the first star appeared on the sky and the fast ended. The tradition has it that there must always be an even number of diners at the table – to ensure that everybody meets up again next year.

Traditional Christmas dinner dishes were always different region by region, but there were always similarities. ‘Kuba’ of groats boiled with mushrooms formed the basis of the dinner, with porridge made of peas, millet or pearl barley, which symbolised abundance. Boiled and dried fruits served for sweets.

Carp appeared on the Christmas Eve table only in the 19th century; at that time it was typically made in sweet gingerbread sauce or pickled in aspic. Fried carp served with potato salad is a 20th century innovation which really only took off as Christmas dinner in the 1950s, when cooking became more practical. 

Christmas presents

Christmas presentsGifting at Christmas is a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. For several centuries, a Christmas present symbolised the strengthening of mutual relationships as people believed that they were giving a piece of themselves to the other. In the past, Christmas presents were modest, hand-made items infused with personal meaning. In Bohemia, the tradition has it that Christmas presents are put under the tree by Baby Jesus – so naturally, the children are in great anticipation of his arrival.

Floating boats

Floating little boats made of walnut shells is one of the old Czech Christmas traditions. Our forefathers thought Christmas Eve the most magical night of the year. They believed that on that night, the elements wield more power than at any other time.
Water, with its purifying and therapeutic powers, played the main part in looking into the future at Christmas time. The folk wisdom held the walnut as a symbol of power, wealth and success. The walnut shell is ideal for making a symbolic boat. The candle symbolises sacrifice – giving light to others while burning itself down.
The unity of symbols gave rise to the poetic custom of floating walnut shell boats, which is observed in many families until today. And what the coming year has in store for us is foretold from the course of the little boat carrying a lit candle. The tradition has many regional variants – the prophecy can relate to a relationship of love or family. Watch a video tutorial how to make walnut shell boats and find out how to interpret the prophecy here . 

Nativity scenes

Nativity scenesThe first mention of a Czech nativity scene dates back to 1560 and is from Prague. Nativity scenes with a just-born Jesus, Virgin Mary and Joseph used to be for a long time a preserve of churches.  They became to be seen among the common folk only with the arrival of Enlightenment. The biblical story of the birth of Jesus offered people many parallels with their own lot – poverty, fear for the future, but also love for one’s children and hope. 

Advent wreath

Advent wreathThe Advent wreath with four candles symbolises Christ’s cross and refers to his blessings sent in the four directions. For four weeks leading to the Christmas Eve, all four candles are lighted gradually, each having a specific meaning: the first represents hope and expectation, the second stands for love, the third is for joy and the fourth, when lighted, brings peace and serenity to the home

Decorating the Christmas tree

Decorating the Chrismas treeThe first Christmas tree was brought to these lands by the principal of the Estates Theatre in 1812 as a surprise for his friends. First, the wealthy families followed his example, but later the tree tradition took root also in rural villages. The tree was originally hung up with the tip facing downward and decorated with paper, straw, fruits and nuts. Glass decorations date back to the mid-19th century, when a poor harvest of apples and nuts threatened to leave many a Christmas tree bare. An ingenious glass-blower replaced apples with glass globes and thus founded a new Christmas tradition. 

Festive Dining in the Past Century and Today

Dinner on Christmas Eve has always been a festive occasion for the family, requiring plenty of preparation. The plenitude and generosity of the festive evening was reflected in the menu, which was made up of as many as nine courses. There was a starter consisting of a piece of bread or a baked pancake with honey, garlic or herbs, which were thought to have magical powers. The starter was followed by a lentil or pea soup, as it was believed legumes had the power to bring wealth to the household thanks to their ability to expand. The main course was baked barley with forest mushrooms called kuba - the traditional Christmas Eve carp was a privilege of the rich at that time. At the end, vánočka, a kind of sweet Christmas bread, and apple pie were served as a dessert.

