Random Observations: Christmas Superstition and Freedom as in Beer

Christmas is moving closer, and like in most parts of Europe it’s indeed “Christmas”, not “the Season” or other names that are considered politically correct in other places. While observing this Pagan-turned-Christian event, the people of the Czech Republic – one of the world’s most atheistic countries – got used to make their own sense of it by preserving it mainly as a family tradition – not so much for the Christian background but the social event (by all means including food and drinks), for the presents, and certainly also for the magic.

Vánočka
Portrait of a Vánočka – with a typical Czech reference scale to demonstrate the size. Note that even the fastest shutter speed has not been able to capture the picture before a Czech flat mate has managed to cut off a piece.

The Communist era may not have killed all religious feelings of Czech people but only those that are connected to confessions and churches. Churches are those places where you have to show up once a week, sit quiet for an hour or so while being told what you have done wrong, and for that you even pay money to the guy who keeps humiliating you – apparently a bad deal.

I am not endorsing any particular brand … although you will notice a certain monopolization of beer brands in the expressions of Czech patriots. Are smaller countries more prone to monopolization than bigger ones? Photo: Vlasta Juricek.

It is my belief that Czech religiousness takes place mainly in the hospoda, the Czech pub or restaurant. This Dionysian place has been sacrosanct even during past regimes where a certain degree of grogginess came in handy as excuse for comments too outspoken.

You still meet this conversation pattern among some types of people: They frankly speak out their opinion, no matter how unwelcome it may be, and then they identify it as a joke, or irony. They thus have managed to get across the message but they cannot be held accountable for it because it was not serious, was it? During totalitarian times, the blurry threshold of alcohol-induced insanity was probably the only way how to eke out some freedom of speech.

You can now make full use of this freedom when you, according to the unshakable tradition, spend one of the Christmas days at your in-laws.

Carp is absolutely mandatory at Czech Christmas. And if you want the real deal, you need to keep it some days in you bath tub (I guess people have a back-up shower somewhere?) and then kill it yourself. Don’t forget to keep the scales. Photo: Michal Sänger