Some Prague Christmas markets will open to visitors despite worsening pandemic

Preparations for Christmas are helping to dispel some of the doom and gloom surrounding the worsening coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic. Despite tightened Covid restrictions, aimed predominantly against unvaccinated groups of the population, some Christmas markets will take place this year and a 22-metre tall spruce has arrived on Old Town Square to be set up and decorated in time for the first weekend of Advent.

Although the present mood is far from the traditionally festive atmosphere leading up to Christmas, preparations for the holidays are in full swing. Christmas stalls have started popping up on squares around the country and the first bunches of mistletoe have appeared on open-air markets as Advent nears. People passing through Prague’s Old Town Square in the early hours of Tuesday witnessed the arrival of this year’s main Christmas tree – a 22-year old spruce from the Jablonec region.

The impressive spruce was selected from 35 potential candidates nominated for the honour from around the Czech Republic. After carefully winding its way through Pařížska street – one of the city’s most expensive retail locations dotted with luxury boutiques – the vehicle towing the close to 6 ton tree arrived under the Prague Town Hall. The official lighting ceremony that traditionally draws the crowds to Old Town Square had to be scrapped within the coronavirus restrictions and the tree will be lit up in all its glory overnight from Friday to Saturday. Tomáš Jílek is the head of the company in charge of its decoration.

“This year we chose the colors of the capital city of Prague, i.e. red and yellow. Only instead of yellow we will have gold. There will be 40 3-D snowflakes, 240 Christmas ball ornaments with lights and a light chain that will be six kilometers long, wound around the tree.”

Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

Although children will miss the excitement of the lighting ceremony that traditionally takes place on Saturday afternoon, the event will be accessible online.

Prague councilor Tomáš Chabr says that while the Prague Town Hall has made a big effort to maintain a semblance of normality in organizing the outdoor Christmas festivities, strict hygiene norms will have to be maintained.

“The traditional Christmas markets will be here –but with a difference. Social distancing rules will have to be respected. There will be mulled wine and hot chestnuts and the traditional Christmas delicacies, but we expect people to protect themselves. They may remove their respirators to eat but should don them in crowded places. We have made an effort to set stalls further apart this year so as to minimize the risks as far as possible. “

The Christmas tree will remain in place until January 6th. In line with tradition, once it is dismantled, the branches will be donated to Prague Zoo as animal feed and the trunk will be cut into planks which will go to make furniture for old people’s homes.