Today, the Christmas Eve dinner usually includes fish soup, breaded carp with potato salad and the sweet Christmas bread and cookies. Over the last years, other fish such as salmon or tuna started to find its way to the plates as some people prefer the more intensive taste of this fish.

Christmas Eve Traditions

Several customs were traditionally observed during Christmas Eve dinner. As long as people were eating, nobody was allowed to get up and leave the table. According to tradition, the empty place could be taken by a soul returning to this world, and the person leaving the table would leave the family or even die within the next year. The lady of the house had to prepare everything for the festive table right on it or near it. As soon as the master of the house finished his meal and got up, everyone had to follow, regardless of whether or not they had finished their meals. It was important to keep the table set with the right number of plates. A place was set even for those who had died throughout the year, and at the same time, there always had to be an even number of plates, as it was believed odd numbers brought bad luck. As a result, it often happened that there was an extra place at the table for an unexpected guest.

Did you know that…

… According to an old tradition, alcohol was banned at the Christmas table, and originally, the Church also banned meat? 

People would get around this ban by organizing the feast a day ahead, that is on 23 December. Such dinner was called abundant in Moravia. Over time, people started to break this tradition and the “banned” food also found its way to the Christmas Eve menu.

Angel Liqueur

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Ingredients:

MAKES 1.5 LITRE OF LIQUEUR

  • 2 cans of condensed caramel milk
  • 620 g unsweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 stars of anise
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 500 ml white rum

Directions:

Heat the unsweetened condensed milk in a pot and add the spices. Cut the vanilla pod length­wise first, to allow for a better release of the aroma. Leave the milk for 24 hours to absorb the flavour of the spices. Remove all the spices the next day.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and return them to the milk. You can then throw the pod away, or you can wash it, leave it to dry and mix it with crystal sugar to get a fine pow­der to be used another time. Mix the milk in­censed with spices with the condensed caramel milk; this is best done using an immersion handheld blender. Slow­ly add the white rum. Fill the liqueur into prepared bottles and leave to set­tle. Decorate the bottles with paper angel wings. You can also glue a lace decoration reminiscent of angel robe onto larger bottles.

Recipe from:

Bc. PETRA PEKAŘOVÁ, MBA
PR and marketing

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Lobster Bisque with Prawns

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Ingredients:

  • 400 g Lobster soup (Marks & Spencer)
  • A drop of quality cognac
  • 5 medium-sized prawns
  • Olive oil, salt
  • Croutons
  • A slice of hard cheese
  • Parsley

Directions:

Add a drop of your favou­rite cognac to the lobster bisque, or some other kind of thick lobster soup. Marks & Spencer food department sells good lobster bisque. Heat up the soup and in the meantime prepare the prawns. Clean the prawns thoroughly and sauté them briefly in oil; then add them to the hot soup. To add more taste, add a few pastry crou­tons and decorate with a slice of hard cheese and some fresh parsley in the centre. Serve with a glass of dry sparkling wine.

Recipe from:

MARTIN LINHART
Director of External Communications FORD MOTOR COMPANY, s. r. o.

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Slow-Roasted Duck

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Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized duck
  • Caraway seed
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Honey

 

Directions:

Salt the duck on the inside and the outside, put it a casserole or a baking dish, sprinkle with caraway seed, baste moderately with water, cover and bake for seven hours at 90 °C. After seven hours, the duck will look mildly cooked, with yellow skin and the meat not quite soft yet. Increase the temperature to 120 °C and leave the meat in for six more hours. We roast the duck covered, without basting or removing the fat. An hour before the end of the slow-roast­ing, we take the lid off and baste the duck with honey. The skin will become golden and wonderfully crispy.

