I’m dreaming of a black Christmas!

In the Czech Republic Christmas is a mixture of pagan and religious traditions. The gifts are brought by baby Jesus, but it is a mixture of pre-Christian pagan rituals that ensure health and happiness in the coming year – like cutting an apple in half, floating candles or putting a fish scale under your plate on Christmas Day. Now Christmas has also become a matter of fashion.

Gone are the days when Christmas tree decorations would be carefully packed in a box and lovingly dusted off, even passed from one generation to the next. Nowadays the market is flooded with new decorations every year and fashion dictates what colours are “in”. And Czechs, who for 40 years rejected the Russian imported Father Frost and who would not trade their carp for any other Christmas dish seem quite happy to play along. Last Christmas was silver, the year before it was gold. This year fashion gurus say Christmas should be black: a black Christmas tree, black candles and gifts wrapped in black satin. Older people are shuddering – or laughing – at the idea of a funeral parlour living room but the young generation is quite willing to experiment – buying black-sprayed, artificial Christmas trees and going for a stylish black and gold décor. In the streets of Prague and other towns and cities things are rather more colourful but there too people are increasingly conscious of the overall effect and there are frequent debates about what is kitschy and what is stylish. As Czechs grow fashion-conscious town halls are not having an easy time. Last year the Teplice town hall was accused of turning its classicist style building into a kitschy Disneyland. This year it is the Jihlava town hall that is in trouble. The tree on the main square shines like a blue beacon. Colour-coordinated it is but what about the colour? Leaving aside the fact that blue is not “in” this year, the Communists have pointed out that blue is the colour of the Civic Democratic Party which rules the town hall. They say a blue tree is just not on. It is not as if they need to have red lights on the tree – but what about other colours? However it emerged that the Communists were barking up the wrong Christmas tree. The tree lights had been ordered by the mayor’s deputy who happened to be a representative of the Green Party. And she heatedly denied that her choice had been influenced by party politics. “Even Picasso had a blue period, didn’t he?” she retorted when challenged to respond to the communists’ complaint. Seems like we are all taking this a bit too seriously – maybe we should go back to decorating trees with nuts and apples.