Merry Christmas!

Foto: Štěpánka Budková / Archivo de ČRo 7 - Radio Praga

Hello and welcome to SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language course in which you can learn new phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today we are playing a Christmas carol called Veselé Vánoce – or Merry Christmas.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International
What you hear is one of the most popular Czech Christmas carols played at open air markets and Christmas concerts throughout December - Vánoce přicházejí, tak zpívejme přátelé– means Christmas is coming, so let us sing my friends. But the important phrase you need to remember is “štastné a veselé” the traditional Czech Christmas greeting. “Štastné a veselé” means happy and merry and people will often use it alone without adding the word Christmas. Equally common is veselé vánoce– which is the direct translation of Merry Christmas!

Another expression you will certainly need to know is Ježíšek– or Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus being the one who brings the presents. Consequently people wishing you a merry Christmas may also add Bohatého Ježíška– meaning a rich baby Jesus – in other words- lots of gifts under the tree.

If you are having Christmas dinner with a Czech family you will most likely be treated to rybí polévka– fish soup, followed by kapr– carp and bramborový salát– potato salad. Most Czechs skip lunch on the 24th and the Christmas Eve meal is their first proper meal that day. However you will find a wide variety of Christmas cookies – called vánoční cukroví - as many as nine different kinds on the table that people munch on throughout the day. And of course each kind has a name –such as kisses, wasps nests, or bear’s paws.

Fairytales called pohádky which in Czech means simply stories are an indelible part of Christmas both for children and grown-ups who watch them religiously every year although they have seen them over and over again and generally know them by heart. In the evening people will either play koledy– Christmas carols or go to midnight mass – půlnoční mše.

Unlike elsewhere in the world, Czech sleep in on the 25th –with the highlight of Christmas having come and gone on the eve of Christmas Day. They go for walks, visit relatives and enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Christmas holidays – vánoční svátky.