IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT RELIGIOUS TRADITION…
No city lends itself to Christmas better than Prague.
If we are turning back to the religious aspect of the Christmas period, it seems only fitting that the birthplace of the Czech patron saint, ‘Good King Wenceslaus,’ would be teeming with yuletide cheer. We like a king, especially a good one. Especially a good one who was renowned for braving a harsh winter journey to help the poor on the Feast of Stephen (aka Boxing Day: this is also known as Saint Stephen’s Day – he was the first Christian martyr.) And what better way to celebrate the legacy of this royal legend than opening up a square in his name and setting up some Christmas markets in his honour. Sounds like a pretty cool tribute, if you ask me.
In this square is one of the two main markets in Prague. The other can be found in the Old Town Square. It’s only 5 minutes’ walk away, so don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to visit both.
In Christian tradition, it is the build-up to the 25th December which is of great significance. Obviously, Christmas day itself is pretty essential (it’s literally named after Christ’s birthday so, yeah, pretty important!) but the days leading up to the main event are pretty special. They’re known as Advent. It’s considered a time of preparation in Christianity, getting ready for the coming of the baby Jesus. In this Advent fashion, Prague’s markets echo the same feel; their main purpose is to make people feel Christmas is coming.
And they do so extremely well; the atmosphere at the Prague Christmas Markets is unforgettable. It stems from the festive decorations, at least, that is what’s immediately noticeable anyway. Every year, different motifs and elements are displayed, based on Czech traditions. The city is filled with plenty of colour, lights and music, and it’s hardly concentrated in just one area. The decorations cloak the front of many historical spaces, squares and landmarks, in true Advent style. The religious spirit of Christmas is truly felt here.
Advent novelties are also available in many of the wooden stalls displayed throughout the markets, particularly in Wenceslaus Square. Shining golden angels and cherubs hover above your head as you wander at leisure, weaving between wooden huts, checking out the different decorations and ornaments on sale. If you’re needing a new angel or star to top your Christmas tree, then this is your chance! Take advantage of all the wares merchants have on offer. You might lean towards typical festive delights. However, you might want to try the more traditional Czech goods on offer. Everything from blown glass balls, hand embroidered tablecloths and wooden toys and ornaments are on offer for your enjoyment.
Even more excitingly is the city’s great emphasis on ecology. Prague aims to be as considerate to the environment as possible when it comes to their markets. Think about all the refreshments on offer and any goods you buy. All their packaging and materials are 100% bio compostable! They are completely environmentally friendly, adding a modern, eco-friendly twist to your festive fun.
The epitome of postcard-pretty, the dominant feature of the markets is the Christmas tree. It stretches up to 22 metres tall and is lavishly decorated, embellished with thousands of lights, ornaments and decorations. Below the tree is a large Nativity scene and a small ‘gingerbread’ village – got to balance the seriousness of religious celebration with a bit of sweetness and fun, right?
So: what are you waiting for? Grab a klobása (Czech sausage) and wash it down with a Pilsner Urquell in the afternoon, then hang around for the main tree to be lit up on Old Town Square. The atmosphere in Prague’s Christmas Markets is nothing short of unforgettable. The medieval setting, the twinkly lights, the beautifully decorated trees…intensively festive and full of fun, whilst remaining loyal to tradition. If you’re more into a classic Christmas, a visit to Prague’s Christmas Markets isn’t one to miss.