It will soon be Christmas again, and although I have been living in Ludwigsburg since February 2013 and feel very much at home here, I am drawn back to my roots in the Czech Republic at Christmastime. For me, the festive period is a time for family and tradition. Although our Christmas celebrations aren’t entirely different from those that take place in Germany, there are still a few differences worth mentioning…
Tradition on Christmas Eve in Czech Republic – carp instead of goose
The main difference is the food we eat on Christmas Eve. While most people eat goose at Christmas time in Germany, in the Czech Republic, we eat carp. It is served in different ways: as a fish soup, gently roasted with a potato salad or in other variations following various family recipes.
In our country, eating carp at Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition, and it’s nice that MANN+HUMMEL has adopted this in the Czech Republic. All employees are given a carp for Christmas, which I think is a very nice gesture.
Just before Christmas, a fishmonger comes into the plant and sets up large barrels of water, which are filled with fish to be handed out. Employees claim their fish with a voucher that was attached to their November payslip. Some people ask the fishmonger to gut their fish on-site, while others take it back home alive in a bag of water.
No – you didn’t misread that. But why would you take a living carp back home with you? Actually it’s mainly for the children. The fish is released into the bathtub at home where it swims around watched by curious eyes. I still have very clear childhood memories of carp swimming in our bathtub. However, people had to buy them in those days, because as far as I know, MANN+HUMMEL is the only employer in the Czech Republic which has ever given them away as gifts.
A scale for wealth and an apple for health
But now let’s talk about Christmas Eve and our customs: Before all the carps end up on the dinner table, we remove their shiny scales, and everyone gets one under their plate on Christmas Eve. We keep this scale in our wallets throughout the following year so we don’t run out of money too quickly. After Christmas dinner, everyone gets an apple which they cut horizontally through the core. The star in the core of the apple is supposed to predict our health in the New Year. If it is well-defined, we will stay healthy all year. If not, we need to take a little better care of our health. However, it’s generally seen as a fun custom rather than a genuine prediction of the future.
I’m already looking forward to spending Christmas Eve with my family in the Czech Republic. In the morning we decorate the Christmas tree, watch traditional Czech fairy tale films at lunchtime, and then prepare dinner. After dinner, we have a big present-opening session like in Germany. Finally, around midnight, we go to church.
So Christmas in the Czech Republic is a bit different to Christmas in Germany. However, we all hope for the same thing – whether goose or carp is on the menu, or whether glittering scales are present or absent – we hope for a wonderful celebration with the family and a happy New Year! I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all these things to all my colleagues and to everyone reading this article.