Recipe from:

MIROSLAV SOVJÁK
Director of Česká pojišťovna Client Centre

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Beehives

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Ingredients:

APPROXIMATELY 50 PCS

  • 300 g round sponge cake biscuits
  • You need to have two 250g packs, the rest of the biscuits use as the base for the beehives. I grind the biscuits with a breadcrumb machine, as it is not only the fastest way, but also one that produces the finest grain.
  • 150 g softened butter
  • 150 g powdered sugar
  • 4 table spoons of cocoa
  • 4–8 table spoons of rum, according to your taste
  • 2 table spoons of milk

FILLING

  • Mix 150 g of softened butter with
  • 120 g of powdered sugar, stir well and then mix in
  • 1 egg yolk and
  • 2 table spoons of rum

Directions:

Break up the sponge cake biscuits using a handheld blender or a breadcrumb machine. Mix with softened but­ter, powdered sugar and cocoa and pour in rum and milk. The dough should be rather stodgy; it should not crumble too much. Add more milk if required. Sprin­kle the beehive forms with vanilla sugar on the inside and fill with the dough. Use your finger to make a hole in the middle of the dough for the cream filling. To make the filling, beat together the butter and powdered sugar, egg yolk and a bit of rum. When the forms are filled with dough and the filling, we close it with a biscuit so that its flat side faces out. Then we turn all the forms upside down and tip out the finished beehive. We leave the beehives to soften for at least a day.

Recipe from:

KATEŘINA KRÁSOVÁ
PR Officer and Spokesperson of Plzeňský Prazdroj

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Christmas Shortbread Buttons

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Ingredients:

SHORTBREAD DOUGH

  • 250 g good butter
  • 1x vanilla-infused sugar
  • 120 g powdered sugar
  • 350 g plain flour
  • 2x egg yolk

FILLING

  • 2x egg white
  • 80 g sugar
  • 100 g grated nuts

DECORATION

  • 50 g halved hazelnuts

Directions:

Mix the yolks with sugar, butter, flour and vanilla sugar. Blend all the ingredients well to make smooth shortbread dough, which is best left in the fridge to rest for one day. After that, we cut out circles of approx. 3 cm in diameter from the dough. Mix the egg whites until you get a solid white substance, then mix in the sugar and grated nuts. Put the mix on the cut-out cir­cles and decorate with a half of a hazelnut.

Place on a greased baking tray or a tray lined with parchment paper and bake for ap­prox. 15 minutes, until the cookies are crispy.

Recipe from:

KRISTÍNA SIMKANIČOVÁ
PR Manager, Karlovarské minerální vody, a.s.

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Apple Pie

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Ingredients:

  • 4 apples
  • A handful of raisins
  • A handful of crushed hazelnuts
  • Rum
  • Butter to grease the baking form
  • 100 g butter
  • 300 g crystal sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 dl milk
  • Lemon zest
  • 150 g plain flour
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon sugar

Directions:

First of all, soak the raisins in rum. After that, cut apples to slices and mix them with hazelnuts and raisins and the rum in which the raisins were soaked.

Stir butter with su­gar in a bowl and beat the eggs, milk and add lemon zest. Finally, add flour with the baking powder, mix thorough­ly and pour the batter in the baking form greased with butter. Place the apple mix on the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake in a pre-hea­ted oven at 180°C for 40 minutes.

Recipe from:

Mgr. BARBORA PŮLPÁNOVÁ
Press Spokesperson ČEZ, a.s.

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Sweet Christmas Dumplings from East Slovakia

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Ingredients:

  • 150 g all-purpose fine flour
  • 150 g semi-coarse flour
  • 200 ml tepid water
  • Salt

FILLING

  • 150 g cottage cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt
  • Prune butter

Directions:

Put all-purpose (fine) flour into a bowl and make a hollow in it; add a pinch of salt and using the remaining flour to make dough by gradually adding tepid water. Then form the dough into a loaf and leave to stand. Meanwhile, make the filling: blend the cot­tage cheese with egg yolk and salt. When the filling is ready, roll the dough and cut out thin squares, approx. 5×5 cm. Place the fill­ing, which may be cot­tage cheese or prune butter, onto them, fold over and seal the edg­es. Put the dumplings into salted boiling water, stirring from time to time. They are ready when they come up to the surface and float. Drain the water; you can also pour lukewarm water over the dumplings, and leave to drip dry. Pour melted butter with pan-fried onion over them and salt. A deluxe alternative is fried mushrooms on top – but only if the filling is not prune butter. Serve immedi­ately.

