New Year in the Czech Republic
We described Advent season followed by Christmas, now is time for the last big event of each year—New Year’s Eve. While Czech Christmas is predominantly spent with one’s closest family, New Year celebration in the Czech Republic is mainly a thing for friends. January the 1st is a bank holiday but 31st of December isn’t. Shops stay open but they usually close much earlier, around 4-6 P.M, so keep that in mind.
The first difference starts with its naming—Czech people don’t usually use the term New Year’s Eve, we rather call this special day “Silvestr.” That’s right; we named it after Sylvester Stallone. Just kidding, the name actually refers to Saint Sylvester whose name day falls on the 31st of December in our calendar. But not many Czech people go by this name, to be honest, only around four hundred according to the statistic.
Czech people either hold the celebration at home or in pubs. Pubs are very popular but they’re obviously totally packed on New Year’s Eve so if you wish to experience a traditional Czech pub, you have to book a table several weeks in advance. Well, you can try your luck and go looking for some last-minute vacancy but it’s at your own risk of wandering from one place to another.
Winter in the Czech Republic isn’t that severe as we’re an inland Central European country but temperature can still fall below zero. So be prepared and make sure you wear a warm coat, gloves and a hat. While Czechia is one of the safest countries in the world, we still wouldn’t recommend going to parks late at night and alone if you think looking for some nice bench might be a good idea as drinking alcohol in public is kind of tolerated here.
For people who decide to celebrate at someone’s home, early evening is time for preparing a celebratory meal. Cooking complex dishes for dinner on this day is rare; Czechs prefer to eat small portions of food but throughout the whole evening and night. Perhaps the most common dishes associated with New Year’s Eve feast are “jednohubky” and “chlebíčky.”
“Jednohubky” are basically canapés. This French term might sound very fancy but for Czech people it’s nothing of that sort. Czech canapés are also eaten during birthday parties and almost everybody prepares home-made canapés from time to time. They’re not as fancy as those you can see at formal receptions and basic varieties are quite cheap. The basis is always a baguette and topping depends on tastes of particular people preparing them. It’s usually some delicious spread with tiny pieces of vegetables, cheese and salami, held together with a toothpick.
“Chlebíčky” are similar but they’re much bigger—instead of baguettes, soft bread is used. Spread can stay the same but as bread provides much wider surface, you can put more ingredients on top. It’s funny how Czech people often tend to over-decorate “chlebíčky,” making them huge and heavy. Loads of salami, boiled eggs, vegetables…you name it. Take just a few and you’ve eaten full dinner.
When it comes to drinks, the only rule there is states that toasting with champagne right at 12:00 is generally considered a good style. Other drinks during the evening depend solely on your preferences. Czechs tend to get very drunk on New Year’s Eve but nobody will force you to drink if you really don’t want to. Just mentally prepare yourself when going home by noisy overcrowded public transport full of merry people.
Evening activities are probably not that different from other countries but there’s one distinctive feature—New Year’s Eve TV programme. It’s mainly a thing of the past now but older Czechs are still very fond of it and even though no new quality shows of this kind are produced anymore, people watch re-runs. These legendary shows consisted of live music performances, little funny acts by famous Czech actors and often just telling one joke after another.
And lastly—fireworks! Some countries banned selling consumer fireworks but it’s perfectly legal in the Czech Republic. You can buy them literally everywhere a few days before New Year’s Eve and they’re quite affordable. Cities traditionally hold their own spectacular firework parade but when the celebratory 12:00 toast is done, people go out to have their own smaller fireworks.
Enjoy Czech “Silvestr!”
Silvestr – New Year’s Eve
Nový rok – New Year
Jednohubky – pieces of baguette with spread and other ingredients on top
Chlebíčky – slices of soft bread with spread and other ingredients on top
Ohňostroj – fireworks
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