Small town spirit

The Prague Post

Get into the holiday mood all over the country

December in Prague is lovely. The squares are decorated, and many host Christmas markets, as well. Decorations hang throughout the streets, and, with any luck, snow may fall to cover everything in a clean white glow.

If you are looking to explore other regions of the country, the holidays also provide the perfect excuse to do just that. Christmas markets, festivals and concerts occur nearly every weekend throughout the Czech Republic.

Many holiday traditions are historically based, and there are a number of events celebrating history. The Museum of Southeast Moravia in Strážnice, for example, is hosting “Let’s Rejoice, Make Merry.” You can see villagers baking Christmas treats and craftspeople designing traditional straw dolls. The museum is interesting, as it’s an outdoor complex, and the buildings will be decorated in an Old World style.

The Wallachian Open-Air Museum, located in Rožnov pod Radhoštem, is an appealing visit year-round, but they put on a special show come Christmastime. The museum documents life in a typical 16th-century Wallachian village. During their “A Village Christmas” celebration, you can wander through town and find schoolchildren practicing Christmas carols, housewives baking and decorating gingerbread, and carvers whittling their wood. The museum will host a Christmas market Dec. 13.

The town of Príbram has two events of interest in December. The Mining Museum will decorate its reconstructed “typical miner’s house” on the premises as well as the underground Prokop tunnel. In town, the František Drtikol Gallery will display an exhibition of nativity scenes.

Czechs are known for their craftsmanship, so it’s no surprise there are a number of places to see traditional handmade nativity scenes. One of the most famous is in Jindřichův Hradec. The city’s museum is home to the Krýza Nativity Scene, which is the largest mechanical nativity scene in the world. The panoramic scene holds more than 1,400 figures and took more than 60 years to complete.

The clever villagers of Trebechovice pod Orebem have created the Nativity Scene Museum, which includes scenes from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And, although history hasn’t reported it, the folks at the Nativity Scene Museum in Karlštejn have a special royal scene that includes figures of Czech kings.

If you prefer some life in your nativity scene, action-filled performances can be seen in Horní Planá and Ceský Krumlov Dec. 23 and in Kadan Dec. 25.

There’s probably no better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a day spent at a traditional Christmas market.

Krivoklát Castle hosts two market weekends, complete with music and theater performances. Fencing and theater performances also add to the shopping fun at Sychrov Castle. Loket Castle hosts a fun one: Food and crafts are supplemented with sword fights and unique re-enactments of the birth of Jesus. Mnichovo Hradište hosts Valdštejn Nights, one big event Dec. 13. The chateau will go all Baroque, offering carriage rides and a live nativity scene. This is in addition to the craft stalls and vendors of hot treats and drinks. Melník also hosts a Christmas fair, specializing in traditional baked goodies.

Let’s not forget St. Nicholas Day is Dec. 6, which provides oodles of fun for both kids and adults. The evening before is when the celebrations actually happen. St. Nicholas —accompanied by a devil and an angel — brings sweets, fruit or small gifts to the good children, while not-so-well-behaved ones get a talking to by the devil, plus a potato or a lump of coal. For the adults, it is usually an evening well spent at the pub.

If you’d like a small-town take on the St. Nicholas tradition, head down to Trebíc where the big guy will be passing out gifts to the kiddies. The Mining Museum in Ostrava will also have a party.

No matter where you choose to celebrate this holiday, nearly every Czech city will be decked out in Christmas splendor. And, if the chill gets to you, the locals will be more than happy to warm you up with a nice hot drink.