MUDr. MARCELA KOUDELKOVÁ,Senior Product Manager Oncology Astellas Pharma s.r.o.

Recipe from:

MUDr. MARCELA KOUDELKOVÁ
Senior Product Manager Oncology Astellas Pharma s.r.o.

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Black Sauce (sauce made of dried plums)

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Ingredients:

  • 100 g dried plums
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • Clove
  • Salt
  • Water
  • 4 table spoons of plum jam
  • 2 table spoons of sugar
  • Vanilla sugar
  • A handful of raisins (soaked in rum overnight, ideally)
  • A handful of peeled almonds
  • 50 g ground gingerbread
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g plain flour

Directions:

Wash the dried plums and cook them with a stick of cinnamon, five cloves and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft. When cooked, we mash everything through a strainer, add the almonds cut to slices, add the raisins, vanilla sugar and ground gin­gerbread. Melt butter and add the flour, stir well and add the result­ing mix to the sauce. Continue cooking for 20 more minutes. Add sugar according to your taste.

Consume warm, luke­warm or even cold, best with:

• Sweet Christmas bread

• The slices of smoked beef tongue

• A carp roasted in butter

Recipe from:

Mgr. JAN RAFAJ, MBA
Director of Human Resources and Public Affairs, Member of the Board of Directors of ArcelorMittal Ostrava

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AMI Sweet Christmas Bread

Ingredients:

  • 40 g yeast
  • 100 g sugar
  • 250 ml milk
  • 500g bakers’ flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 125 g butter
  • Lemon zest
  • 40 g Jumbo raisins
  • plain flour to sprinkle the board
  • Fat to grease the baking pan (or parchment paper)
  • 1 egg to smear while baking
  • 40 g almonds (peeled, chopped – sticks)

Directions:

Start by taking the yeast out of the fridge to let it warm to room temperature. Sieve the flour and mix it with salt. Rub the yeast with sugar and pour in a bit of warm milk, sprinkle with lightly flour and leave the leaven in a warm place to rise. 

As soon as the leaven is ready, pour it in the flour, add the rest of the milk, yolks, lemon zest, melted butter (be careful, it must not be hot), and the Jumbo raisins. Work up smooth dough with a mixer or a wooden spoon; the dough must not stick to the walls of the bowl. Leave the dough to rise for three hours, stirring it twice or three times during that time.

When the dough rises, divide it into six equal parts and make little buns. Lay the rolls made of the dough on the baking board next to each other, so that you have three rolls on the right and three rolls on the left. Join them all firmly at the top, so that no rolls can become loose. Cross your hands and start plait the sweet bread. Take both the outer rolls in your hands and plait the left one under the right one, and lay the right roll in the centre. After that, take the right outer roll, plait it under the one you are holding in your hand, which you than lay in the centre. Keep your hands crossed. Repeat the process until the entire sweet bread is completely plaited.

Move the sweet bre¬ad onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or greased with butter, and leave for 10 more minutes to rise, so that the dough gets connected. After that, brush it with a beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160 °C and leave in for 20 more minutes.

Dear friends,

your visit to this website means that you have received our Christmas gift which makes us sincerely happy.

This year our Christmas gift is meant to bring you not only joy and fun but also a practical use. In this website sections you will find inspiration for Christmas baking and cooking according to recipes from our biggest clients. At the same time we are bringing you a tip for our unique AMI Christmas Bread which is accompanied by a video tutorial "How to plait a Christmas Sweet Bread."

We hope that you will enjoy our gift...